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Southern Sacramento Mountains
Hydrogeology Study

The goals of this study were to delineate areas of groundwater recharge, determine directions and rates of groundwater movement, and better understand the interactions between different aquifers and between the groundwater and surface water systems. Data collected from 2005 to 2009 include geologic mapping, frequent water level measurements in wells, single time and repeated well and spring sampling, precipitation measurement and sampling, fracture orientation measurements, and stream flow measurements. Findings include:
  • Sacramento Mountains are the primary recharge area to the Pecos Slope and Roswell Artesian Basin
  • Historically, snowmelt has been the dominant recharge, but extreme monsoons (i.e. more than ~7 inches in a few days) are also important for recharge
  • Multiple, independent lines of evidence from geology, hydrology, and groundwater chemistry indicate that about 75% recharge occurs above 7800 ft elevation
  • Little recharge occurs on Pecos Slope except along Rio Peñasco, except possibly during extreme monsoons
  • Recharge in the Sacramento Mountain 88,131–171,066 acre-ft /year
  • Groundwater ages vary from 15–25 years old in the high mountains region (recharge area) to ~1300 years old in the Pecos Slope region

Funding for this work came from the Otero Soil and Water Conservation District through legislative appropriation administered by the New Mexico State Department of Agriculture at New Mexico State University, Las Cruces, New Mexico. Additional funding for geologic mapping in the study area has been awarded through the National Cooperative Geologic Mapping Program (STATEMAP). Supplemental funding for the watershed study was provided by the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission.

The Bureau of Geology thanks the many residents of the Sacramento Mountains who have granted access to their property and wells. These projects would not be possible without their kind cooperation.

For more information, please contact:
Dr. Geoffrey C. Rawling, Field Geologist
or
Stacy Timmons, Hydrogeologist / Aquifer Mapping Program Manager

AMP-Relevant Publications

Sacramento Mountains Hydrogeology Study, Otero and Chaves Counties, New Mexico

Available for free download.

Open-file Report 543, Final technical report, this report supersedes Open-file report 518
2012, B. T. Newton, G. C. Rawling, S. S. Timmons, L. Land, P. S. Johnson, T. J. Kludt, and J. M. Timmon

Generalized Geologic Map of the Southern Sacramento Mountains, Otero and Chaves Counties, New Mexico

Available for free download.

Open-file Report 537
2012, Geoffrey C. Rawling

Water Table Map of the Southern Sacramento Mountains, New Mexico

Available for free download.

Open-file Report 542
2012, Lewis Land, Stacy Timmons, Geoffrey C. Rawling, and Brigitte Felix

Sacramento Mountains Hydrogeology Study

Available for free download.

Summary Brochure, (1.7 MB)
2010, Talon Newton, Stacy Timmons, Geoffrey C. Rawling, and Lewis Land

An outcrop of the Yeso Formation in 16 Springs Canyon.

Selected References

  1. Abercrombie, D., 2003, Waters of the Sacramento Mountains, in: Water resources of the Lower Pecos Region, New Mexico: Science, policy, and a look to the future, New Mexico Bureau of Geology Mineral Resources, Decision-Makers Field Conference — 2003, pp 88-92.
  2. Frechette, J. D.; and Meyer, G. A., 2007, Holocene fan sedimentation and fire activity in southern New Mexico (abs.), New Mexico Geological Society, 2007 Annual Spring Meeting, New Mexico Geology Journal, Vol. 29, 59 p.
  3. Kennedy, J. F.; Hawley, J. W.; Keller, G. R.; and Langford, R. P., 2006, Estimating a runoff coefficient based on adjacent watersheds, New Mexico Geological Society, Annual Spring Meeting, New Mexico Geology Journal, Vol.28, 61 p.
  4. Koning, D. J., 1998, Alluvial fan stratigraphy along the southern Sacramento Mountains and paleoseismic interpretations for the Alamogordo fault, New Mexico Geological Society, 1998 Annual Spring Meeting, Abstracts with Programs, New Mexico Institute Mining and Technology, Socorro, New Mexico, New Mexico Geology Journal, Vol. 20, 55-56 p.
  5. Koning, D. J.; and Pazzaglia, F. J., 1999, Late Quaternary paleoseismicity of the Alamogordo fault adjacent to the Sacramento Mountains, New Mexico, New Mexico Geological Society, 1999 Annual Spring Meeting, Abstracts with Programs, New Mexico Institute Mining and Technology, Socorro, New Mexico, New Mexico Geology Journal, Vol. 21, 39 p.
  6. Koning, D. J., 2001, Fault segmentation and paleoseismicity of the southern Alamogordo Fault, southern Rio Grande rift, New Mexico, New Mexico Geology Journal, Vol. 23, 96 p.
  7. New, Jennifer, 2007, Holocene charcoal-based alluvial fire chronology and geomorphic implications in Caballero Canyon, Sacramento Mountains, New Mexico (abs.), M.S. thesis, University New Mexico, Albuquerque, NM, New Mexico Geology Journal, Vol.29, 105 p.
  8. Otte, Carel, Jr., 1959, Late Pennsylvanian and Early Permian stratigraphy of the northern Sacramento Mountains, Otero County, New Mexico, New Mexico Bureau of Mines Mineral Resources, Bulletin Vol. 50, 111 p.
  9. Pray, Lloyd C., 1961, Geology of the Sacramento Mountains escarpment, Otero County, New Mexico, New Mexico Bureau of Mines Mineral Resources, Bulletin Vol. 35, 144 p.
  10. Rawling, G.; Timmons, S.; Newton, T.; Walsh, P.; Land, L.; Kludt, T.; Timmons, M.; Johnson, P.; and Felix, B., 2008, Sacramento Mountains hydrogeology study, New Mexico Bureau of Geology Mineral Resources, Open-file Report 512, CD ROM
  11. Schulze-Makuch, Dirk, 2003, Chemical and microbial composition of subsurface-, surface-, and atmospheric water samples in the southern Sacramento Mountains, New Mexico, New Mexico Geological Society, 2003 Annual Spring, New Mexico Geology Journal, Vol. 25, 46 p.
  12. Timmons, S.; Rawling, G. C.; Johnson, P. S.; Land, L.; and Morse, J., 2007, Water level responses and preliminary spring chemistry results: Progress report on the hydrogeologic study in the southern Sacramento Mountains, New Mexico (abs.), New Mexico, New Mexico Geological Society, 2007 Annual Spring, New Mexico Geology Journal, Vol. 29, 65 p.