Hydrology of Area 62, Northern Great Plains and Rocky Mountain Coal Provinces, New Mexico and Arizona

Open-File Report 83-698

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This report summarizes available hydrologic data for Area 62 and will aid leasing decisions, and the preparation and appraisal of environmental impact studies and mine-permit applications. Area 62 is located at the southern end of the Rocky Mountain Coal Province in parts of New Mexico and Arizona and includes approximately 9,500 square miles. Surface mining alters, at least temporarily, the environment; if the areas are unreclaimed, there can be long-term environmental consequences. The land-ownership pattern in Area 62 is complicated. The checkerboard pattern created by several types of ownership makes effective management of these lands difficult. The climate generally is semiarid with average annual precipitation ranging from 10 to 20 inches. Pinons, junipers, and grasslands cover most of the area, and much of it is used for grazing by livestock. Soils vary with landscape, differing from flood plains and hillslopes to mountain slopes. The major structural features of this area were largely developed during middle Tertiary time. The main structural features are the southern San Juan Basin and the Mogollon slope. Coal-bearing rocks are present in four Cretaceous rock units of the Mesaverde Group: the Gallup Sandstone, the Dileo Coal Member, and the Gibson Coal Member of the Crevasse Canyon Formation, and the Cleary Coal Member of the Menefee Formation. Area 62 is drained by Black Creek, the Puerco River, the Zuni River, Carrizo Wash-Largo Creek, and the Rio San Jose. Only at the headwaters of the Zuni River is the flow perennial. The streamflow-gaging station network consists of 25 stations operated for a variety of needs. Streamflow changes throughout the year with variation related directly to rainfall and snowmelt. Base flow in Area 62 is zero indicating no significant ground-water discharge. Mountainous areas contribute the highest mean annual runoff of 1.0 inch. Very few water-quality data are available for the surface-water stations. Of the nine surface-water stations that have water-quality data, only one has chemical analyses from more than 10 samples. Therefore, sufficient data to characterize the area in detail are not available. Suspended sediment data are available only for a few surface- water stations in the area. Erosion rates generally are less than 1 acre-foot per square mile per year. Greater erosion rates are found within the badland areas. Water levels are periodically measured at 21 selected wells in Area 62. These observation wells are located mostly along the Rio San Jose and northeast of Gallup, New Mexico. The recharge to ground-water aquifers generally coincide with areas of greater precipitation in the mountainous areas. Depth to water below land surface is generally less than 200 feet. Well yields of 100 gallons per minute are common in most of the area. Ground-water quality is variable both within each aquifer and between aquifers. Water quality generally is best near recharge areas. Historical and current data related to stream discharge, water quality, and suspended sediment are available from computer files in the U.S. Geological Survey's National Water Data Storage and Retrieval System (WATSTORE) and through the National Water Data Exchange (NAWDEX).

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Hydrology of Area 62, Northern Great Plains and Rocky Mountain Coal Provinces, New Mexico and Arizona
Series title:
Open-File Report
Series number:
WRI/OFR 83-698
Year Published:
Geological Survey (U.S.)
Contributing office(s):
U.S. Geological Survey
v, 66 p.