Preliminary study of the aquifers of the lower Mesilla Valley in Texas and New Mexico by model simulation

Water-Resources Investigations Report 84-4317

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The aquifers in the lower Mesilla Valley of Texas and New Mexico provide water for irrigation, industrial use, and municipal supply. At present (1984), the shallow aquifer is used principally for irrigation. The medium-depth aquifer (the top of which is about 160 to 260 feet below land surface) and deep aquifer (about 460 to 680 feet below land surface) are used almost exclusively by the city of El Paso to provide about 28 percent of the city's ground-water withdrawal of about 82,000 acre-feet in 1980; however, a small percentage of the pumpage is from the shallow aquifer. The potential use of the medium-depth and deep aquifers for irrigation, together with a planned increase in pumping by the city, is causing concern on the part of El Paso water planners over the impact of this development on the limited supply from the two aquifers.

A three-dimensional digital model of the aquifers was developed to evaluate the responses of water levels to various plans of development, with particular emphasis on the medium-depth and deep aquifers in and near the Canutillo well field. Simulations also were made to show the effect of eliminating seepage from the Rio Grande to the aquifer system.

The model simulations indicate that if pumpage by the city of El Paso during 1^76-80 increases to 10,000 acre-feet, per year from the medium-depth aquifer and to 20,000 acre-feet per year from the deep aquifer, and elsewhere in the study area pumping was held constant at the 1975 rate, then additional lowering of water levels in representative observation wells would be as much as 24 feet in the medium-depth aquifer and as much as 52 feet in the deep aquifer. The water levels would decline sharply during the first few months, after which the levels would become nearly stable because the leakage between the aquifers probably is enough to balance the increased pumpage. The model also indicated that lining of the channel of the Rio Grande would result in an additional lowering of water levels in representative observation wells by 10 feet in the medium-depth aquifer and 8 feet in the deep aquifer.

The accuracy of water levels simulated by a model is dependent on the accuracy and distribution of input data and how well model boundary conditions approximate actual boundary conditions. Because of a lack of hydro!ogic data (especial ly water-1 evel information) everywhere except the Canutillo wellfield area, because the simulated cone of depression reached two boundaries, and because the model contained an error and several deficiencies as explained in the "Discussion" section, the simulated results need to be interpreted carefully. The authors believe that the simulated results could be used best as a preliminary and conceptual evaluation of the pumping effects at the Canutillo well field, not as a quantitative interpretation. Although the patterns of simulated hydrographs of water-level change in observation wells in the Canutillo field generally may be correct, the amount of change simulated probably is not correct.

Because the salinity of water in all three aquifers south of Canutillo is greater than elsewhere in the study area, there is potential for movement of this water northward toward the Canutillo well field if the cone of depression reaches that part of the aquifer system. This potential should be evaluated in future geohydrologic studies of the lower Mesilla Valley.

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USGS Numbered Series
Preliminary study of the aquifers of the lower Mesilla Valley in Texas and New Mexico by model simulation
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
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Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Publisher location:
Austin, TX
Contributing office(s):
Texas Water Science Center
v, 21 p.
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