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Rio Arriba County Hydrogeology

Rio Arriba County
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Beginning in July 2023, the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources (NMBGMR) is conducting a 1-year hydrogeologic study in Rio Arriba County regions with state legislative funding. One goal of this study is to evaluate the quantity and quality of water in these regional aquifers as communities face increasing challenges of groundwater supply in the face of increased aridity and warmer temperatures. NMBGMR’s research team will focus on characterizing the groundwater aquifers in the communities of Chama, Dixon, Abiquiu, Medanales, and El Rito. While surface water accounts for approximately 92% of water use in this region (primarily for agriculture), groundwater is the main water source for domestic use for households, institutions, and businesses, supplied by a community system or private domestic wells. By assessing the different aquifer characteristics, such as groundwater recharge mechanisms and groundwater flow rates, this study can provide these communities with vital information to help manage future water resource options.

The initial phase of this project includes compiling existing groundwater well data and surface water data. Then, from September to November of 2023, the research team hopes to inventory a selection of wells, measure groundwater levels, and collect water samples. These depth-to-water measurements will be used to differentiate regional aquifers and estimate groundwater flow directions.

Up to 60 water samples will be selected for water sampling from existing domestic or public supply wells in and around these communities. Water samples will be analyzed for major cations, anions, trace metals, and environmental tracers, including stable water isotopes, tritium, and carbon-14. Some of these analytical results will be used to estimate the groundwater age in the different aquifers. These chemistry data will also provide information about the aquifers' general water quality and the hydrogeochemical processes that affect groundwater chemistry.

In July 2024, we will provide a publicly available summary report presenting results and general interpretations. Public presentations will also be provided for interested communities. It is anticipated that other regions may be included in a future regional study in subsequent years.

For more information, please contact project lead Talon Newton (, 575-835-6668) or the Aquifer Mapping Program Manager, Laila Sturgis (, 575-835-5327).

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