Wednesday, 17 December 2014
Noah Sebastian Stewart-Maddox1, Amber Degon2, Elizabeth Tysor1, Jake Swanson2, Jordan Howard2, Marty D Frisbee3, John L Wilson4 and Brent D Newman5, (1)New Mexico Institute of Mining and Technology, Earth and Environmental Science, Socorro, NM, United States, (2)Georgia Southern University, Geology and Geography, Statesboro, GA, United States, (3)Purdue University, West Lafayette, IN, United States, (4)New Mexico Tech, Socorro, NM, United States, (5)Los Alamos National Laboratory, Los Alamos, NM, United States
Understanding the interactions between groundwater and surface water is critical to the future sustainability of communities in semi-arid watersheds. Streamflow is the primary source of water for acequias and irrigation in many semi-arid watersheds and sustained perennial streamflow is thought to depend on greater fractions of deep groundwater following the snowmelt pulse. The persistent perception is that deep groundwater is not a significant component of streamflow generation despite recent observations in the Saguache Creek and Rio Hondo watersheds refuting this perception. Recent research indicates that groundwater/surface water interactions are very complex in the El Rito watershed, a mountainous, sedimentary watershed in northern New Mexico. The El Rito watershed can be broken into four distinct hydrogeological zones: 1) perennial streamflow in the headwaters maintained by springs and groundwater discharge, 2) losing conditions downstream of the headwaters, 3) a small, persistent 500 m gaining stretch in the mid-reach, and 4) losing conditions from the mid-reaches to the outlet. In this poster, we investigate the processes controlling zone 3. We hypothesize that extensional faulting associated with the Rio Grande Rift combined with the westerly dip of stratigraphic units are responsible for the creation of the small gaining reach. We test this hypothesis using high-resolution stream gauging, radon measurements in streams and springs, electrical resistivity surveys, geologic mapping, and temperature logging of streamflow. Our data show that the upwelling occurs near a small east-west trending fault contact characterized by a sharp contrast in water table depth (higher water tables downstream of the fault), persistent and spatially confined temperature anomalies in streamflow associated with the discharge of groundwater. These data provide support for the hypothesis and indicate that structural geologic and stratigraphic features may have profound effects on groundwater/surface water interactions. Without the fault, there would be no gaining reach and without the gaining reach, the acequias may not contain water. This research also highlights the need to properly characterize the 3D geologic structure of watersheds.