Manage Your Manure!!!
School: Los Alamos Mid
Area of Science: environmental science
Proposal: There are over 300,000 cows in 150 dairies in New Mexico. About 65% of these dairies are contaminating the groundwater with excess nitrogen from cow excrement. Every day each cow produces 18 gallons of manure resulting in approximately 5.4 million gallons of manure per day. The dairies dispose of the excrement in two ways. First, the waste is hosed into a plastic or clay lined lagoon so the liquids can evaporate. Second, the waste can be collected and used as a fertilizer for crops. The problem is that the nitrates from the excrement leak into the ground and contaminate the groundwater. I will model and test the permeability of different liners in the lagoons to evaluate how to best prevent the waste from leaking into the groundwater. When too much fertilizer is used, the excess that the plants don’t absorb seeps into the ground and gets into the groundwater. Using the software VS2DTI, I will model different liners that can be used in the lagoons and test various materials that can be used in the area of the crops to help prevent the nitrates from reaching the groundwater. The two sources of nitrates will both end up in the same aquifer and then a sample will be taken from a well supplied by that groundwater to see the nitrate concentration in the water. My goal is to prevent the nitrate levels in the groundwater from exceeding the standard for drinking water.
Sponsoring Teacher: Pauline Stephens
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