New Mexico Bureau of Geology Releases Map of Albuquerque Area

Contact: Thomas Guengerich, New Mexico Tech public information, 575-835-5617
or Jane Love, Bureau of Geology, 575-835-5530

SOCORRO, N.M., Jan. 9, 2009 – The New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources at New Mexico Tech recently published a ground-breaking study of the geology of the greater Albuquerque area.

“Geologic map of the Albuquerque-Rio Rancho metropolitan area and vicinity, Bernalillo and Sandoval Counties, New Mexico,” Geologic Map 78 is a 1:50,000-scale geologic map consists of two oversize sheets printed in full color and measuring 65.5 inches high by 50 inches wide. Field geologist Sean D. Connell has spearheaded the New Mexico Tech project for more than a decade.

“Imagine 10 people making a quilt,” Bureau of Geology director Dr. Peter Scholle said. “Sean put it all together and made sure it’s coherent and made sure all the boundaries coincided.”

The map and accompanying cross sections represent the most informed geologic interpretations of the Albuquerque and Rio Rancho area that are presently available.

Scholle said the map represents more than 15 years of work, with many different quadrangles “stitched together.”

The map will be especially useful to city planners, engineers and builders, but is also of general interest to residents, said Bureau editor and writer Greer Price, who spent the last two years editing and producing the map at New Mexico Tech.

“If I lived in Albuquerque, I’d want one,” Price said. “Anyone interested in knowing what sort of rock is underneath their feet will want one.”

Sheet 1, the geologic map, is a compilation of sixteen 7.5-min U.S. Geological Survey quadrangle maps and encompasses an area from Tijeras Arroyo on the south to Santa Ana Mesa north of Santa Ana and San Felipe Pueblos, and from the crest of the Sandia Mountains westward across the Rio Grande and onto the Llano de Albuquerque (West Mesa) west of the city limits of Albuquerque and Rio Rancho.

The geologic map graphically displays information on the distribution, character, orientation, and stratigraphic relationships of underlying rock layers, poorly consolidated surficial deposits, and structural features.

“The real significance is that for the first time, we’re able to put together a wide variety of data from the beginning of geologic studies of the Albuquerque Basin,” Connell said.

In practical terms, the map provides valuable information for engineers, developers, planners and water resource managers, Connell said. The geologic cross-sections open a window into the subterranean rock layers, faults and water.

“Those are the key issues,” he said. “This data was used to create groundwater models of the Albuquerque water basin. We learned that it’s not some great subterranean lake that we can sink our straws into. The aquifers are in narrow, limited zones and we need to take care in extracting this resource.”

For the layperson, Connell said the map is of general interest because it shows the layered composition of the basin, including ancient volcanic rock layers, prehistoric river sediment and sand dunes. For instance, the map shows that the rock formation that forms the crest of the Sandia Mountains extends six miles below the surface, Connell said.

Sheet 2 consists of four geologic cross sections that show the positions of many of the area’s faults and the approximate depth of poorly consolidated earth materials that could pose liquifaction hazards. Sheet 2 also includes smaller derivative maps that illustrate geologically important features in the metropolitan area such as elevations of ground water levels and the mostly buried boundary between generally poorly consolidated and saturated aquifer materials and the more consolidated underlying materials. A gravity anomaly map derived from geophysical data shows major geological structures buried beneath the metropolitan area.

Copies of the geologic map are available as either folded sheets in a map envelope or as flat sheets. The two folded sheets may be purchased for $24.95. The flat sheets may be purchased for $29.95; the price includes an extra $5.00 to mail the sheets rolled in a map tube. Both products are subject to taxes where applicable and a $5.50 shipping charge. The New Mexico Bureau of Geology and Mineral Resources is a research and service division of New Mexico Tech.

For more information or to order a copy, write to the Bureau Publications Office, New Mexico Tech, 801 Leroy Place, Socorro, NM 87801, call (575) 835-5145 or (575) 835-5490, or visit the bureau Web site at geoinfo.nmt.edu.

– NMT –