Paper No. 9
Presentation Time: 3:45 PM
INTEGRATING SCIENCE AND COMMUNITIES IN NORTHEASTERN NEW MEXICO: THE UNION COUNTY HYDROGEOLOGY PROJECT
The area around Clayton, northeastern New Mexico, was not a declared groundwater basin until September 2005. In years prior, battles over groundwater use and development of additional wells for irrigation and stock use led to multiple lawsuits in the community. Because there were no regulations in place and the geology of the area had not been studied in a hydrologic framework since the 1960s, there was no basic information for decisions groundwater development. In 2006, the Northeast Soil and Water Conservation District (NESWCD) determined that a large scale hydrogeology project was needed to help develop community guidelines for groundwater development. The Union County Hydrogeology Project is unique in that this project was initially undertaken by community members who developed a program of biannual static water level measurements a number of wells. In 2010, Zeigler Geologic Consulting partnered with the NESWCD and the NM Bureau of Geology to advance the project. The project has support from the majority of land owners in Union County and the scientists involved have worked closely with local community leaders to integrate this large project into everyday activities. Community integration efforts include presenting data at the Annual Producers Meeting and county fair, as well as regional conferences on water use and development. Previous assumptions were that the primary aquifers being utilized were the Tertiary Ogallala Formation and the Upper Cretaceous Dakota Group. However, evaluation of surface bedrock exposures and well cuttings from petroleum exploration wells drilled in eastern Union County demonstrate that the subsurface geology is more complex than might be expected. This subsurface data, along with initial 14C dates, water chemistry, and hydrographs from data recorders suggest that the aquifer system in Union County is partitioned and substantially more complicated than the traditional concept of “oceans of water”.