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Geologists, officials look at mapping part of NM aquifer

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. — A group of geologists from New Mexico Tech University may be mapping the Clovis-Roosevelt basin — part of the Ogallala Aquifer — to see how much water is left through digital mapping, how it recharges and how long it could last if no one changes how they use water, according to Clovis Commissioner Randy Crowder.

The group met last week with city and county officials from both Curry and Roosevelt counties to discuss how the project would work and how much it may cost, he said.

“We want to know … most importantly based on sound science, how long is it going to last if we continue without change,” Crowder said.

The scientists didn’t have a date in mind, but they did tell officials they could get it down to “a very tight range,” of when they think the aquifer could run out, Crowder said.

The answers to those three questions — including how much it would cost the cities involved in the study — would be answered at another water policy committee meeting on Dec. 8, he said.

“They did tell us we’re rapidly reaching a point that we will run out of water if we don’t figure out smarter ways to use our water,” Clovis Commissioner Bobby Sandoval, who also attended the meeting, said. “A specific question I asked was, ‘If I get up and shower and brush my teeth, and a farmer gets up to water his corn, are we going to reach a point to where there’s only enough water for one of us?’ And he said, ‘If things don’t change, that’s what will happen.'”

Sandoval suggested that farmers plant less water-intensive crops to help spread out the water the aquifer does have left and allow farmers to continue living off of their crops.

“I really don’t know what else we can do at this time; we’ve tried to conserve water,” Sandoval said, noting that farmers use around 95 percent of the water leaving 4 percent for municipalities to use. “No matter how much we try to conserve here in Clovis, it’s only going to be a drop in the bucket compared to farmers in agriculture.”

When the scientists (which includes Director of New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources Matthew Rhoades; Director of Geology and Geologic Mapping Program Manager Dr. Michael Timmons; Field Geologist Dr. Jeoffrey Rawling; and Dr. Stacy Timmons, the aquifer mapping program manager at New Mexico Tech University) come back to Clovis, Crowder said they would have more details about how the basin recharges, how long it lasts and a map of the underground reservoir.

So far, Crowder said, the city hasn’t paid anything for their work.

“That is the purpose of the return meeting is to bring us those estimates,” Crowder said. “We’ll try to get everyone together to pay for that study, so the more we get the more accurate it will be.”

Crowder hopes to have the approximate cost of the study prior to the next state legislature meeting to try and get capital outlay money through state appropriations through the outlay process.

“What we’re really looking for is sound science that will support what’s actually going on beneath us,” he added.

Crowder said the process itself uses seismic technology, much like the process they use to map oil reservoirs.

“They roll wires over a large area and send signals into the ground and see how it bounces back,” he explained. “Only now it’s digital. The picture quality is remarkable compared to what it used to be.”

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©2015 the Clovis News Journal (Clovis, N.M.)

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