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Hydrogeologic and geochemical characterization and evaluation of two arroyos for managed aquifer recharge by surface infiltration in the Pojoaque River Basin, Santa Fe County, New Mexico, 2014–15

February 22, 2017

In order to provide long-term storage of diverted surface water from the Rio Grande as part of the Aamodt water rights settlement, managed aquifer recharge by surface infiltration in Pojoaque River Basin arroyos was proposed as an option. The initial hydrogeologic and geochemical characterization of two arroyos located within the Pojoaque River Basin was performed in 2014 and 2015 in cooperation with the Bureau of Reclamation to evaluate the potential suitability of these two arroyos as sites for managed aquifer recharge through surface infiltration.

The selected reaches were high-gradient (average 3.0–3.5 percent) braided channels filled with unconsolidated sand and gravel-sized deposits that were generally 30–50 feet thick. Saturation was not observed in the unconsolidated channel sands in four subsurface borings but was found at 7–60 feet below the contact between the unconsolidated channel sands and the bedrock. The poorly to well-cemented alluvial deposits that make up the bedrock underlying the unconsolidated channel material is the Tesuque Formation. The individual beds of the Tesuque Formation are reported to be highly heterogeneous and anisotropic, and the bedrock at the site was observed to have variable moisture and large changes in lithology. Surface electrical-resistivity geophysical survey methods showed a sharp contrast between the electrically resistive unconsolidated channel sands and the highly conductive bedrock; however, because of the high conductivity, the resistivity methods were not able to image the water table or preferential flow paths (if they existed) in the bedrock.

Infiltration rates measured by double-ring and bulk infiltration tests on a variety of channel morphologies in the study reaches were extremely large (9.7–94.5 feet per day), indicating that the channels could potentially accommodate as much as 6.6 cubic feet per second of applied water without generating surface runoff out of the reach; however, the small volume available for storage in the unconsolidated channel sands (about 410 acre-feet in the east arroyo and about 190 acre-feet in the west arroyo) and the potential for the infiltrating water to preferentially flow over the bedrock contact and out of the reach present a challenge for storing water. Although a detailed assessment of the infiltration rate of the Tesuque Formation is beyond the scope of this investigation, one double-ring infiltrometer test was conducted on an outcrop, resulting in an estimated infiltration rate of about 4 feet per day.

The shallow groundwater observed in this investigation was determined to be recharged locally on the basis of groundwater elevations and geochemical and isotopic signatures. The channel sands and shallow bedrock were observed to be weathered, indicating contact with oxic groundwater following deposition. This observation was supported by whole-rock elemental analysis and mineralogy of several core samples. The downward groundwater gradient between the shallow wells and those wells screened at greater depths suggests that the shallow groundwater is recharged by local precipitation and has the potential to migrate to the deeper aquifer units. The two age-dating tracers measured in this investigation, however, demonstrate that the shallow groundwater flow paths are very slow and that the deeper flow paths are likely part of a larger regional system.

The composition of the shallow, native groundwater suggests that storing water diverted from the Rio Grande is not likely to leach constituents of concern that would cause the stored water to exceed health-based U.S. Environmental Protection Agency Maximum Contaminant Levels.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2017
Title Hydrogeologic and geochemical characterization and evaluation of two arroyos for managed aquifer recharge by surface infiltration in the Pojoaque River Basin, Santa Fe County, New Mexico, 2014–15
DOI 10.3133/sir20175007
Authors Andrew J. Robertson, Jeffrey Cordova, Andrew Teeple, Jason Payne, Rob Carruth
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2017-5007
Index ID sir20175007
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization New Mexico Water Science Center