U.S. Water News Online
ALBUQUERQUE -- A six-year evaluation of groundwater
resources in Albuquerque and the middle Rio Grande region shows
there's even less groundwater available than officials thought.
The "Groundwater Resources of the Middle Rio Grande" report was
recently released by the U.S. Geological Survey.
It is the second time in the past decade that the Geological
Survey has downgraded estimates of the productivity of the aquifer
that supports the middle Rio Grande, where nearly half of the state's
``We are officially on notice that we can no longer sit back but
must be innovative and cooperative in water use and conservation
plans to support the future growth of New Mexico and the middle Rio
Grande Valley,'' said Sen. Pete Domenici, R-N.M. ``The water
situation for the middle Rio Grande is serious, which is now
Water levels already have dropped more than 160 feet in one area
near the Albuquerque foothills, the study found. But it is in an area
where the aquifer is deep, so there is no immediate impact.
The new groundwater flow model of the basin shows some land
surfaces in northeast Albuquerque and northwest of Rio Rancho are
starting to sink. Satellite monitoring showed the ground is sinking
very slightly near large production wells during the summer and then
rebounding when pumping eases in the winter, said James Bartolino, a
``It's not anything anybody would really notice,'' he said.
Mountain-front areas are contributing only a third to half as much
recharge to the aquifer as previous models showed.
The connection between the river and the aquifer is not as strong
as once believed.
The findings underscore the fact that the aquifer is being pumped
faster than it is replenished, bringing a new urgency to
Albuquerque's efforts to conserve water and to begin using river
water for drinking.
``How many more reasons do we need to convince people we need to
transition away from the aquifer?'' said John Stomp, city water
About 49 billion gallons of water are pumped from the middle Rio
Grande aquifer every year.
The city plans to begin taking its imported San Juan-Chama Project
water from the Rio Grande and treating it for drinking by 2006.
Domenici, who initiated the USGS study in the mid-1990s, said it
cost more than $35 million.
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