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Simulated ground-water flow in the Hueco Bolson, an alluvial-basin aquifer system near El Paso, Texas

April 1, 2003

The neighboring cities of El Paso, Texas, and Ciudad Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, have historically relied on ground-water withdrawals from the Hueco Bolson, an alluvial-aquifer system, to supply water to their growing populations. By 1996, ground-water drawdown exceeded 60 meters in some areas under Ciudad Juarez and El Paso.

A simulation of steady-state and transient ground-water flow in the Hueco Bolson in westernmost Texas, south-central New Mexico, and northern Chihuahua, Mexico, was developed using MODFLOW-96. The model is needed by El Paso Water Utilities to evaluate strategies for obtaining the most beneficial use of the Hueco Bolson aquifer system. The transient simulation represents a period of 100 years beginning in 1903 and ending in 2002. The period 1903 through 1968 was represented with 66 annual stress periods, and the period 1969 through 2002 was represented with 408 monthly stress periods.

The ground-water flow model was calibrated using MODFLOWP and UCODE. Parameter values representing aquifer properties and boundary conditions were adjusted through nonlinear regression in a transient-state simulation with 96 annual time steps to produce a model that approximated (1) 4,352 water levels measured in 292 wells from 1912 to 1995, (2) three seepage-loss rates from a reach of the Rio Grande during periods from 1979 to 1981, (3) three seepage-loss rates from a reach of the Franklin Canal during periods from 1990 to 1992, and (4) 24 seepage rates into irrigation drains from 1961 to 1983. Once a calibrated model was obtained with MODFLOWP and UCODE, the optimal parameter set was used to create an equivalent MODFLOW-96 simulation with monthly temporal discretization to improve computations of seepage from the Rio Grande and to define the flow field for a chloride-transport simulation.

Model boundary conditions were modified at appropriate times during the simulation to represent changes in well pumpage, drainage of agricultural fields, and channel modifications of the Rio Grande. The model input was generated from geographic information system databases, which facilitated rapid model construction and enabled testing of several conceptualizations of hydrogeologic facies boundaries. Specific yield of unconfined layers and hydraulic conductance of Quaternary faults in the fluvial facies were the most sensitive model parameters, suggesting that ground-water flow is impeded across the fault planes.

Citation Information

Publication Year 2003
Title Simulated ground-water flow in the Hueco Bolson, an alluvial-basin aquifer system near El Paso, Texas
DOI 10.3133/wri024108
Authors Charles E. Heywood, Richard M. Yager
Publication Type Report
Publication Subtype USGS Numbered Series
Series Title Water-Resources Investigations Report
Series Number 2002-4108
Index ID wri024108
Record Source USGS Publications Warehouse
USGS Organization New Mexico Water Science Center

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