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A study of the hydrology of the Red River Basin of northern New Mexico, including development of a pre- mining water balance, contributes to a greater understanding of processes affecting the flow and chemistry of water in the Red River and its alluvial aquifer. Estimates of mean annual precipitation for the Red River Basin ranged from 22.32 to 25.19 inches. Estimates of evapotranspiration for the Red River Basin ranged from 15.02 to 22.45 inches or 63.23 to 94.49 percent of mean annual precipitation. Mean annual yield from the Red River Basin estimated using regression equations ranged from 45.26 to 51.57 cubic feet per second. Mean annual yield from the Red River Basin estimated by subtracting evapotranspiration from mean annual precipitation ranged from 55.58 to 93.15 cubic feet per second. In comparison, naturalized 1930-2004 mean annual streamflow at the Red River near Questa gage was 48.9 cubic feet per second. Although estimates developed using regression equations appear to be a good representation of yield from the Red River Basin as a whole, the methods that consider evapotranspiration may more accurately represent yield from smaller basins that have a substantial amount of sparsely vegetated scar area.
Hydrograph separation using the HYSEP computer program indicated that subsurface flow for 1930-2004 ranged from 76 to 94 percent of streamflow for individual years with a mean of 87 percent of streamflow. By using a chloride mass-balance method, ground-water recharge was estimated to range from 7 to 17 percent of mean annual precipitation for water samples from wells in Capulin Canyon and the Hansen, Hottentot, La Bobita, and Straight Creek Basins and was 21 percent of mean annual precipitation for water samples from the Red River.
Comparisons of mean annual basin yield and measured streamflow indicate that streamflow does not consistently increase as cumulative estimated mean annual basin yield increases. Comparisons of estimated mean annual yield and measured streamflow profiles indicates that, in general, the river is gaining ground water from the alluvium in the reach from the town of Red River to between Hottentot and Straight Creeks, and from Columbine Creek to near Thunder Bridge. The river is losing water to the alluvium from upstream of the mill area to Columbine Creek. Interpretations of ground- and surface-water interactions based on comparisons of mean annual basin yield and measured streamflow are supported further with water-level data from piezometers, wells, and the Red River.
Additional Publication Details
USGS Numbered Series
Questa baseline and pre-mining ground-water quality investigation. 21. Hydrology and water balance of the Red River basin, New Mexico 1930-2004