The need for additional water has increased in recent years on the Acoma and Laguna Indian Reservations in west-central New Mexico because the population and per capita use of water have increased; the tribes also desire water for light industry, for more modern schools, and to increase their irrigation program. Many wells have been drilled in the area, but most have been disappointing because of small yields and poor chemical quality of the water.
The topography in the Acoma and Laguna Indian Reservations is controlled primarily by the regional and local dip of alternating beds of sandstone and shale and by the igneous complex of Mount Taylor. The entrenched alluvial valley along the Rio San Jose, which traverses the area, ranges in width from about 0.4 mile to about 2 miles.
The climate is characterized by scant rainfall, which occurs mainly in summer, low relative humidity, and large daily fluctuations of temperature. Most of the surface water enters the area through the Rio San Jose. The average annual streamflow past the gaging station Rio San Jose near Grants, N. Mex. is about 4,000 acre-feet. Tributaries to the Rio San Jose within the area probably contribute about 1,000 acre-feet per year. At the present time, most of the surface water is used for irrigation.
Ground water is obtained from consolidated sedimentary rocks that range in age from Triassic to Cretaceous, and from unconsolidated alluvium of Quaternary age. The principal aquifers are the Dakota Sandstone, the Tres Hermanos Sandstone Member of the Mancos Shale, and the alluvium. The Dakota Sandstone yields 5 to 50 gpm (gallons per minute) of water to domestic and stock wells. The Tres Hermanos sandstone Member generally yields 5 to 20 gpm of water to domestic and stock wells. Locally, beds of sandstone in the Chinle and Morrison Formations, the Entrada Sandstone, and the Bluff Sandstone also yield small supplies of water to domestic and stock wells. The alluvium yields from 2 gpm to as much as 150 gpm of water to domestic and stock wells. Thirteen test wells were drilled in a search for usable supplies of ground water for pueblo and irrigation supply and to determine the geologic and hydrologic characteristics of the water-bearing material. The performance of six of the test wells suggests that the sites are favorable for pueblo or irrigation supply wells. The yield of the other seven wells was too small or the quality of the water was too poor for development of pueblo or irrigation supply to be feasible. However, the water from one of the seven wells was good in chemical quality, and the yield was large enough to supply a few homes with water.
The tests suggest that the water in the alluvium of the Rio San Jose valley is closely related to the streamflow and that it might be possible to withdraw from the alluvium in summer and replenish it in winter. The surface flow in summer might be decreased by extensive pumpage of ground water, but on the other hand, more of the winter flow could be retained in the area by storage in the ground-water reservoir. Wells could be drilled along the axis of the valley, and the water could be pumped into systems for distribution to irrigated farms. The chemical quality of ground water in the area varies widely from one stratigraphic unit to another and laterally within each unit and commonly the water contains undesirably large amounts of sulfate. However, potable water has been obtained locally from all the aquifers. The water of best quality seemingly is in the Tres Hermanos Sandstone Member of the Mancos Shale and in the alluvium north of the Rio San Jose. The largest quantity of water that is suitable for irrigation is in the valley fill along the Rio San Jose.
Intensive pumping of ground water from aquifers containing water of good quality may draw water of inferior chemical quality into the wells.
Additional publication details
USGS Numbered Series
Availability of ground water in parts of the Acoma and Laguna Indian Reservations, New Mexico