Satellite observations of ground water changes in New Mexico

TitleSatellite observations of ground water changes in New Mexico
Publication TypeConference Paper
Year of Publication2014
AuthorsSchmugge T.J., Elias E, Rodell M, Rango A.
Conference Name59th Annual New Mexico Water Conference
Date Published11/2014
Conference LocationSanta Fe, NM
ARIS Log Number321680

In 2002 NASA launched the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite mission. GRACE consists of two satellites with a separation of about 200 km.  By accurately measuring the separation between the twin satellites, the differences in the gravity field can be determined. Monthly observations of these differences can be related to changes in the mass below the satellites.  On land these mass changes are primarily due to movement of water and GRACE effectively weighs the total amount of water (snow, surface water, groundwater and soil moisture) entering or leaving a region each month.  A paper published in Science in 2013 by Famiglietti and Rodell presents results for the rate of change for the observed mass over the US between 2002 and 2013.  In particular they found the loss of water from the southern high plains aquifer to be substantial (-2.5 cm/year) and attribute this loss to an overreliance on groundwater to supply irrigation needs.  We analyzed GRACE data for 2007 to 2013 covering a location in south central New Mexico (107.8 W and 33 N) and found a decrease in the total water stored of about 2.0 million acre feet a year over an area of 200,000 km^2.  We believe this result reflects groundwater depletion in south central New Mexico and the lower than average regional precipitation between 2007 and 2013.