Catron and Socorro Counties, NM
— July 16, 2019
The New Mexico Bureau of Geology is soon to publish the results of a detailed study about the groundwater within the Plains of San Agustin. This research, led by Dr. Alex Rinehart and Dan Koning, involved geologic mapping, analysis of wells and other subsurface data, water geochemistry, extensive water level measurements, analysis of geophysical data.
The Plains of San Agustin is a closed basin with the remnants of a Pleistocene lake in its western half. There has been considerable controversy in this area regarding the proposed large-scale pumping and diversion of groundwater to users and cities in the Rio Grande Valley (see article published in the Albuquerque Journal on June 17th, 2019). Groundwater is flowing slowly out the western end into the Gila River. Bureau research has shown that there are several sub-basins in the sub-surface below the Plains. The northern sub-basin, where Datil, the proposed development and the VLA visitor center are, appears to not be draining. Throughout the Plains, groundwater recharge, discharge and current consumptive use are all in balance: water levels are not changing from year to year. Drawdown from the proposed pumping will likely be localized in the northern sub-basin, and would have greatest impact on Datil, only a few miles away.
Regardless of whether this diversion project proceeds or not, the baseline data and hydrogeologic framework provided by this research will aid stakeholders, regulators, and decision makers in assessing and managing the groundwater resources of this rural area.