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Healy Foundation grant to Aquifer Mapping Program

Socorro, NM
— September 15, 2016

The NM Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources at New Mexico Tech has received an important gift to benefit the New Mexico’s water and natural resources. In August 2016, the Healy Foundation gave $320,000 in support of two new water-focused programs for the state. This grant opens the door to new hydrogeologic research in a continued public-private partnership with the New Mexico-based charitable Healy Foundation and the Bureau of Geology’s Aquifer Mapping Program.

The first of the two programs funded by this grant is strongly focused on small and rural communities - often underserved when faced with prolonged drought and greater reliance on groundwater supplies. Many single-well, community water providers need robust scientific data on the local hydrogeology and groundwater conditions to better understand and secure their water future. The first program’s goal is to provide communities with reliable groundwater level data to better manage their water resources. Some locations will be instrumented with real-time water level measurement devices. These water level data will be collected, stored and accessed through the New Mexico Bureau of Geology’s data repository, and will be publicly available.

The second project focuses on the development of digital maps of aquifers. New Mexico is the fourth leading state for dependency of groundwater for drinking water, following Florida, Idaho, and Hawaii - notably wetter regions of the world. Approximately 90 percent of New Mexico’s drinking water and much of its irrigation water comes from groundwater. Many of New Mexico’s neighboring states have aquifer maps, and use these to administer and conserve groundwater. It is surprising that in a state as arid as New Mexico, with as little as 0.24% of our land surface covered with water, we do not have detailed maps of most of our aquifers and groundwater resources. There are also many wells in small rural communities impacted by long-term drought and population growth (National Geographic article). This project will begin with compiling multiple large datasets, including geologic maps, and well information from the Office of the State Engineer, with reports and maps from regional studies from multiple research organizations. These maps will be publicly available and web accessible.

Funding from the New Mexico state legislature to the Aquifer Mapping Program, with diligent support from Senator Carlos Cisneros, along with the public-private partnership with the Healy Foundation, has sustained many important hydrogeologic studies in New Mexico. In past years, these studies have been conducted in Taos County, Santa Fe County, Union County and in Socorro/Catron Counties. Healy Foundation support has significantly helped the state’s working knowledge of groundwater resources, and has aided in the growth of the Aquifer Mapping Program at the Bureau of Geology. This is truly a public-private partnership investment in New Mexico’s water future.

If your community has an interest in participating in the rural groundwater level monitoring program, or getting more information, please contact Stacy Timmons, Hydrogeology Program Manager at the New Mexico Bureau of Geology.