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Roswell Artesian Basin

The Roswell Artesian Basin is located in the lower Pecos Valley of southeastern New Mexico, on the northern fringe of the Chihuahua Desert. Summers are long and hot and precipitation is sparse, averaging less than 15 inches/year. However, the Roswell Basin is also one of the most intensively farmed areas in the state, the principal crops being alfalfa, cotton, sorghum, chiles and pecans. The Basin derives virtually all of its irrigation water from groundwater stored in a shallow alluvial aquifer and an artesian aquifer formed principally in the San Andres limestone. The Roswell Artesian Basin has been described as a world-class example of a rechargeable artesian aquifer system.

Hydrologic investigations of the Roswell Basin began in 1906 with Fisher’s report of early hydraulic head conditions. In 1933 Fiedler and Nye conducted a much more comprehensive study of the geology and water resources of the lower Pecos region. Their report identified the principal features of the artesian and shallow aquifers and provided a foundation for subsequent work, much of it conducted by scientists with the U.S. Geological Survey and the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer.

In 1957 Mahdi Hantush, one of the founders of the hydrology department at New Mexico Tech, published an analytical study of the Basin and defined aquifer coefficients based on pumping tests. Hood and colleagues (1960; 1963) documented the occurrence of saline groundwater in the artesian aquifer. Motts and Cushman (1964) investigated the possibility of artificial recharge to the aquifer through surface karst features developed in the San Andres limestone. In 1968 Havenor published a New Mexico Bureau of Mines Circular describing lithology and structural relationships within the artesian aquifer, which includes a detailed description of a complete core taken from the San Andres Formation. In 1971 Vince Kelley published a Bureau of Mines Memoir and set of maps on regional geology of the Pecos Country in southeastern New Mexico. Although Kelley’s work was not specifically hydrological, much of the report focuses on lithostratigraphy of the San Andres limestone, and thus provides valuable regional context for hydrologic studies in the Artesian Basin.

In the late 1970s and early 80s, students from New Mexico Tech, under the supervision of Dr. Gerardo Gross, conducted a series of investigations on groundwater flow rates and subsurface recharge to the artesian aquifer using tritium and stable isotope measurements. Most of their work was published in technical reports of the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute. In 1983 G. E. Welder, a hydrologist with the U.S. Geological Survey, published a comprehensive report and series of maps showing water level variations in the Roswell Artesian Basin. Welder’s report was extended by Land (2007; 2008) based on new water level measurements. Additional studies by Land focus on groundwater residence time and the karstic nature of the artesian aquifer system.

A short list of the most-frequently cited publications that focus on hydrology and hydrogeology of the Roswell Artesian Basin and its recharge areas on the Pecos Slope and in the Sacramento Mountains is shown below.

For more information, please contact:
Dr. Lewis Land, Hydrogeologist lland@nmbg.nmt.edu

AMP-Relevant Publications

Seasonal and long term variations in hydraulic head in a karstic aquifer: Roswell Artesian Basin, New Mexico

Available for free download.

Open-file Report 503
2007, Lewis Land and Brad T. Newton

Multi-tracer investigation of groundwater residence time in a karstic aquifer: Bitter Lake National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico

Available for free download.

Open-file Report 521
2010, Lewis Land and G. F. Huff

Selected References

  1. Barroll, P. and Shomaker, J., 2003, Regional hydrology of the Roswell Artesian Basin and the Capitan aquifer, in Johnson, P., Land, L., Price, G. and Titus, F. (eds.), Water Resources of the Lower Pecos Region, New Mexico: New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, 2003 New Mexico Decision Makers Guidebook, p. 23-27.
  2. Barz, D., Watson, R. P., Kanney, J. F., Roberts, J. D., and Groeneveld, D. P., 2008, Cost/benefit considerations for recent saltcedar control, middle Pecos River, New Mexico: Environmental Management, Springer Online First: DOI 10.1007/s00267-008-9156-9,
  3. Bean, R. T., 1949, Geology of the Roswell Artesian Basin, New Mexico, and its relation to the Hondo Reservoir: New Mexico State Engineer Technical Report 9.
  4. Bunte, A. S., 1960, The northwest recharge area of the Roswell Artesian Basin, with emphasis on the Glorieta sandstone as a recharging aquifer: Pecos Valley Artesian Conservancy District Bulletin 1, 22 p.
  5. Cox, E. R., 1967, Geology and Hydrology between Lake McMillan and Carlsbad Springs, Eddy Co., New Mexico: U.S. Geological Survey Water-Supply Paper 1828, 48 p.
  6. Crawford, R. and Borton, R. L., 1958, Logs of, and water levels in, observation wells in recharge area of Roswell Artesian Basin, in Reeder, H. O. et al. (eds.), Groundwater Levels in New Mexico, 1957: New Mexico State Engineer Technical Report 22, p. 259-306.
  7. Davis, P., Wilcox, R., and Gross, G. W., 1979, Spring characteristics of the western Roswell Artesian Basin: New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute Report 116, 93 p.
  8. Duffy, C. J., Gelhar, L. W., and Gross, G. W., 1978, Recharge and groundwater conditions in the western region of the Roswell Basin: New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute Report 100, 111 p.
  9. Fiedler, A. G. and Nye, S. S., 1933, Geology and ground-water resources of the Roswell Basin, New Mexico: U.S. Geological Survey Water-Supply Paper 639, 372 p.
  10. Fisher, C. A., 1906, Preliminary report on the geology and underground waters of the Roswell Artesian Basin: U.S. Geological Survey Water-Supply Paper 158, 29 p.
  11. Garn, H. S., 1988, Seasonal changes in ground-water levels in the shallow aquifer near Hagerman and the Pecos River, Chaves Co., New Mexico: U.S. Geological Survey Open File Report 88-197, 19 p.
  12. Gross, G. W., 1982, Recharge in semiarid mountain environments: New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute Report 153, 36 p.
  13. Gross, G. W., Hoy, R. N., and Duffy, C. J., 1976, Application of environmental tritium in the measurement of recharge and aquifer parameters in a semi-arid limestone terrain: New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute Report 080, 212 p.
  14. Gross, G. W., Davis, P., and Rehfeldt, K. R., 1979, Paul Spring: An investigation of recharge in the Roswell (NM) Artesian Basin: New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute Report 113, 135 p.
  15. Gross, G. W. and Hoy, R. N., 1980, A geochemical and hydrological investigation of groundwater recharge in the Roswell Basin of New Mexico: Summary of results and updated listing of tritium determinations: New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute Report 122, 141 p.
  16. Gross, G. W., Hoy, R. N., Duffy, C. J., and Rehfeldt, K. R., 1982, Isotope studies of recharge in the Roswell basin, in Perry, Jr., E.C. and Montgomery, C.W. (eds.), Isotope Studies of Hydrologic Processes: Northern Illinois University Press, DeKalb, IL, p. 25-33.
  17. Hall, G. E., 2002, High and Dry: The Texas-New Mexico Struggle for the Pecos River: Albuquerque, University of New Mexico Press, 291 p.
  18. Hantush, M. S., 1957, Preliminary quantitative study of the Roswell ground-water reservoir, New Mexico: New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, State Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources Division, 118 p.
  19. Havenor, K. C., 1968, Structure, stratigraphy, and hydrogeology of the northern Roswell Artesian Basin, Chaves County, New Mexico: New Mexico Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources, Circular 93, 30 p.
  20. Havenor, K. C., 1996, The hydrogeologic framework of the Roswell groundwater basin, Chaves, Eddy, Lincoln, and Otero Counties, New Mexico: Tucson, University of Arizona, Ph.D. dissertation, 274 p.
  21. Hood, J. W., 1963, Saline ground water in the Roswell Basin, Chaves and Eddy Counties, New Mexico, 1958-59: U.S Geological Survey Water Supply Paper 1539-M, 46 p.
  22. Hood, J. W., Mower, R. W., and Grogin, M. J., 1960, The occurrence of saline ground water near Roswell, Chaves County, New Mexico: New Mexico State Engineer Technical Report 17, 72 p.
  23. Hoy, R. and Gross, G., 1982, A baseline study of oxygen-18 and deuterium in the Roswell, New Mexico, groundwater basin: New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute Report 144, 95 p.
  24. Johnson, P.S., Land, L., Price, L.G., and Titus, F. (eds.), 2003, Water Resources of the Lower Pecos Region, New Mexico: Science, Policy, and a Look to the Future: New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, 2003 New Mexico Decision Makers Guidebook, 148 p.
  25. Kelley, V. C., 1971, Geology of the Pecos country, southeastern New Mexico: New Mexico Bureau of Mines and Mineral Resources, Memoir 24, 78 p.
  26. Kinney, E. E., Nations, J. D., Oliver, B. J., Wagner, P. G., Siwula, T. A., and Renner, R. E., 1968, The Roswell Artesian Basin: Roswell Geological Society, 32 p.
  27. Kottlowski, F. E., 1979, Bottomless Lakes: New Mexico Geology, v. 1, p. 57-58.
  28. Land, L., 2003, Evaporite karst and regional ground water circulation in the lower Pecos Valley, in Johnson, K.S. and Neal, J.T. (eds.), Evaporite Karst and Engineering/Environmental Problems in the United States: Oklahoma Geological Survey Circular 109, p. 227-232.
  29. Land, L., 2005, Evaluation of groundwater residence time in a karstic aquifer using environmental tracers: Roswell Artesian Basin, New Mexico, in Proceedings of the Tenth Multidisciplinary Conference on Sinkholes and the Engineering and Environmental Impacts of Karst, San Antonio, Texas, 2005: ASCE Geotechnical Special Publication no. 144, p. 432-440.
  30. Land, L., 2006, Hydrogeology of Bottomless Lakes State Park, in Land, L., Lueth, V., Raatz, B., Boston, P., and Love, D. (eds.), Caves and Karst of Southeastern New Mexico: New Mexico Geological Society, Guidebook 57, p. 95-96.
  31. Land, L. and Newton, B. T., 2007, Seasonal and long-term variations in hydraulic head in a karstic aquifer: Roswell Artesian Basin, New Mexico: New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources Open-File Report no. 503, 27 p.
  32. Land, L. and Newton, B. T., 2008, Seasonal and long-term variations in hydraulic head in a karstic aquifer: Roswell Artesian Basin, New Mexico: Journal of the American Water Resources Association, v. 44, p. 175-191.
  33. Land, L. and Huff, G. F., 200-, Multi-tracer investigation of groundwater residence time in a karstic aquifer: Bitter Lakes National Wildlife Refuge, New Mexico, USA: Hydrogeology Journal (in review).
  34. Lyford, F. P., 1973, Valley fill in the Roswell-Artesia area, New Mexico: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report 73-163, 26 p.
  35. McCraw, D. J., Rawling, G. and Land, L., 2007, Preliminary Geologic Map of the Bitter Lake Quadrangle, Chaves Co., New Mexico: New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, Open-File Geologic Map-151, 1:24,000.
  36. McLemore, V. T., 1999, Bottomless Lakes: New Mexico Geology, v. 21, no. 2, p. 51-55.
  37. Morgan, A. M., 1938, Geology and shallow-water resources of the Roswell Artesian Basin: New Mexico State Engineer Bulletin 5, 95 p.
  38. Morgan, A. M., 1941, Depth of active solution by ground-waters in the Pecos Valley, New Mexico: Transactions of the American Geophysical Union, 22nd Annual Meeting, pt. 3, p. 779-783.
  39. Morgan, A. M., 1942, Solution-phenomena in the Pecos basin in New Mexico: Transactions of the American Geophysical Union, v. 23, p. 27-35.
  40. Motts, W. S. and Cushman, R. L., 1964, An appraisal of the possibilities of artificial recharge to ground-water supplies in part of the Roswell Basin, New Mexico: U.S. Geological Survey Water-Supply Paper 1785, 86 p.
  41. Mower, R. W., 1960, Pumpage in the Roswell Basin, Chaves and Eddy Counties, New Mexico: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report, 88 p.
  42. Mower, R. W., Hood, J. W., Cushman, R. L., Borton, R. L., and Galloway, S. E., 1964, An appraisal of potential ground-water salvage along the Pecos River between Acme and Artesia, New Mexico: U.S. Geological Survey Water-Supply Paper 1659, 98 p.
  43. Rabinowitz, D. and Gross, G. W., 1972, Environmental tritium as a hydrometeorologic tool in the Roswell Basin, New Mexico: New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute Report 016, 268 p.
  44. Rabinowitz, D., Gross, G. W., and Holmes, C., 1977, Environmental tritium as a hydrometeorological tool in the Roswell Basin, New Mexico, I, II, III: Journal of Hydrology, v. 32, p. 3-46.
  45. Rawling, G., 2006, Preliminary geologic map of the Bottomless Lakes quadrangle, Chaves County, New Mexico: New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, Open-File Geologic Map-126, 1:24,000.
  46. Rawling, G., Timmons, S., Newton, T., Walsh, P., Land, L., Kludt, T., Timmons, M., Johnson, P., & Felix, B., 2008, Sacramento Mountains Hydrogeology Study: New Mexico Bureau of Geology & Mineral Resources Open-File Report no. 512, 50 p.
  47. Rehfeldt, K. R. and Gross, G. W., 1982, The carbonate aquifer of the central Roswell Basin: Recharge estimation by numerical modeling: New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute Report 142, 136 p.
  48. Reiter, M. and Jordan, D. L., 1996, Hydrogeothermal studies across the Pecos River Valley, southeastern New Mexico: Geological Society of America Bulletin, v. 108, p. 747-756.
  49. Saleem, Z. A. and Jacob, C. E., 1971, Dynamic programming model and quantitative analysis, Roswell Basin, New Mexico: New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute Report 010, 180 p.
  50. Shomaker, J., 2003, How we got here: A brief history of water development in the Pecos Basin, in Johnson, P., Land, L., Price, G. and Titus, F. (eds.), Water Resources of the Lower Pecos Region, New Mexico: New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, 2003 New Mexico Decision Makers Guidebook, p. 61-64.
  51. Stafford, K., Land, L., & Klimchouk, A., 2008, Hypogenic speleogenesis within Seven Rivers evaporites: Coffee Cave, Eddy County, New Mexico: Journal of Cave and Karst Studies, v. 70, p. 47-61.
  52. Summers, W. K. and Kottlowski, F. E. (eds.), 1969, The San Andres limestone, a reservoir for oil and water in New Mexico: New Mexico Geological Society Special Publication No. 3, 51 p.
  53. Theis, C. V., 1951, Effects on artesian aquifer of storage of flood water in Hondo Reservoir, Chaves County, New Mexico: New Mexico State Engineer Technical Report 9, p. 33-36.
  54. Thomas, H. E., 1963, Causes of depletion of the Pecos River in New Mexico: U.S. Geological Survey Water-Supply Paper 1619-G, 14 p.
  55. Welder, G. E., 1973, Base flow in the Acme-Artesia reach of the Pecos River, New Mexico, 1957-1971: U.S. Geological Survey Open-File Report, 50 p.
  56. Welder, G. E., 1983, Geohydrologic framework of the Roswell Ground-Water Basin, Chaves and Eddy Counties, New Mexico: New Mexico State Engineer Technical Report 42, 28 p.
  57. Welder, G. E., 1988, Hydrologic effects of phreatophyte control, Acme-Artesia reach of the Pecos River, New Mexico, 1967-1982: U.S. Geological Survey Water-Resources Investigations Report 87-4148, 46 p.