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Scientific Investigations Report 2014–5153

Prepared in cooperation with Lincoln County, New Mexico

Hydrogeology, Water Resources, and Water Budget of the Upper Rio Hondo Basin, Lincoln County, New Mexico, 2010

By Michael J. Darr, Gordon W. Rattray, Kurt J. McCoy, and Roger A. Durall

Thumbnail of and link to report PDF (8.58 MB)Abstract

The upper Rio Hondo Basin occupies a drainage area of 585 square miles in south-central New Mexico and comprises three general hydrogeologic terranes: the higher elevation “Mountain Block,” the “Central Basin” piedmont area, and the lower elevation “Hondo Slope.” As many as 12 hydrostratigraphic units serve as aquifers locally and form a continuous aquifer on the regional scale. Streams and aquifers in the basin are closely interconnected, with numerous gaining and losing stream reaches across the study area. In general, the aquifers are characterized by low storage capacity and respond to short-term and long-term variations in recharge with marked water-level fluctuations on short (days to months) and long (decadal) time scales. Droughts and local groundwater withdrawals have caused marked water-table declines in some areas, whereas periodically heavy monsoons and snowmelt events have rapidly recharged aquifers in some areas.

A regional-scale conceptual water budget was developed for the study area in order to gain a basic understanding of the magnitude of the various components of input, output, and change in storage. The primary input is watershed yield from the Mountain Block terrane, supplying about 38,200 to 42,300 acre-feet per year (acre-ft/yr) to the basin, as estimated by comparing the residual of precipitation and evapotranspiration with local streamgage data. Streamflow from the basin averaged about 21,200 acre-ft/yr, and groundwater output left the basin at an estimated 2,300 to 5,700 acre-ft/yr. The other major output (about 13,500 acre-ft/yr) was by public water supply, private water supply, livestock, commercial and industrial uses, and the Bonito Pipeline. The residual in the water budget, the difference between the totals of the input and output terms or the potential change in storage, ranged from -2,200 acre-ft/yr to +5,300 acre-ft/yr. There is a high degree of variability in precipitation and consequently in the water supply; small variations in annual precipitation can result in major changes in overall watershed yield. Changing water-use patterns, concentrated areas of groundwater withdrawal, and variations in precipitation have created localized areas where water-table declines and diminished surface flow are of concern.

First posted September 29, 2014

For additional information contact:
Director, New Mexico Water Science Center
U.S. Geological Survey
5338 Montgomery Boulevard NE
Albuquerque, New Mexico 87109–1311

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Suggested citation:

Darr, M.J., Rattray, G.W., McCoy, K.J., and Durall, R.A., 2014, Hydrogeology, water resources, and water budget of the upper Rio Hondo Basin, Lincoln County, New Mexico, 2010: U.S. Geological Survey Scientific Investigations Report 2014–5153, 72 p.,

ISSN 2328-0328 (online)





Hydrogeology, Water Resources, and Water Budget



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