The Delaware Basin serves as one of the most prolific areas for oil and gas extraction in the U.S. and potentially the world.
But alongside fossil fuel development, industries such as agriculture, mining and recreation define the desert region in southeast New Mexico.
And that takes a lot of water.
That’s why conservationists and state agencies worked for years to better understand the delicate karstic aquifers in the Delaware Basin, so they can better manage the sensitive ground water supplies where such resources are scarce.
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To do so, the New Mexico Energy, Minerals and Natural Resources Department’s Oil Conservation Division (OCD) partnered with the New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources at New Mexico Tech to map the aquifer systems throughout the basin, creating 3D models that could provide a better understanding of the complex yet often unseen underground water system.
The project was funded through a $394,967 grant and will run from April 2020 to June 2022, involving nine hydrologists from the Bureau and two database specialists.
Laila Sturgis, aquifer mapping program manager at the Bureau said the project will expand on modeling of the Pecos Slope region by expanding mapping to extend south to the Texas State Line using ArcGIS, or geographic information systems.
“The Aquifer Mapping Program is working towards mapping all of the major aquifers in New Mexico in 3D using ArcGIS [Geographic Information Systems],” Sturgis said. “We recently completed a model of the Pecos Slope region. The new Delaware Basin model will extend that model south to the state line.”
How will it work?
The mapping project was focused on recording the thickness, extent and volume of shallow aquifers in the greater Delaware Basin, including the Capitan Reef freshwater aquifer north of Carlsbad.
It will extend to the Texas border from the Pecos River, and could be further expanded if successful to include the Rustler and Dewey Lake or Santa Rosa aquifers.
The information resulting from the project was intended to help better inform the Oil Conservation Division’s regulations and permitting of oil and gas operations in the area.
To create the framework for the project, researchers will use existing geologic and well information, while analyzing more than 1,500 new geophysical well logs provided by the agency.
Bureau scientists will use the initial modeling information to locate areas…
Read more:: Researchers seek to map Delaware Basin aquifers