Water resources of the Rincon and Mesilla Valleys and adjacent areas, New Mexico

Technical Report 43

Prepared by the U.S. Geological Survey in cooperation with: New Mexico State Engineer Office; U.S. Bureau of Reclamation; Elephant Butte Irrigation District; City of Las Cruces; New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute
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The Rincon and Mesilla Valleys of New Mexico extend from Caballo Reservoir to El Paso del Norte, west of El Paso, Texas. Water supplies for this area are obtained from the Rio Grande and from the saturated sediments filling the intermontane basins of south-central New Mexico. The two major aquifers are the Santa Fe Group of Miocene to middle Pleistocene age and the flood-plain alluvium of late Pleistocene and Holocene age. The Santa Fe Group is composed of thick deposits of interbedded clay, silt, sand, and gravel. The flood-plain alluvium, generally less than 80 feet thick, is composed of a basal gravel layer overlain by interbedded sand, silt, and clay. In the Rincon Valley, the flood-plain alluvium is the principal source of ground water because the underlying Santa Fe is composed predominantly of lacustrine clay deposits. In the Mesilla Valley, thick deposits of fluvial sands and gravels in the Santa Fe Group are hydraulically connected with the flood-plain alluvium. Water-table conditions occur in the flood-plain alluvium, which is recharged primarily by infiltration of surface water from the Rio Grande, irrigation canals, and irrigated fields. Recharge to the Santa Fe Group occurs primarily from downward infiltration of water from the flood-plain alluvium and secondarily from runoff infiltrating upland sediments and mountain-front fan deposits. In the short term, the Santa Fe Group responds as a leaky confined aquifer due to the presence of interbedded clays that reduce vertical permeability. Aquifer tests Were conducted on 58 wells and test holes, most of which were completed in the Santa Fe Group. Transmissivities range from 1.3 to 21,100 feet squared per day. Average well yields range from about 1,050 gallons per minute in the Rincon Valley to about 1,500 gallons per minute in the Mesilla Valley. Yields in the Jornada del Muerto generally are much smaller. Movement of ground water is generally southward in the Rincon and Mesilla Valleys and toward the valleys in the adjacent upland areas. Ground water moves southeastward beneath the West Mesa area, converging with ground-water flow in the southern end of the Mesilla Valley. Good hydraulic connection exists between sediments of the West Mesa and Mesilla Valley areas. Ground water in the southern end of the Jornada del Muerto moves generally to the northwest, converges with south-flowing ground water near Point of Rocks, and moves westward into Rincon Valley sediments near Rincon. A small amount of ground water flows westward from the southern end of the Jornada del Muerto across a subsurface igneous body into the Mesilla Valley. Ground-water discharge occurs throughout the Rincon and Mesilla Valleys as drain flow to the river and evapotranspiration. Dissolved-solids concentrations in the water in the flood-plain alluvium of the Rincon and Mesilla Valleys are generally greater than 1,000 milligrams per liter. A freshwater zone, with dissolved-solids concentrations less than 1,000 milligrams per liter, underlies this thin, slightly saline zone beneath much of the Mesilla Valley. This freshwater zone, occurring in the Santa Fe Group, is surrounded by saline water. Within the study area, major dissolved ions in ground water include sodium, calcium, bicarbonate, and sulfate. The Rio Grande is a gainlng stream in the northern parts of the Rincon and Mesilla Valleys and a losing stream in the southern part of the Mesilla Valley. Gains and losses result from a close interconnection with ground-water flow systems. Large surface-water irrigation allotments increase ground-water recharge. Increased recharge raises ground-water levels and improves shallow ground-water quality adjacent to these recharge areas. Shallow ground-water discharges to drains, which flow into the Rio Grande. Dissolved-solids concentrations in the Rio Grande increase by as much as 60 percent between Caballo Reservoir and the southern end of the study area.

Geospatial Extents

Additional Publication Details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
Other Government Series
Water resources of the Rincon and Mesilla Valleys and adjacent areas, New Mexico
Series title:
Technical Report
Series number:
Year Published:
New Mexico State Engineer
Publisher location:
Santa Fe, NM
Contributing office(s):
New Mexico Water Science Center
ix, 514 p.; Plates: 1-16: 24 x 38 inches
First page:
Last page:
Number of Pages:
United States
New Mexico
Other Geospatial:
Rincon Valley;Mesilla Valley