NDSU water researchers present at ND legislative committee hearing

North Dakota State University researchers presented their work addressing various water quality issues at the ND 68th Legislative Interim - Water Topics Overview Committee meeting in Bismarck.

ND Senator Ronald Sorvaag serves as Chairman of the committee, and he recently addressed attendees at the ND Water Resources Research Institute (NDWRRI) PFAS Conference in Fargo. It was at this conference where he met many of the researchers and learned about their research into perfluoroalkyl and polyfluoroalkyl substances (PFAS).

PFAS are a group of human-made chemicals that have been used in industry and consumer products worldwide since the 1950s. Even though they don't occur naturally in the environment, PFAS are now found widespread in wildlife and fish all over the world and they do not break down easily naturally. Some PFAS can stay in the human body and research is currently underway to determine the negative health impacts they may cause.

Sorvaag asked ND WRRI Director and NDSU professor of Agricultural and Biosystem Engineering Xinhua Jia to bring a group to present to the committee, which is responsible for legislative overview of water-related topics and related matters and any necessary discussions with adjacent states on water‑related topics.

Jia discussed how the ND Water Resources Research Institute located at NDSU is one of 54 institutes across the country. With 45 affiliate faculty members (35 from NDSU and 10 from UND), the institute is charged with promoting research that addresses water quality issues and expands the knowledge of water-related phenomena while promoting the training and education of current and future water resources scientist, engineers, and technicians.

Jia detailed current NDWRRI research topics that include agricultural processes, hydrology., water quality, and basin issues in the Missouri, Souris and James rivers. She also discussed the new Water Resources Certificate program at NDSU and how it will help prepare students to enter careers in hydrology and water resource management. Jia concluded with a discussion about her own research, which involves smart irrigation systems.

Syeed Iskander, NDSU assistant professor of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering discussed his work monitoring PFAS in Fargo's compost waste program. He showed how yard waste compost can contribute to the overall level of PFAS in the environment and discussed strategies to monitor the levels.

Jiale Xu, NDSU assistant professor of Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering discussed his research into removing PFAS from industrial wastewater through electrochemical technologies. He showed how his process utilizing iron fillings and salt from brine was a relatively low-cost solution to the problem.

Trung Le, NDSU assistant professor in Civil, Construction and Environmental Engineering presented his research about water flows structures under ice cover on rivers. By understanding the dynamics of these flows, Le provides insights into mitigating flooding conditions each spring.

Christina Hargiss, director of the School of Natural Resource Sciences, detailed water use projects that NDWRRI and the U.S. Geological Services have collaborated on over the last eight years. She provided details on municipal and rural water use in addition to the increased commercial water use in the Bakken area since 2000. Hargiss also discussed research into urban stormwater contaminants and the impact of harmful algal blooms on the cattle herds in the state.

"ND WRRI and our researchers conduct important work related to a strategic research priority at NDSU: water quality and security," said Colleen Fitzgerald, NDSU vice president for research and creative activity. "This group and others at NDSU are up to the challenge of ensuring clean water for our state along with producing the next generation of water resource experts." The NDWRRI began reporting to the Office of Research and Creative Activity on July 1, 2022 and has progressively raised its profile in terms of campus research initiatives supporting North Dakota’s water issues.

A replay of the group's testimony is available.

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