Like many other states in the west, New Mexico is arid. Water is a precious natural resource that is becoming increasingly scarce as demand for the resource increases. Although political and legal considerations weigh heavily on how water is extracted and used, impartial science plays an important role in informing decision-makers on water resource issues. At the Bureau of Geology, many of our basic research projects deal directly or indirectly with the need to understand the geologic context and hydrologic dynamics of our state’s aquifers.
Our Aquifer Mapping Program conducts hydrogeologic research for the state of New Mexico. Hydrogeology is the science of hydrology and geology as it relates to the movement of groundwater and its distribution within the Earth’s aquifers. Since the early 1990s, our staff have been engaged in hydrogeologic studies of New Mexico’s aquifers in cooperation with partners at the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer, the New Mexico Environment Department, the U.S. Geological Survey Water Resources Program, and other federal, state, and local agencies. Beginning with geologic mapping and aquifer analysis in the Albuquerque Basin and a hydrogeology study in Placitas, we developed an Aquifer Mapping Program to apply a combination of geologic, geophysical, hydrologic, and geochemical information to develop descriptive models of groundwater flow in important aquifers around the state (more information about the program).
Our Chemistry Laboratory is a service and research facility. Its primary purpose is to provide inorganic water analyses support for Bureau of Geology projects but additionally provides analyses the New Mexico Tech community and to individuals and entities outside the New Mexico Tech community. It is equipped to perform inorganic analyses of environmental, geochemical and geologic materials.
The geothermal resources of New Mexico are used for recreation, commercial spas, greenhouses, fish hatcheries, indoor space heating, and localized power generation. Deep groundwater circulation in the vicinity of the Rio Grande rift, an area characterized by high regional heat flow, is the source heat for many thermal springs and wells. A few thermal springs in the Jemez Mountains of north-central New Mexico are warmed by residual heat associated with a cooling magma chamber that is less than 50,000 years old.
Modern geologic maps are essential for New Mexico's environmental and economic prosperity. Geologic maps are uniquely suited to solving problems involving Earth resources, hazards, and environments, and perhaps most importantly for the people of New Mexico, such maps help identify and protect ground-water aquifers, aid in locating water-supply wells, and are fundamental for all environmental studies and land-use plans. Our STATEMAP Program is jointly funded by the USGS and the Bureau of Geology as part of our mission.