Report Abstract


By John Michael Kernodle, Douglas P. McAda, and Condé R. Thorn

This report describes a three-dimensional finite-difference ground-water-flow model of the Santa Fe Group aquifer system in the Albuquerque Basin, which comprises the Santa Fe Group (late Oligocene to middle Pleistocene age) and overlying valley and basin-fill deposits (Pleistocene to Holocene age). The model is designed to be flexible and adaptive to new geologic and hydrologic information as it becomes available by using a geographic information system as a data-base manager to interface with the model. The aquifer system was defined and quantified in the model consistent with the current (July 1994) understanding of the structural and geohydrologic framework of the basin. Rather than putting the model through a rigorous calibration process, dis- crepancies between simulated and measured responses in hydraulic head were taken to indicate that the understanding of a local part of the aquifer system was incomplete or incorrect.

The model simulates ground-water flow over an area of about 2,400 square miles to a depth of 1,730 to about 2,020 feet below the water table with 244 rows, 178 columns, and 11 layers. Of the 477,752 cells in the model, 310,376 are active. The top four model layers approximate the 80-foot thickness of alluvium in the incised and refilled valley of the Rio Grande to provide detail of the effect of ground-water withdrawals on the surface- water system. Away from the valley these four layers represent the interval within the Santa Fe Group aquifer system between the com- puted predevelopment water table and a level 80 feet below the grade of the Rio Grande. The simulations include initial condi- tions (steady-state), the 1901-1994 historical period, and four possible ground-water withdrawal scenarios from 1994 to 2020.

The model indicates that for the year ending in March 1994, net surface-water loss in the basin resulting from the City of Albuquerque's ground-water withdrawal totaled about 53,000 acre- feet. The balance of the about 123,000 acre-feet of withdrawal came from aquifer storage depletion (about 67,800 acre-feet) and captured or salvaged evapotranspiration (about 2,500 acre-feet).

In the four scenarios projected from 1994 to 2020, City of Albuquerque annual withdrawals ranged from about 98,700 to about 177,000 acre-feet by the year 2020. The range of resulting sur- face-water loss was from about 62,000 to about 77,000 acre-feet. The range of aquifer storage depletion was from about 33,400 to about 95,900 acre-feet. Captured evapotranspiration and drain- return flow remained nearly constant for all scenarios. From 1994 to 2020, maximum projected declines in hydraulic head in the pri- mary water-production zone of the aquifer (model layer 9) for the four scenarios ranged from 55 to 164 feet east of the Rio Grande, and from 91 to 258 feet west of the river. Average declines in a 383.7-square-mile area around Albuquerque ranged from 28 to 65 feet in the production zone for the same period.

Abstract from Water-Resources Investigations Report 94-4251


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