Hydrogeology of the southern Sacramento Mountains, New Mexico
Geoffrey C. Rawling, B. Talon Newton, Stacy S. Timmons, and Lewis A. Land


The southern Sacramento Mountains between Cloudcroft and Mayhill are underlain by a complex system of multiple perched aquifers overlying a deeper regional aquifer. This system is characterized by numerous springs that discharge water to streams, followed by reinfiltration downslope. Analysis of multiple environmental tracers reveals mixing of young (mostly 15–25 years) and old (>50 years) groundwater and interactions with surface water. Major ion chemistry evolves largely by the process of dedolomitization, from the range crest east through the Pecos Slope to the Roswell Artesian Basin. Downgradient changes in isotopic composition, evolution of water chemistry, and progressive increase in residence time indicate that recharge is focused at high elevations, largely above ~ 8200 ft (2500 m), and is dominated by winter precipitation. The exceptions are extremely wet summers, such as 2006 and 2008, which produced significant water level rises in high elevation wells, and briefly shift the isotopic composition of groundwater. Such events may induce recharge over larger areas than winter precipitation typically does, but their long-term volumetric significance is unknown. The high elevations of the southern Sacramento Mountains are the primary source of recharge to the Pecos Slope aquifer and the Roswell Artesian Basin.


  1. Rawling, Geoffrey C.; Newton, B. Talon; Timmons, Stacy S.; Land, Lewis A., 2014, Hydrogeology of the southern Sacramento Mountains, New Mexico, in: Geology of the Sacramento Mountains region, Rawling, Geoffrey; McLemore, Virginia T.; Timmons, Stacy; Dunbar, Nelia, New Mexico Geological Society, Guidebook, 65th Field Conference, pp. 163-178.

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