New Mexico Geological Society
Special Publication - 10
Environmental Geology and Hydrology in New Mexico
S. G. Wells, W. Lambert and Jonathan F. Callender, eds, 1981, 152 pages.
New Mexico encompasses four physiographic provinces with diverse geologic, hydrologic, and vegetative characteristics: rolling grassland plains, elongate desert basins, high semiarid plateaus, and towering forested mountains. Much of this land occurs within zones of transition from one landscape or climatic type to another, creating an especially fragile natural environment. New Mexico is a state with abundant and rich energy and mineral resources including oil, gas, coal, uranium, copper, molybdenum, gypsum, and sand and gravel as well as geothermal, solar, and wind resources. Add to this setting a variety of people with different industrial and agricultural endeavors, cultural backgrounds, and political pursuits, and it is easy to see that New Mexico is a state with an ample share of environmental geologic and hydrologic concerns. The interactions of humans with the geologic and hydrologic environment has been a fact of life since humans first set foot in what is now New Mexico. These interactions range from the attempt of Indians to halt the fall of Threatening Rock in Chaco Canyon several hundred years ago to the recent attempts of scientists to evaluate the suitability of bedded salt in southeastern New Mexico for the long-term disposal of radioactive wastes. As noted by Hawley and Love in this volume, the hallmark of environmental geology and hydrology is the gathering and presenting of scientific information to the public. The application of geology and hydrology as a means of maximizing advantageous use of the natural environment and minimizing adverse environmental changes requires a scientifically sound data base. W. C. Mendenhall, fifth Director of the U.S. Geological Survey, stated simply "There can be no applied science unless there is science to apply." In order to maintain a proper stewardship of our geologic and hydrologic resources, we must continue in our endeavors to acquire, analyze, and communicate scientific information.