Reactive-transport processes in the Red River, downstream from the town of Red River in north-central New Mexico, were simulated using the OTEQ reactive-transport model. The simulations were calibrated using physical and chemical data from synoptic studies conducted during low-flow conditions in August 2001 and during March/April 2002. Discharge over the 20-km reach from the town of Red River to the USGS streamflow-gaging station near the town of Questa ranged from 395 to 1,180 L/s during the 2001 tracer and from 234 to 421 L/s during the 2002 tracer. The pH of the Red River ranged from 7.4 to 8.5 during the 2001 tracer and from 7.1 to 8.7 during the 2002 tracer, and seep and tributary samples had pH values of 2.8 to 9.0 during the 2001 tracer and 3.8 to 7.2 during the 2002 tracer.
Mass-loading calculations allowed identification of several specific locations where elevated concentrations of potential contaminants entered the Red River . These locations, characterized by features on the north side of the Red River that are known to be sources of low-pH water containing elevated metal and sulfate concentrations, are: the initial 2.4 km of the study reach, including Bitter Creek, the stream section from 6.2 to 7.8 km, encompassing La Bobita well and the Hansen debris fan, Sulphur Gulch, at about 10.5 km, the area near Portal Springs, from 12.2 to 12.6 km, and the largest contributors of mass loading, the 13.7 to 13.9 km stream section near Cabin Springs and the 14.7 to 17.5 km stream section from Shaft Spring to Thunder Bridge, Goathill Gulch, and Capulin Canyon.
Speciation and saturation index calculations indicated that although solubility limits the concentration of aluminum above pH 5.0, at pH values above 7 and aluminum concentrations below 0.3 mg/L inorganic speciation and mineral solubility controls no longer dominate and aluminum-organic complexing may occur.
The August 2001 reactive-transport simulations included dissolved iron(II) oxidation, constrained using measured concentrations of dissolved iron(II) and dissolved iron(total). Both simulations included precipitation of amorphous Al(OH)3 and hydrous ferric oxide as Fe(OH)3, and sorption of copper and zinc to the precipitated hydrous ferric oxide. Simulations revealed that hydrogen, iron, aluminum, copper, and zinc were non-conservative and that mineral precipitation can account for iron and aluminum concentrations. Copper and zinc concentrations can be accounted for by simulating their sorption to hydrous ferric oxide forming in the water column of the Red River , although hydrous manganese oxides also may be important sorption substrates.