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Open-File Report 2006-1358

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Knowledge and Understanding of the Hydrogeology of the Salt Basin in South-Central New Mexico and Future Study Needs

By G. F. Huff, U.S. Geological Survey and D. A. Chace, Sandia National Laboratories

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The Salt Basin covers about 2,400 square miles of south-central New Mexico and extends across the State line into Texas. As much as 57 million acre-feet of ground water may be stored within the New Mexico part of the Salt Basin of which 15 million acre-feet are potentially potable and recoverable. Recent work suggests that the volume of ground water in storage within the New Mexico portion of the Salt Basin may be substantially greater than 57 million acre-feet.

In this report, aquifers contained in the San Andres, Bone Spring, and Victorio Peak Limestones and in the Yeso, Hueco, and Abo Formations are collectively referred to as the “carbonate aquifer.” Porosity and permeability of the major aquifer are primarily determined by the density and interconnectedness of fractures and karstic solution channels. The spatial variability of these fractures and karstic features leads to a large spatial variability in hydraulic properties in the carbonate aquifer.

Ground water generally moves southward away from recharge areas along the northern border of the Salt Basin and generally moves eastward to southeastward away from areas of distributed recharge on the Otero Mesa and the Diablo Plateau. Ground water originating from these recharge areas generally moves toward the central valley. Present day discharge is mostly through ground-water withdrawal for agricultural irrigation. A zone of relatively low hydraulic gradient, corresponding to the location of the Otero Break, extends from near the Sacramento River watershed southward toward Dell City, Texas. Ground water in the carbonate aquifer generally is very hard and has dissolved-solids concentrations ranging from 500 to 6,500 milligrams per liter.

Substantial variability exists in current estimates of (1) ground-water recharge, (2) natural ground-water discharge, (3) the volume of ground water in storage, (4) the volume of recoverable ground water, (5) the conceptual model of ground-water flow, (6) the distribution of ground-water quality, and (7) the distribution of hydraulic characteristics. Future study could reduce uncertainty in these estimates and allow for better management of ground-water resources in the Salt Basin.




Purpose and Scope

Hydrogeologic Overview


Major Aquifers

Hydraulic Properties

Ground-Water Movement



Conceptual Flow Model

Water Quality

Future Study Needs


References Cited


Version 1.0

Posted January 2007

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