skip all navigation
skip banner links
skip primary navigation

Development of 3D Aquifer Maps

Conceptual model of a karst aquifer meeting a basin-bounding fault.
(click for a larger version)
3D cross cross section of geologic units (above) and hydrogeologic units (below) in the Estancia basin.
(click for a larger version)
3D geologic model of the Pecos Slope in southeast NM.
(click for a larger version)
3D Model Study Areas
(click for a larger version)

It is surprising that New Mexico does not have a detailed map of all of the productive and accessible aquifers across the state. In a state with as little as 0.24% of our land surface covered with water (the least in the country!), having detailed maps of our groundwater resources and aquifers, is essential. Some of our neighboring states, like Texas and Colorado, have these maps already available, and are successfully being used to administer and conserve water. This year, we will begin a new multi-year project to develop 3D maps of aquifers. This effort will utilize existing data to develop regional, digital maps of New Mexico’s aquifers. The maps of the aquifers will focus on the accessible (<1000 ft), actively used groundwater resources.

In order to develop functional aquifer maps, our approach will incorporate multiple datasets including:

  1. the state’s geology
  2. well records in the Office of the State Engineer’s Water Rights Reporting System
  3. water level and well data from the U.S. Geological Survey
  4. numerous reports and maps of aquifers
  5. The Collaborative Groundwater Monitoring Network, also funded by Healy Foundation.

This is expected to be a large undertaking that will likely take multiple years to complete this series of aquifer maps for the state. These maps will be developed and released region-by-region. In some regions, such as the southern High Plains aquifer or the Albuquerque Basin, some aquifer maps already exist.

Aquifer maps can fulfill numerous needs at the local, state and federal levels. Some examples of benefits are:

  • On a local scale, well owners and communities would have a resource to review for more information about groundwater in their local area, and begin to conceptualize how their groundwater use or surface water applications may affect their surrounding aquifer.
  • This effort can help support regional water planning needs for the state, and state water plan.
  • The Water Resources Research Institute (WRRI) Statewide Water Assessment can benefit from having more detailed groundwater boundaries and inputs for their water budget model.
  • Determination of the remaining quantities of groundwater available in any region must begin with this type of mapping.
  • These maps may be useful in evaluation or development of groundwater models
  • Undoubtedly, these maps can be useful in public education toward water conservation.

This work will also highlight regions where data are lacking, and highlight future research needs. Map products will be web-accessible in various formats (i.e. download, web viewing).

Funded by Healy Foundation, and the Aquifer Mapping Program.

If you’d like more information, please contact:
Laila Sturgis, Aquifer Mapping Program Manager,, (575) 835 5327


    1. Cikoski, Colin; Fichera, Marissa; Mamer, Ethan; Sturgis, Laila, 2020, A Three-Dimensional Hydrogeologic Model from the Pecos Slope to the Southern High Plains, Southeastern New Mexico, New Mexico Bureau of Geology Mineral Resources, Open-file Report, v. 0614
    2. Newton, B. Talon; Cikoski, Colin; Allen, Bruce, 2020. Hydrogeologic Framework of the Estancia Basin, New Mexico, New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources, Open-File Report, v. 609.

    Interactive Story Maps:

    [see more research projects...]