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Aquifer Mapping Program receives gift from Healy Foundation

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Sara Chudnoff, in center, shown here training rural water operators on techniques of groundwater level measurements and documentation. Several of these water operators now have submitted data or have provided wells for monitoring as part of the Healy F

— August 9, 2017


The NM Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources at New Mexico Tech has received an important gift to support investigation of New Mexico’s water resources. In July 2017, the Healy Foundation provided a generous gift in support of two ongoing, and one new, water-focused projects for the state. This gift opens the door to continued hydrogeologic research supported by a public-private partnership between the New Mexico-based charitable Healy Foundation and the Bureau of Geology’s Aquifer Mapping Program.

The first of the three projects funded by this gift strongly focuses on groundwater level monitoring in small and rural communities. These communities, many of which rely on a single well, need robust scientific data on local groundwater conditions in order to better understand and secure their water future. Towards this end, Bureau of Geology scientists are working with local community members to either manually measure groundwater levels or to instrument existing wells with continuous water level measurement devices. Bureau of Geology staff are providing outreach and education to rural well operators, creating a population of trained citizen scientists, capturing important regional water level trends. These measurements, which can be uploaded by well owners through a web portal, will be publicly accessed through the New Mexico Bureau of Geology’s website.

The second project works towards producing 3-D visualizations and explanations of the geology and shape of several of New Mexico’s important aquifers. 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 build understanding of groundwater resources. It is surprising that in a state as arid as New Mexico, we do not have detailed maps of most of our aquifers and groundwater resources. This project will continue compiling multiple large datasets, including geologic maps, and well information from the Office of the State Engineer, as well as reports and maps from regional studies from multiple research organizations. The results of this work will be available to the public through an interactive web site hosted by the New Mexico Bureau of Geology.

The third study funded by this gift will begin a new, regional-scale hydrogeological investigation of the Sunshine Valley, north of Questa, NM. The project will involve collection of geological and hydrological data that will be used to better understand the groundwater resources of this region. A specific research target will be to evaluate recharge and movement of water from the mountain front to the Rio Grande. This study will complement other regional studies, done by the Bureau of Geology, in Taos County.

Funding from the New Mexico state legislature to the Aquifer Mapping Program, 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, Santa Fe, Union, Otero, Socorro and Catron counties. These regional studies have highlighted the growing need to understand water resources throughout the state, particularly in rural communities. Healy Foundation support has allowed us to pursue this goal, helping to improve the state’s working knowledge of groundwater resources, communicating to the public, and continuing detailed scientific study of specific areas, through supporting 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.