It’s the Aquifer, Stupid

I’m about to reveal some ignorance here.  Please don’t scoff.

But before I get to that, I want to share something I saw on Bernalillo County Commissioner Wayne Johnson’s website while working on this story about the proposal for septic system inspections.  In his bio, Johnson says he “came to New Mexico the unusual way… he was born here.”

So let me preface what I’m about to say with the fact that I’m, apparently, a “usual” New Mexican.  Which means there are likely many other “usual” New Mexicans hailing from the water-infested parts of the world who also have some learning to do (even the ones who took Earth Science– which I did!  I swear!)

I shall also introduce the following evidence on behalf of the defense:

These are just a few of the first images that popped up when I Googled “aquifer.”  Notice anything similar about them?  Blue.  Great swaths of blue.  Blue representing, what?  An underground lake?  River?  Swimming pool for moles?

What I’m getting at here is that at no point has an aquifer ever been presented to me as what I now understand it to be: mud.

Mud through which water travels at exceedingly slow speeds (even in the permeable desert).  This is a crucial point in understanding what’s going on in any story having to do with contamination of the groundwater.  Contamination does not hit the aquifer and instantly dilute like pee in a public pool.  No, the contamination travels at the same speed as the liquid carrying it: slowly.  Which is why, even though the Kirtland jet fuel spill is only 3,000 feet from the nearest drinking water well, it will take years for it to get there (not to make its clean up seem any less critical, because it will get there eventually).

Local water guy célèbre Bruce Thomson was recently kind enough to take his several decades of hydrology experience and, for my benefit, funnel it into the fine work of art and instruction you see here. 

Should this leave all you other “usual” New Mexicans wanting more, here are a few sites offering good, basic tutorials.  Things you’ll need to know if you ever want to pass as an “unusual” New Mexican.

The funk beat alone makes this one from the USGS worth a listen.

This one from the Idaho Museum of Natural History is also helpful, but still with the blue!  Come on people, how hard can it be to draw in a few pebbles?!

Ah, thank you Encyclopedia of the Earth.


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