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Land subsidence and recovery in the Albuquerque Basin, New Mexico, 1993–2014

August 14, 2017

The Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority (ABCWUA) drinking water supply was almost exclusively sourced from groundwater from within the Albuquerque Basin before 2008. In 2008, the San Juan-Chama Drinking Water Project (SJCDWP) provided surface-water resources to augment the groundwater supply, allowing for a reduction in groundwater pumping in the Albuquerque Basin. In 2013, the U.S. Geological Survey, in cooperation with the ABCWUA, began a study to measure and compare aquifer-system and land-surface elevation change before and after the SJCDWP in 2008. Three methods of data collection with different temporal and spatial resolutions were used for this study: (1) aquifer-system compaction data collected continuously at a single extensometer from 1994 to 2013; (2) land-surface elevation change from Global Positioning System (GPS) surveys of a network of monuments collected in 1994–95, 2005, and 2014; and (3) spatially distributed Interferometric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) satellite data from 1993 to 2010. Collection of extensometer data allows for direct and continuous measurement of aquifer-system compaction at the extensometer location. The GPS surveys of a network of monuments allow for periodic measurements of land-surface elevation change at monument locations. Interferograms are limited in time by lifespan of the satellite, orbital pattern, and data quality but allow for measurement of gridded land-surface elevation change over the study area. Each of these methods was employed to provide a better understanding of aquifer-system compaction and land-surface elevation change for the Albuquerque Basin.

Results do not show large magnitudes of subsidence in the Albuquerque Basin. High temporal-resolution but low spatial-resolution data measurements of aquifer-system compaction at the Albuquerque extensometer show elastic aquifer-system response to recovering groundwater levels. Results from the GPS survey of the network of monuments show inconsistent land-surface elevation changes over the Albuquerque Basin, likely because of the lack of significant change and the complexity of subsurface stratigraphy in addition to the spatial and temporal heterogeneity of groundwater withdrawals over the study period. Results from the InSAR analysis show areas of land-surface elevation increase after 2008, which could be attributed to elastic recovery of the aquifer system. The spatial extent to which elastic recovery of the aquifer system has resulted in recovery of land-surface elevation is limited to the in-situ measurements at the extensometer. Examination of spatially distributed InSAR data relative to limited spatial extent of the complex heterogeneity subsurface stratigraphy may explain some of the heterogeneity of land-surface elevation changes over this study period.

Publication Year 2017
Title Land subsidence and recovery in the Albuquerque Basin, New Mexico, 1993–2014
DOI 10.3133/sir20175057
Authors Jessica M. Driscoll, Justin T. Brandt
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Scientific Investigations Report
Series Number 2017-5057
Index ID sir20175057
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization New Mexico Water Science Center