Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2012NM141B

Updating the Digital Hydrogeologic-Framework Model of the Mesilla Basin Area with Specific Reference to the Transboundary Aquifer Assessment Project (TAAP)

Institute: New Mexico
Year Established: 2012 Start Date: 2012-03-01 End Date: 2013-12-31
Total Federal Funds: $33,750 Total Non-Federal Funds: $14,176

Principal Investigators: John Hawley

Abstract: The primary objective of the proposed study is to provide hydrogeologic information in digital GIS formats and scales appropriate for development of the numerical groundwater-flow and hydrochemical models that are needed for water-resource planning and management in the binational Mesilla Basin-Paso del Norte region. The extensive and locally-thick basin-fill aquifers that need digital characterization include those located in the Mesilla Basin, Rincon and Mesilla Valleys of the Rio Grande, and adjacent parts of the southern Jornada (del Muerto) and Palomas Basins between Caballo Dam and El Paso/Ciudad Juz (Texas/Chihuahua, Mexico). This arid-semiarid region includes major irrigation-agriculture projects in the Rio Grande Valley, as well as the large metropolitan centers of the Las Cruces (NM), and El Paso/Ciudad Juz area with a population of about two million. While expanding urban-suburban water-supply requirements will be partly met by surface-flow diversions, groundwater of varying quality in the very large, but still-finite basin-fill aquifer system remains the primary water source. Any problems related to the current water-supply situation will be exacerbated by projected shortages in upstream river-basin areas affected by both natural and anthropogenic environmental changes. The characterization of aquifer hydrogeology that is needed for derivative basin-scale numerical models requires digital definition of basic hydrostratigraphic and structural components with state-of-the-art GIS technologies. In 2007, long-term efforts by the New Mexico Water Resources Research Institute at NMSU (NMWRRI) on digital-hydrogeologic model development in the Mesilla Basin-Paso del Norte region were expanded to include interagency research related to the Transboundary Aquifer Assessment Act (PL 109-448). This collaborative project (TAAP) involved a large number of scientists and engineers from both the United States and Mexico. The late Dr. Bobby J. Creel, then NMWRRI Associate Director, played the major leadership role in initial project work, with Dr. John W. Hawley acting as the co-PI in hydrogeologic and related activity of the NMWRRI GIS section. Following Dr. Creels untimely death (early 2010) unforeseen cutbacks in institutional support resulted in significant curtailment in the ability of Dr. Hawley and the NMWRRI GIS staff to complete the digital characterization needed for TAAP activity in groundwater-flow and hydrochemical modeling. Nevertheless substantial progress was still made in hydrogeologic-framework characterization during the Phase 1 and 2 project work completed in March 2011. Primary products included final hard-copy drafts of 1) four structure-contour maps (1:100,000 scale) of the model-boundary surfaces that define basal, middle, upper, and shallow parts of the basin-fill aquifer system; and 2) twenty-three hydrogeologic cross sections (sea-level base) that illustrate aquifer-system lithology, hydrostratigraphy and structure in the intermontane-basin and river-valley area between Caballo Dam and El Paso/Ciudad Juz. In order to be utilized in numerical-model development, however, these specific items must still be scanned and digitized; and the most efficient and cost-effective way to complete this process will be to use the resources of the NMWRRI GIS laboratory (proposal part 2). The role of the PI in this activity will involve 1) some final editing and partial redrafting of maps and cross sections, and 2) close interaction with the NMWRRI staff and appropriate collaborating organizations to see that the primary objective of the proposed study is met on schedule.