Estimates of groundwater recharge rates and sources in the East Mountain area, Eastern Bernalillo County, New Mexico, 2005-12

Scientific Investigations Report 2014-5181
Bernalillo County Public Works Natural Resource Services
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Abstract

The U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Bernalillo County Public Works Division, has conducted a monitoring program in the East Mountain area of eastern Bernalillo County, New Mexico, since 2000 to better define the hydrogeologic characteristics of the East Mountain area and to provide scientific information that will assist in the sustainable management of water resources. This report presents estimates of groundwater recharge to the aquifers that supply water to a network of springs that discharged within the East Mountain area of eastern Bernalillo County during 2005–12. Chloride concentration, the mass ratio of chloride to bromide, and the stable isotope ratios of hydrogen and oxygen were used to estimate annual groundwater recharge rates and to identify the sources and timing of recharge to the aquifers in the East Mountain area. Groundwater recharge rates were estimated by using a chloride mass-balance (CMB) method applied to data from selected springs located in the study area.

Eleven springs and four downgradient monitoring wells were sampled for this study. On the basis of chloride concentrations and the mass ratio of chloride to bromide, eight of the eleven sampled springs are considered representative of dilute groundwater recharged by meteoric water in the Sandia Mountains. Eight of the eleven springs sampled as part of this investigation are considered representative of dilute groundwater not influenced by nonmeteoric chloride sources on the basis of analysis of chloride concentrations and the mass ratio of chloride to bromide. Chloride concentrations at three of the sampled springs were likely affected by nonmeteoric chloride sources.

Results of CMB calculations for the eight springs with Cl:Br ratios and chloride concentrations within the range of dilute groundwater (not influenced by nonmeteoric chloride sources) indicated that between about 5.5 and 23 percent of annual precipitation recharges the groundwater system. The variation in estimated recharge rates indicated that the mechanisms for recharge and groundwater movement in the East Mountain area are complex and that factors such as climate variability, the extent and interconnection of structural features such as faults and fractures, and potential solution enhancement of the aquifers all play important roles in the rates and timing of recharge.

Stable isotope data from springs and snowpacks sampled in the East Mountain area were compared with local, regional, and global meteoric water lines and were analyzed along with values representing the stable isotope composition of winter precipitation and summer monsoonal rains. Results of the stable isotope analysis from springs in this study suggested that winter precipitation is the primary source of groundwater recharge to the aquifers supplying the springs, but there is a component of more isotopically enriched precipitation being recharged as well, likely from summer monsoonal rains. Specific conductance, groundwater-level hydrographs, snowpack chemistry, and snow-water equivalent data were used to inform the analyses and corroborate the findings of the CMB and stable isotope results.

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Additional publication details

Publication type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Title Estimates of groundwater recharge rates and sources in the East Mountain area, Eastern Bernalillo County, New Mexico, 2005-12
Series title Scientific Investigations Report
Series number 2014-5181
DOI 10.3133/sir20145181
Year Published 2014
Language English
Publisher U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location Reston, VA
Contributing office(s) New Mexico Water Science Center
Description vii, 24 p.
Country United States
State New Mexico
County Bernalillo County
Datum North American Datum of 1983
Projection Lambert Conformal Conic projection
Scale 100000
Online Only (Y/N) Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N) N