Geothermal potential in the Albuquerque area, New Mexico
Grant, Philip R., Jr.


The Albuquerque area of central New Mexico is at the junction of four of the North American continent's major physiographic provinces. To the west is the broad tableland of the Colorado Plateau, an uplifted region of deeply incised streams, canyons, and major volcanic centers superimposed upon a relatively undeformed and stable platform. South- west is the tectonically active and structurally deformed Basin and Range province which is characterized by severe crustal disturbances that formed numerous parallel, faulted, mountain ranges and valleys. Adjacent to the east, southeast, and northeast is the southernmost extension of the continent's major structural uplift, the Rocky Mountains. Immediately east of these is the flat-lying, gradually eastward sloping, generally stable mid-continent region of the Great Plains.
These regional relationships emphasize the unique geologic setting of Albuquerque in a tectonic depression known as the Rio Grande rift that is marginal to and separates these larger elements. New Mexico's largest water artery, from its headwaters in the western San Luis Valley of south-central Colorado to the vicinity of El Paso, Texas, flows through a series of en-echelon troughs or grabens that have subsided between mountain uplifts. The Rio Grande has occupied these troughs for mil- lions of years, filling them with the clays, sands, and gravels eroded from adjacent uplifts and with much of the water the river used to transport this huge sediment load.
Access to the near-surface fresh water zone of this enormous unconfined ground-water aquifer is Albuquerque's greatest economic asset to accommodate growth. Utilizing the vast subsurface hot-water system underlying the normal temperature, near-surface regime has the potential to make much of New Mexico's largest community independent of natural gas for its space-heating requirements.


  1. Grant, Philip R., Jr., 1982, Geothermal potential in the Albuquerque area, New Mexico, in: Albuquerque Country II, Grambling, J. A.; Wells, S. G., New Mexico Geological Society, Guidebook, 33rd Field Conference, pp. 325-331.

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