Aquifer Compaction and Land-Surface Elevation Change in the Albuquerque Basin from 2005 to 2014

Tuesday, February 23, 2016: 2:10 p.m.
Jessica Driscoll, PhD , New Mexico Water Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey, Albuquerque, NM
Justin Brandt , California Water Science Center, U.S Geological Survey, Sacramento, CA

Sustained groundwater withdrawals for municipal and agricultural uses in excess of recharge have resulted in seasonal (elastic) land-surface subsidence and permanent compaction of silt and clay layers in alluvial basins in the southwest United States. Water supply for the Albuquerque Basin has historically been met nearly exclusively by groundwater withdrawal from the Santa Fe Group aquifer, resulting in water-level declines in the aquifer system. Reduction of groundwater pumping for municipal water supply after the San Juan-Chama Drinking Water Project in 2008 has resulted in aquifer recovery. Global Positioning System (GPS) survey techniques and satellite-based Interferometeric Synthetic Aperture Radar (InSAR) were used to measure land-surface elevation over a variety of timescales to quantify land-surface elevation before and after groundwater-level recovery, and compared with previous studies. An established Land Subsidence Survey (LSS) network of 43 monuments around the study area was surveyed using network-based differential GPS techniques in 1994 and 2005, and OPUS rapid-static occupation techniques in 2014. InSAR was used to measure subsidence in the Albuquerque Basin between 2005 and 2010, spanning the change in water source for the City of Albuquerque supply. InSAR images were combined to create composite land-surface elevation change maps over different time intervals. GPS and InSAR results show spatially heterogeneous land-surface elevation change within the Albuquerque Basin. The magnitude and direction of elevation changes of the LSS benchmarks were not consistent between 1994 to 2005 and 2005 to 2014. InSAR results from 2005-2010 indicate both seasonal and longer-term elevation changes. Some locations show seasonal subsidence of about 15 millimeters (mm) during timespans when groundwater levels were declining, such as near Rio Rancho. Generally, InSAR data from selected points in the Albuquerque metro area show uplift of up to 20 mm from 2005-2010, where groundwater-level recoveries were also measured.

Jessica Driscoll, PhD, New Mexico Water Science Center, U.S. Geological Survey, Albuquerque, NM
Jessica Driscoll has worked with the U.S. Geological Survey at the New Mexico Water Science Center since January 2014. She has a bachelor’s degree in geology from Amherst College, Master’s and Ph.D. degrees in hydrology as well as graduate certificates in geographic information systems and water policy from the University of Arizona. Her projects focus on quantifying spatiotemporal variability of water quantity and quality using a variety of techniques.

Justin Brandt, California Water Science Center, U.S Geological Survey, Sacramento, CA
Justin Brandt is a geophysicist with the U.S. Geological Survey’s California Water Science Center. He received his B.S. degree in geology from the University of California, Davis.