Hydrology of the Estancia Basin, central New Mexico

Water-Resources Investigations Report 93-4163




The Estancia Basin of central New Mexico is a topographically closed basin that ranges in altitude from 6,000 feet to more than 10,000 feet above sea level. In the center of the basin a valley-fill aquifer of Quaternary age is as much as 400 feet thick. Limestone of the Madera Group of Pennsylvanian and Permian age crops out over most of the southwestern part of the basin. Large-scale ground-water withdrawals for irrigation began about 1950. Between 1950 and 1985, water levels declined 50 to 60 feet in a number of places. From 1985 to the present (1989), however, a small rise in water level has been measured in a number of wells; this rise can be attributed to decreased ground-water withdrawals resulting from a government crop- reduction program and also to several years of heavy winter snowfall. Continuous water-level recorders were placed on three wells from 1986 to 1988. Two of these wells showed short-term water-level changes characteristic of unconfined aquifers, whereas the other showed changes characteristic of confined aquifers. All three wells showed water-level changes caused by barometric-pressure changes. Six series of miscellaneous measurements and two gain-and-loss (seepage) studies were made in streams in the south- western part of the basin. These measurements showed an extreme variability in discharge under different climatic conditions. The specific conductance of water in much of the southwestern part of the basin ranges from 350 to 550 microsiemens per centimeter at 25 degrees Celsius. East of State Highway 41 in the area of the salt lakes, water quality is highly dependent on depth in the aquifer. Specific- conductance values ranging from about 4,000 to 6,000 microsiemens were measured in water samples from wells in the center of the basin during this study, but previous studies have identified water samples having specific-conductance values of as much as 187,000 microsiemens. A comparison of specific- conductance measurements and laboratory analyses of well water shows that water quality has changed in the past several decades. In many places, increases in spedtic conductance can be correlated with deelines in water level.

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USGS Numbered Series
Hydrology of the Estancia Basin, central New Mexico
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Water-Resources Investigations Report
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U.S. Geological Survey ; USGS Earth Science Information Center, Open-File Reports Section [distributor],
v, 83 p. :ill., maps ;28 cm.