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Questa baseline and pre-mining ground-water-quality investigation 22; ground-water budget for the Straight Creek drainage basin, Red River valley, New Mexico; with a section on Sulphur Gulch water; budget



Questa baseline and pre-mining ground-water-quality investigation 22; ground-water budget for the Straight Creek drainage basin, Red River valley, New Mexico; with a section on Sulphur Gulch water; budget



Scientific Investigations Report: 34



In April 2001, the U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) and the New Mexico Environment Department (NMED) began a cooperative study to infer the pre-mining ground-water chemistry at the Molycorp molybdenum mine site in the Red River Valley. The Molycorp Mine has been in operation since the 1920s. Because ground-water conditions prior to mining are not available, sites analogous to the pre-mining conditions at the mine site must be studied to infer those pre-mining conditions. The Straight Creek drainage basin (watershed) was selected as the primary analog site for this study because of its similar terrain and geology to the mine site, accessibility, potential for well construction, and minimal anthropogenic activity. The purpose of this report is to present results of a water-budget analysis of the debris-flow aquifer in the Straight Creek watershed. The water budget is based on mean annual conditions and is assumed to be steady state. For this study, the Straight Creek watershed was divided into subwatersheds on the basis of locations of seismic lines, which were used to calculate cross-section area through the Straight Creek debris-flow deposits and underlying fractured and weathered bedrock (regolith). Water-budget components were calculated for areas upstream from and between the seismic lines. Components of the water budget were precipitation, evapotranspiration, surface-water flow, and ground-water flow under a steady-state mean annual condition. Watershed yield, defined as precipitation minus evapotranspiration, was separated into surface-water flow, ground-water flow through the debris-flow deposits and regolith, and ground-water flow through fractured bedrock. The approach to this calculation was to use Darcy's Law to calculate the flow through the cross-section area of the saturated debris-flow deposits and underlying regolith as defined by the interpreted seismic data. The amount of watershed yield unaccounted for through this section then was attributed to either surface-water flow or the component of ground-water flow through fractured bedrock.

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