Desalination and Water Purification

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“The Tularosa Basin of New Mexico has been often suggested as an ideal location to conduct research and development on brackish water desalination.”
Bureau of Reclamation Report to Congress, Tularosa National Desalination Research Facilty Study, 2002.

Outreach and Education

Desalination and the New Mexico State Water Plan

  brackish water
  Extent of Saline Aquifers in the U.S.
photo source: U.S. Geological Society
The state of New Mexico has extensive brackish groundwater resources that could be tapped and purified using desalination technology. The resulting fresh water would add a new source of water to our existing supply! New Mexico is also currently in the process of developing and implementing its state and regional water plans. Here you will find links to the State and Regional Water Plans as well as a brief description of where each region stands in regard to desalination. Eventually this page will also contain educational materials about water and desalination.

New Mexico State Water Plan:
The State Water Plan encourages the development and piloting of desalination technologies to help create new water resources for New Mexico.

Northeast New Mexico Regional Water Plan:
The Northeast New Mexico Region includes Union, Harding, Guadalupe, Roosevelt, Curry, Quay, and parts of San Miguel and DeBaca Counties. The principal river in the region is the Canadian, and the major aquifers are the High Plains and Ogallala. The regional water plan has not yet been completed.

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regional water  
Regional water planning areas.
photo source: Interstate Stream Commission
 

San Juan Regional Water Plan:
The San Juan Region includes San Juan and parts of Rio Arriba, McKinley, and Sandoval Counties. The principal river in the region is the San Juan and the major aquifer is the Nacimiento-San Jose. In the water plan, the region indicates that desalination of groundwater is possible, although waste disposal will be costly. With advancing technologies, cost should decrease to make these options more feasible.

Jemez y Sangre Regional Water Plan:
The Jemez y Sangre Region includes Los Alamos and parts of Santa Fe and Rio Arriba Counties. The principal river is the Rio Grande and the major aquifer is the Teseque Formation. The region is very interested in desalination technology to add to their water reserves. Unfortunately, there is not as great a supply of brackish water here as in other areas, but it still may be possible to use desalination to meet the needs of some smaller communities.

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Southwest New Mexico Regional Water Plan:
The Southwest New Mexico Region includes Catron, Grant, Hidalgo, and Luna Counties. The principal river is the Gila and the major aquifers those associated with the Gila River Basin and the Mimbres Basin. There are brackish water sources in the southern part of the region. The region's Water Plan suggests monitoring the development of desalination technologies in order to possibly implement a plant when it becomes cost-effective.

Tularosa, Great Salt, and Sacramento River Basin Regional Water Plan:
The region includes parts of Lincoln, Otero, and Chavez Counties. The principal rivers in the region are Tularosa Creek and the Sacramento River. The major aquifers are those associated with the Tularosa Basin. Tularosa currently has a desalination pilot plant and the region's Water Plan calls for the expansion of that project.

Northwest New Mexico Regional Water Plan:
The Northwest New Mexico Region includes Cibola and parts of McKinley Counties. The principal rivers are the Puerco, Zuni, and the Rio San Jose. The major aquifers are Cow Springs-Bluff, Bluewater, Gallup, and Crevasse Canyon. The region has high quality ground water but it is being depleted. Eventually, the region will need to look into developing more water supplies, including possibly looking for deeper, brackish water sources.

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Taos Regional Water Plan:
The Taos Region includes Taos County. The principal river is the Rio Grande and the major aquifer is the Santa Fe Group within the Costilla Plain. The region does have some brackish water, but the Regional Water Plan has not yet been completed.

Mora-San Miguel Regional Water Plan:
The Mora-San Miguel Region includes Mora County and part of San Miguel County. The principal rivers are the Mora and Sapello River. The major aquifers are those associated with the Upper Pecos Basin. The Regional Water Plan has not yet been completed.

Colfax Regional Water Plan:
The Colfax Region includes Colfax County. The principal rivers are the Vermijo and Cimmaron. The major aquifer is the Canadian River Basin. The region has good quality groundwater, but it is being depleted. The Regional Water Plan suggests using desalination technologies to treat wastewater and then inject the treated water back into the aquifer to replenish it.

Lower Pecos Valley Regional Water Plan:
The Lower Pecos Valley Region includes Chaves, Eddy, and parts of De Baca, Lincoln, and Otero Counties. The principal river in the region is the Pecos and the major aquifers include the Fort Sumner, Roswell, Hondo, Penasco, Carlsbad, and Capitan Basins. The region has extensive brackish ground water and included desalination as an option in the Regional Water Plan. The region is concerned that a desalination plant is not currently cost-effective, but as the technology become more inexpensive, the region could easily tap into their extensive brackish water supply.

Lower Rio Grande Regional Water Plan:
The Lower Rio Grande Region includes Doņa Ana and parts of Sierra Counties. The principal river is the Rio Grande, and the major aquifers are the Jornada del Muerto, Mesilla, Palomas, and Hueco Bolson. The region's Water Plan suggests building a desalination plant in the Hueco Bolson as soon as 2007.

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Middle Rio Grand Regional Water Plan:
The Middle Rio Grand Region includes Valencia, Bernilillo, and most of Sandoval Counties. The principal river is the Rio Grande and the major aquifers are the Albuquerque Basin and the Santa Fe Group. The region's water plan suggests implementing a desalination plant when the technology becomes more cost-effective.

Estancia Basin Regional Water Plan:
The Estancia Basin Region includes Torrance and parts of Bernalillo and Santa Fe counties. There are no major rivers in the region. The major aquifers are the Valley Fill and Madera Group. There is a good supply of brackish water in the area, but residents are wary of desalination because pumping of the brackish water may cause their freshwater wells to be even more depleted. However, the fresh groundwater they depend on is limited and eventually the region may need to consider other measures, including desalination, to secure more water.

Rio Arriba Regional Water Plan:
The Rio Arriba Region includes the Rio Arriba County. The principal river is the Chama and the major aquifers are the Quaternary alluvium and the Santa Fe group. The region's Water Plan is not yet finished.

Socorro-Sierra Regional Water Plan:
The Socorro-Sierra Region includes Socorro and Sierra Counties. The principal river is the Rio Grande and the major aquifers are the Quaternary alluvium and the Santa Fe Group. The region is interested in studying the advance of desalination technologies and perhaps building a pilot plant sometime in the future.

Lea County Regional Water Plan:
The Lea County Region includes Lea County. There are no major rivers in the area. The major aquifers are the Ogallala formation and the Capitan aquifer. There is considerable amounts of brackish water in the region, and the Water Plan suggests further study of the those resources and of desalination technologies to determine if a desalination plant is a viable option in the region.




Desalination web site contact: PVBRADY@sandia.gov