Groundwater: Not out of mind

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Beneath the desert landscape that covers most of New Mexico lies the future of the state. Stored within cracks or between grains of sand and gravel is our most precious resource – groundwater.

In recognition of the fact that most of New Mexico’s drinking water comes from groundwater, the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources is celebrated National Groundwater Awareness Week, March 10 to 16.

“Groundwater is our primary source of drinking water in New Mexico. You turn on your faucet and water comes out, but people don’t always think about where it comes from,” Stacy Timmons, geologist at the bureau, said. “Without groundwater, we wouldn’t be able to live in New Mexico because there’s not enough surface water to sustain all of us.”

According to the U.S. EPA Public Water System Inventory Data (October, 2011), New Mexico has 552 community water systems using groundwater to supply water for 932,009 people.

Globally, about 99 percent of all available fresh water is in the form of groundwater stored in aquifers. Groundwater is accessed by wells that are placed in water-bearing rocks beneath the land surface. In the United States, nearly 15.9 million wells serve households, cities, businesses, and agriculture.

The Bureau is a state-funded non-regulatory agency that advises government, industry and citizens about issues related to geology, water resources and mining in the Land of Enchantment.

Since the early 1990s, the Bureau of Geology has been engaged in comprehensive studies of New Mexico’s aquifers. Initial collaborative work began with geologic mapping and aquifer analysis for the Albuquerque Basin and Placitas area. The Bureau has since established the Aquifer Mapping Program to develop descriptive models of groundwater flow in important aquifers around the state.

The purpose of mapping the state’s aquifers is to provide critical information on the state’s groundwater. These studies improve our understanding of the geologic framework of aquifers, their hydrologic characteristics, water levels in the aquifers, how they change over time, and the occurrence of natural contaminants. Results of these works have contributed to resource management tools such as long-term aquifer monitoring networks and conceptual and quantitative regional ground-water-flow models used by state and local water managers.

Information provided by New Mexico Tech.