The Albuquerque–Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority supplements the municipal water supply for the Albuquerque metropolitan area, in central New Mexico, with water diverted from the Rio Grande. Water diverted from the Rio Grande for municipal use is derived from the San Juan–Chama Project, which delivers water from streams in the southern San Juan Mountains in the Colorado River Basin in southern Colorado to the Rio Chama watershed and the Rio Grande Basin in northern New Mexico. The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with Albuquerque–Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority, has compiled historical streamflow and water-quality data and collected new water-quality data to characterize the water quality and streamflow conditions and annual flow variability, as characterized by annual flow-duration curves, of streams of the San Juan–Chama Project. Nonparametric statistical methods were applied to calculate annual and monthly summary statistics of streamflow, trends in streamflow conditions were evaluated with the Mann–Kendall trend test, and annual variation in streamflow conditions was evaluated with annual flow-duration curves. The study area is located in northern New Mexico and southern Colorado and includes the Rio Blanco, Little Navajo River, and Navajo River, tributaries of the San Juan River in the Colorado River Basin located in the southern San Juan Mountains, and Willow Creek and Horse Lake Creek, tributaries of the Rio Chama in the Rio Grande Basin. The quality of water in the streams in the study area generally varied by watershed on the basis of the underlying geology and the volume and source of the streamflow. Water from the Rio Blanco and Little Navajo River watersheds, primarily underlain by volcanic deposits, volcaniclastic sediments and landslide deposits derived from these materials, was compositionally similar and had low specific-conductance values relative to the other streams in the study area. Water from the Navajo River, Horse Lake Creek, and Willow Creek watersheds, which are underlain mostly by Cretaceous-aged marine shale, was compositionally similar and had large concentrations of sulfate relative to the other streams in the study area, though the water from the Navajo River had lower specific-conductance values than did the water from Horse Lake Creek above Heron Reservoir and Willow Creek above Azotea Creek. Generally, surface-water quality varied with streamflow conditions throughout the year. Streamflow in spring and summer is generally a mixture of base flow (the component of streamflow derived from groundwater discharged to the stream channel) diluted with runoff from snowmelt and precipitation events, whereas streamflow in fall and winter is generally solely base flow. Major- and trace-element concentrations in the streams sampled were lower than U.S. Environmental Protection Agency primary and secondary drinking-water standards and New Mexico Environment Department surface-water standards for the streams. In general, years with increased annual discharge, compared to years with decreased annual discharge, had a smaller percentage of discharge in March, a larger percentage of discharge in June, an interval of discharge derived from snowmelt runoff that occurred later in the year, and a larger discharge in June. Additionally, years with increased annual discharge generally had a longer duration of runoff, and the streamflow indicators occurred at dates later in the year than the years with less snowmelt runoff. Additionally, the seasonal distribution of streamflow was more strongly controlled by the change in the amount of annual discharge than by changes in streamflow over time. The variation of streamflow conditions over time at one streamflow-gaging station in the study area, Navajo River at Banded Peak Ranch, was not significantly monotonic over the period of record with a Kendall’s tau of 0.0426 and with a p-value of 0.5938 for 1937 to 2009 (a trend was considered statistically significant at a p-value ≤ 0.05). There was a relation, however, such that annual discharge was generally lower than the median during a negative Pacific Decadal Oscillation interval and higher than the median during a positive Pacific Decadal Oscillation interval. Streamflow conditions at Navajo River at Banded Peak Ranch varied nonmonotonically over time and were likely a function of complex climate pattern interactions. Similarly, the monthly distribution of streamflow varied nonmonotonically over time and was likely a function of complex climate pattern interactions that cause variation over time. Study results indicated that the median of the sum of the streamflow available above the minimum monthly bypass requirement from Rio Blanco, Little Navajo River, and Navajo River was 126,240 acre-feet. The results also indicated that diversion of water for the San Juan–Chama Project has been possible for most months of most years.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Water quality, streamflow conditions, and annual flow-duration curves for streams of the San Juan–Chama Project, southern Colorado and northern New Mexico, 1935-2010