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34.1 Changes in Aquifer Level

This indicator quantifies the change in the aquifer as measured by water level changes in Albuquerque monitoring wells.

This indicator is part of Sustainable water supply.

Indicator description:

An aquifer is a layer of rock that carries a usable supply of water. This indicator quantifies the change in the aquifer as measured by water level changes in Albuquerque monitoring wells. The water level in the well is a measure of the depth (the feet below the land surface) of the aquifer in a specific location. Currently, 62 monitoring test holes exist in the Rio Grande Basin of Bernalillo County. A decline in water level indicates that water is being removed from storage at a greater rate than it is being recharged. Water level changes are compared for 2 four-year spans, from 2000 to 2004 and 2004 to 2008. The Rio Grande aquifer is the source of domestic water for a population greater than 3 million people living in Colorado, New Mexico, Texas, and Mexico. Beginning in the fall of 2008, San Juan-Chama river water was diverted to a water treatment plant for later distribution to customers, reducing demand on the aquifer.

Indicator 31_1

Why is this indicator relevant?

Data collected from these wells provide a picture of the health of the aquifer, aid understanding of groundwater resources in the Albuquerque Basin, and allow local officials to manage those limited resources more effectively. In the arid climate of Albuquerque, water is readily lost as evaporation from moist soil and water surfaces occurs at a rate of about 60 inches per year, far exceeding the average annual rainfall of less than 9 inches. Less than half of the water pumped from the aquifer is being replenished and a significant decline has occurred in parts of the aquifer. While it is normal for water withdrawal from storage to be greater than water replenishment, excessive discharge can prove costly and have a negative impact on quality of life. If discharge of the aquifer is greater than recharge, costs associated with lowering pumps and deepening wells will result in an increase of capital and operating costs. Every individual has a stake in our ground-water resource. When access to this natural resource is limited, it impacts agriculture, public supplies, economic development and all industries.

Data Sources:
United States Geological Survey Data for New Mexico, Albuquerque Bernalillo County Water Utility Authority.

What can we tell from the data?

  • Based on information gathered from 62 monitoring wells, from 2000 to 2004 a total of 79 feet of water was taken out of storage compared to 22 feet of water for the period from 2004 to 2008.
  • Although total water withdrawal continues to exceed water storage levels, over the last four years this has occurred at a smaller rate than in years 2000 to 2004. Fifteen wells had a rise in water level from 2004 to 2008 compared to only seven wells from 2000 to 2004.
  • The total pumping capacity of all the city’s wells is over 300 million gallons per day.


For Help in understanding this page, see Understanding Indicators.

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