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Groundwater hydrology and estimation of horizontal groundwater flux from the Rio Grande at selected locations in Albuquerque, New Mexico, 2009–10

Scientific Investigations Report 2016-5021

Prepared in cooperation with Bureau of Reclamation acting as fiscal agent for the Middle Rio Grande Endangered Species Collaborative Program
By:
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https://doi.org/10.3133/sir20165021

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Abstract

The Albuquerque area of New Mexico has two principal sources of water: (1) groundwater from the Santa Fe Group aquifer system, and (2) surface water from the Rio Grande. From 1960 to 2002, pumping from the Santa Fe Group aquifer system caused groundwater levels to decline more than 120 feet while water-level declines along the Rio Grande in Albuquerque were generally less than 40 feet. These differences in water-level declines in the Albuquerque area have resulted in a great deal of interest in quantifying the river-aquifer interaction associated with the Rio Grande.

In 2003, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the Bureau of Reclamation, acting as fiscal agent for the Middle Rio Grande Endangered Species Collaborative Program, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers, began a study to characterize the hydrogeology of the Rio Grande inner valley alluvial aquifer in the Albuquerque area of New Mexico. The study provides hydrologic data in order to enhance the understanding of rates of water leakage from the Rio Grande to the alluvial aquifer, groundwater flow through the aquifer, and discharge of water from the aquifer to riverside drains. The study area extends about 20 miles along the Rio Grande in the Albuquerque area. Piezometers and surface-water gages were installed in paired transects at eight locations. Nested piezometers, completed at various depths in the alluvial aquifer, and surface-water gages, installed in the Rio Grande and riverside drains, were instrumented with pressure transducers. Water-level and water-temperature data were collected from 2009 to 2010.

Water levels from the piezometers indicated that groundwater movement was usually away from the river towards the riverside drains. Annual mean horizontal groundwater gradients in the inner valley alluvial aquifer ranged from 0.0024 (I-25 East) to 0.0144 (Pajarito East). The median hydraulic conductivity values of the inner valley alluvial aquifer, determined from slug tests, ranged from 30 feet per day (ft/d) (Montaño) to 120 ft/d (Central) for paired transects, with a median hydraulic conductivity for all transects of 50 ft/d. Daily mean groundwater fluxes from the river through the inner valley alluvial aquifer computed using Darcy’s Law and the slug test results ranged from about 0.01 ft/d (Montaño West) to between 1.0 and 2.0 ft/d (Central East). Median annual groundwater fluxes from the river through the inner valley alluvial aquifer determined using the Suzuki-Stallman method was greatest at Alameda East (0.50 ft/d) and lowest at Alameda West (0.25 ft/d). The results from both methods agreed reasonably well.

Seepage investigations conducted by measuring discharge in the east and west riverside drains provided information for computing changes in flow within the drains and for evaluating results from Darcy’s Law and Suzuki-Stallman method flux calculations. Discharge measured in the east riverside drain between the Barelas Bridge and the I-25 bridge indicated that the flow in the east riverside drain increased by an average of 56.5 cubic feet per day per linear foot (ft3/d/ft) of drain. Discharge measured in the west riverside drain between the Central bridge and the I-25 bridge indicated that flow increased between west drain miles 0 and 4, an average of 53.8 ft3/d/ft of drain, and that flow increased between west drain miles 7 and 10, an average of 44.9 ft3/d/ft of drain. In comparison to the seepage measurement results, the groundwater fluxes from the river through the inner valley alluvial aquifer calculated from Darcy’s Law (qslug) and by the Suzuki-Stallman method (qheat) would account for 20–36 percent or 53–95 percent, respectively, of the total flow in the east riverside drain and 22–31 percent or 19–26 percent, respectively, of the total flow in the west drain. These results indicate that the drains likely also receive water from outside the inner valley.

The spatial variability of horizontal hydraulic gradients and groundwater fluxes can be primarily attributed to variability in the distances between the river and riverside drains throughout the study area and geologic heterogeneities in the alluvial aquifer. Temporal variability in the water levels, which control the horizontal hydraulic gradients and fluxes between the Rio Grande and the riverside drains, can be primarily attributed to seasonal fluctuations in river stage and irrigation practices.

Suggested Citation

Rankin, D.R., Oelsner, G.P., McCoy, K.J., Moret, G.J.M., Worthington, J.A., and Bandy-Baldwin, K.M., 2016, Groundwater hydrology and estimation of horizontal groundwater flux from the Rio Grande at selected locations in Albuquerque, New Mexico, 2009–10: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2016–5021, 89 p., http://dx.doi.org/10.3133/sir20165021.

ISSN: 2328-0328 (online)

Study Area

Table of Contents

  • Abstract
  • Introduction
  • Methods of Data Collection and Analysis
  • Groundwater Hydrology
  • Estimation of Horizontal Groundwater Flux from the Rio Grande
  • Variability of Horizontal Hydraulic Gradients and Groundwater Fluxes
  • Summary
  • References

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Report
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Title:
Groundwater hydrology and estimation of horizontal groundwater flux from the Rio Grande at selected locations in Albuquerque, New Mexico, 2009–10
Series title:
Scientific Investigations Report
Series number:
2016-5021
DOI:
10.3133/sir20165021
Year Published:
2016
Language:
English
Publisher:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Reston, VA
Contributing office(s):
New Mexico Water Science Center
Description:
viii, 89 p.
Country:
United States
State:
New Mexico
City:
Albuquerque
Other Geospatial:
Rio Grande
Online Only (Y/N):
Y
Additional Online Files (Y/N):
N