BOX 2-2

Groundwater Resources of the Middle Rio Grande Basin

The Middle Rio Grande Basin Study was a six-year effort (1995-2001) by USGS and other agencies to improve the understanding of the hydrology, geology, and land-surface characteristics of the Middle Rio Grande Basin to provide the scientific information needed for water-resources management. The basin previously had been declared a “critical basin” by the New Mexico Office of the State Engineer; it provides water for about 700,000 people in the City of Albuquerque and surrounding communities. Geologists, hydrologists, geophysicists, geochemists, and geographers from federal, state, and local agencies were all involved in the project. The goal of the study was to improve the scientific understanding of the hydrologic system and its relationships with geology and land use in the region as a foundation for water-management policy.

Surface, airborne, and borehole-geophysics played a major role in improving understanding of the geologic framework of the aquifer system. They were used to help define the boundaries of the aquifer system, faults, and areas underlain by more permeable materials. This information was used in the construction of a three-dimensional groundwater flow model of the basin.

The study results were highly important, in that they showed that the aquifer is less connected to the Rio Grande and overall receives less recharge than previously believed. This would tend to decrease the sustainable yield of the aquifer. Further, parts of the aquifer system were found to have lower than expected permeability, which suggests areas that would locally yield less water through wells. Many faults were also found cross-cutting the sediments.

SOURCE: USGS Circular 1222. Available online at

Coordination and Collaboration with Other Agencies

In the committee’s observations, and from dialogue with other agencies, the WRD has done an admirable job of working to coordinate its activities with other federal agencies—both directly with the agencies and through WRD’s leadership in various federal coordinating bodies such as ACWI and SWAQ. The USGS develops and maintains the scientific and observational foundation for many critical national services that are provided by other federal agencies, including the National Park Ser-

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