by Rachel Armstrong

SOCORRO, N.M., October 9, 2003 — The New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources (NMBGMR) recently published the latest issue of New Mexico EARTH MATTERS, a free, semi-annual newsletter for New Mexicans interested in the state's water, landscapes, and earth resources. The primary focus of the current issue is on water resources in New Mexico.

The featured article opens with a detailed explanation of the water cycle in New Mexico, focusing on the Rio Grande and Pecos River. According to the article, the main source of water for the Rio Grande and Pecos River is precipitation in their respective drainage basins. Ground water and overflow from an aquifer — an underground bed of earth or stone that holds water — also flow into these rivers.

Since the floodplains of both rivers are fairly flat, the article states, the rivers meander slowly and enrich the soil. Vegetation density along the rivers is very high, causing high levels of transpiration — the process by which plants use water to grow. Evaporation from the soil and open water is also high. These combined conditions that cause water loss are commonly referred to as evapotranspiration.

The article continues by explaining the history of water problems on the Rio Grande and Pecos River, which not only includes violent water fights, but also a Supreme Court decree between New Mexico and Texas.

According to the article, after decades of disagreement, there is a consensus plan currently underway that will dry up thousands of acres from the Pecos Valley Artesian Conservancy District and discharge well water into the Pecos River to increase its water flow.

The Rio Grande is now the site of New Mexico’s next serious water crisis, the article goes on to explain. State engineer rulings and pro-active management may be needed within the next year to guarantee water delivery to areas below Elephant Butte Dam, the author states.

This issue also features “Notes from the State Geologist,” which defines the importance of a state geological survey (such as NMBGMR). State geological surveys conduct research that enables responsible development of natural resources, such as copper, gold, gravel, natural gas, and water; monitor natural hazards; investigate soil erosion; maintain state mining and energy records; store subsurface data; and publish and maintain libraries of geologic information.

This issue also includes NMBGMR’s Mission, Bureau News, and a list of new bureau publications.

New Mexico EARTH MATTERS is available twice a year, free of charge, from the NMBGMR. For more information about the periodical or any other NMBGMR publication, write to the Bureau Publications Office, New Mexico Tech, 801 Leroy Place, Socorro, NM 87801, or call 505.835.5410, or visit the website at http://geoinfo.nmt.edu.