Water-Resources Circular 1222

By James R. Bartolino and James C. Cole

The full report is available in pdf.  Links to the pdf.


The Middle Rio Grande Basin covers approximately 3,060 square miles in central New Mexico, encompassing parts of Santa Fe, Sandoval, Bernalillo, Valencia, Socorro, Torrance, and Cibola Counties. In this report, “Middle Rio Grande Basin” refers to the geologic basin defined by the extent of deposits of Cenozoic age along the Rio Grande from about Cochiti Dam to about San Acacia. In 2000, the population of the Middle Rio Grande Basin was about 690,000, or about 38 percent of the population of New Mexico (U.S. Census Bureau, 2001a, 2001b). In 1995, the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer declared the Middle Rio Grande Basin a “critical basin”; that is, a ground-water basin faced with rapid economic and population growth for which there is less than adequate technical information about the available water supply. Though the basin had been intensively studied for a number of years, important gaps remained in the understanding of the water resources of the basin. In an effort to fill some of these gaps, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and other Federal, State, and local agencies began the Middle Rio Grande Basin Study, a 6-year effort to improve the understanding of the hydrology, geology, and land-surface characteristics of the basin.


Front Section 142 KB

Cover Description

Title Page

Back of Title Page








Executive Summary 40KB

Characteristics of the Middle Rio Grande Basin


Surface Water

Ground Water

Ground-Water Chemistry

Ground-Water-Flow Modeling


Chapter 1: Common questions about water resources in the Middle Rio Grande Basin 1.65MB

How much water do we have?

How much water do we use?

How long will our supplies last?

How effective are water conservation efforts in the area?

How rapidly are ground-water levels declining?

Is municipal and(or) industrial pumping lowering ground-water levels outside major metropolitan areas?

Have ground-water-level declines triggered land subsidence?

How will water chemistry affect the use of ground water?

How much water in the basin is appropriated?

How much water can be pumped from the aquifer system using the present infrastructure?

How interrelated are the ground-water and surface-water systems?


Chapter 2: The Middle Rio Grande Basin 3 MB

Physical characteristics


Major vegetation types

Human activities and water resources


Chapter 3: Geology of the Santa Fe Group aquifer system 4.17MB

The Rio Grande Rift

Geologic processes that shaped the aquifer system

How the basin has changed over geologic time

Three-dimensional form of the aquifer system today

Effect of faults on the aquifer system

Contribution of geophysical data to understanding the aquifer system

How the geologic model represents current interpretation of basin structure and stratigraphy


Chapter 4: The hydrologic system of the Middle Rio Grande Basin 3.73MB

Surface-water system

Surface-water quantity

Ground-water system

Ground-water-level declines

Aquifer productivity

Ground-water quantity

Water use in the basin

Water budgets

Major legal and institutional controls on water in the basin

Rio Grande Compact

San Juan-Chama Transmountain Diversion Project

Endangered species

Water appropriation


Chapter 5: How water moves through the aquifer system 4.72 MB

Recharge and underflow—How ground water enters the aquifer system

Mountain-front recharge

Tributary recharge

Rio Grande and inner-valley recharge

Subsurface recharge or underflow

Flow paths—How ground water moves through the aquifer system

Discharge—How ground water leaves the aquifer system


Seepage to drains and the Rio Grande and springs



Effects of ground-water withdrawals

Deterioration of water quality

Water-well problems



Chapter 6: Chemical characteristics of water in the aquifer system 1.27MB

General quality of ground water and what it reveals about the ground-water system

Naturally occurring substances that limit the use of ground water

Contaminants of human origin and ground water


Chapter 7: Computer simulations of the aquifer system 2.86MB

Ground-water-flow model of the basin

Information used in the ground-water-flow model

What the ground-water-flow model tells us about the hydrologic system of the basin

What the ground-water-flow model tells us about future conditions


Chapter 8: Important questions that remain about water resources of the Middle Rio Grande Basin 1.71 MB

How much water is pumped where and by whom?

What are the availability and quality of water in deeper parts of the aquifer?

How much water does vegetation in the bosque use?

How is the aquifer responding to pumping over the long term?

Is septic-system effluent contaminating ground water?

How will the more stringent arsenic standard affect water supplies?

Are pharmaceuticals present in ground or surface water?


Chapter 9: Key points regarding water resources of the Middle Rio Grande Basin 829KB


References Cited 112 KB

Abbreviations and Chemical Notation

Prefixes for Abbreviations for Multiples and Submultiples 24KB

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Free on application to the:


U.S. Geological Survey,

Denver Federal Center

Information Services

Box 25286,

Denver, CO 80225


U.S. Department of the Interior, U.S. Geological Survey
Persistent URL:
Page Contact Information: Contact USGS
Last modified: Wednesday, November 23 2016, 12:22:51 PM
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