State engineer digs deep into aquifer research

Several days ago, Alburquerque Journal has reported that state engineers have restricted groundwater permits in order to do more R&D about the impact of wells on regional aquifers. State Engineer John D’Antonio has restricted permits in three basins of far southeastern New Mexico, an area totalling approximately 2,000 square miles of the Lea, Capitan and Carlsbad underground water basins.

“Because groundwater is used to supplement the lack of surface water, more attention needs to be paid to sustainability issues.

Hydrologists investigate the different issues beneath groundwater

According to him, this “strategic pause” is essential for data collection – more specifically to come up with a model to investigate the relationship between groundwater pumping and its effects on the aquifer system. “The formations underground are pretty complex. It is not yet well quantified how aquifers react with both surface water and other aquifers, what we call hydrologic connection. Hence, the impacts of diversions cannot be determined with precision.” D’Antonio reiterated.

In the last 2 years, over 80 commercial groundwater projects have been filed with the Office of the State Engineer’s Roswell District and 60 of these are pending due to protests and hearing proceedings. Since 2019, the office has only permitted a total of 1,500 acre-feet, or 488 million gallons, of groundwater in the affected basins. However, the permits seek a total of 23,000 acre-feet per year, or about 7.5 billion gallons.

Due to documented aquifer decline earlier this year, there was a similar order issued for the East Mountains range. D’Antonio emphasized that all commercial wells are affected but remains most concerned about the levels of frack water for the Roswell District Office and how this could influence the city of Jal’s drinking water.