Hydrogeologic framework and preliminary simulation of ground-water flow in the Mimbres Basin, southwestern New Mexico

Water-Resources Investigations Report 94-4011

Prepared in cooperation with the New Mexico State Engineer Office
, , and



The bolson-fill aquifer, the major water-yielding unit in the Mimbres Basin, southwestern New Mexico, ranges in thickness from 0 to about 3,700 feet. Recharge to the bolson-fill aquifer occurs by infiltration of ephemeral streams that cross the basin margin, infiltration from precipitation and streamflow, ground-water underflow from adjacent basins, and infiltration of springflow from adjacent bedrock units within the basin. Ground water generally flows southward from the northern highland areas of the basin. Ground-water discharge consists of pumpage from wells, transpiration by plants, outflow to playas and springs in the Los Muertos Basin in Mexico, discharge to the Mimbres River, and ground-water flow to the Mesilla Basin near Mason Draw. Before 1910, ground-water recharge and discharge were approximately equal; by 1975, however, about 75 percent of the 146,000 acre-feet withdrawn annually was ground water, most of it from aquifer storage.

The transmissivity of the bolson-fill aquifer determined from aquifer tests and specific-capacity data ranges from 10 to 50,000 feet squared per day. Hydraulic conductivity, calculated from saturated thickness and transmissivity, ranges from 0.03 to 800 feet per day, with median values of about 18 feet per day in the Deming area and 6 feet per day elsewhere. Reported storage-coefficient values representing confined parts of the aquifer range from 0.00036 to 0.0036, and those representing unconfined parts of the aquifer range from 0.02 to 0.24.

Water quality in the north and central parts of the Mimbres Basin is suitable for most uses. Due to its large salinity and alkalinity, some of the ground water in the south and southeastern areas of the bolson-fill aquifer may not be suitable for irrigation or domestic use.

A preliminary two-dimensional digital model was constructed to evaluate ground-water flow in the bolson-fill aquifer. The model was divided into zones of uniform hydraulic conductivity corresponding to the major structural elements of the basin. For simulation purposes, hydraulic conductivity in the central part of the basin ranged from 2.2 to 4.4 feet per day, whereas locally along the edges of the aquifer less certain values ranged from 0.003 to 62 feet per day Analysis of the results of this predevelopment model indicated that use of the mountain-front recharge method overestimates total recharge and that evapotranspiration is substantial. The simulated total inflow was about 55 percent of that estimated in a water budget for the Mimbres Basin.

Ground-water development between 1930 and 1985 was simulated using storage-coefficient values of 0.01 and 0.02 for the Gila Conglomerate, 0.04 to 0.17 for bolson-fill deposits, and 0.001 for bolson fill capped with lacustrine clay. The simulated transient water budget indicated that most of the water pumped by 1985 came from storage, and lesser but substantial amounts came from reductions in evapotranspiration.

Study Area

Additional publication details

Publication type:
Publication Subtype:
USGS Numbered Series
Hydrogeologic framework and preliminary simulation of ground-water flow in the Mimbres Basin, southwestern New Mexico
Series title:
Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series number:
Year Published:
U.S. Geological Survey
Report: viii, 118 p.; 2 Plates: 25.71 x 41.06 inches and 24.73 x 32.84 inches
United States
New Mexico
Other Geospatial:
Mimbres Basin
National Geodetic Vertical Datum of 1929