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New Mexico Science

Science, climate, weather and water from a New Mexico perspective

The Impact of Albuquerque’s Groundwater Pumping on the Rio Grande

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The latest data, hot of the presses from the U.S. Geological Survey, suggests Albuquerque’s long-depleted groundwater continues a recovery that began in 2008-09, when the Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority shifted some of its water use away from the aquifer to surface water imported via the San Juan-Chama project. (I’ll have more on that in an upcoming story.)

But despite that good news, it’s important to remember that the vast “cones of depression” left by past pumping remain, slowly filling in part via water that seeps into the bed of the Rio Grande. How much water? Every year, the staff of the New Mexico Interstate Stream Commission does a calculation to estimate the effects of past pumping on the Rio Grande, part of the formal water rights accounting done for the utility’s water rights permit. The final accounting is not yet done, but the ISC staff today sent me the summary of the 2012 calculation, estimating that 65,444 acre feet of water was lost to the river last year as a result of Albuquerque’s current and past pumping:


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