Earth and Planetary Sciences ETDs

Publication Date



In the desert southwestern United States, water resources are stressed due to anthropogenic use, drought and climate change. Arid land spring sites are considered hotspots for biodiversity, providing refugia to aquatic habitats during dry seasons. To quantify the importance of desert land springs, this research applied an interdisciplinary approach to assess 78 springs of Cibola National Forest, New Mexico. Of specific importance are several springs that provide habitats for the endangered Zuni Bluehead Sucker (ZBS), Zuni Mountains, New Mexico. Inputs to the three remaining ZBS habitats include spring waters and shallow alluvium waters from stream channels upstream from spring discharge. This research used hydrogeochemical methods to determine flow paths, mixing scenarios, residence time and recharge mechanism for ground, surface and spring waters for the ZBS habitats. Continuous monitoring of physico-chemical parameters at the three ZBS habitats lead me to propose a water quality stability classification (WQSC) that differs upstream and downstream from spring inputs: 1) high WQSC (downstream from perennial spring), 2) medium WQSC (perennial waters upstream from spring) and 3) low WQSC (stream areas that dry). Sampling of biological communities showed that biodiversity varies with and may be influenced by the WQSC. Hydrogeochemical analysis indicate that springs are from confined regional and local aquifers. Isotopologues (δ18O, δD, 3H) indicate that spring waters discharge from confined aquifers and are recharged primarily through snowmelt with a residence time greater than 70 years. In contrast, waters in the shallow alluvium are recharged from both snow and rain events. Geochemical mixing models explain seasonal inputs to ZBS habitats, where spring waters provide up to 99% of water during dry seasons. Continuous monitoring indicates that springs provide input of geochemically stable waters that maintain appropriate physico-chemical parameters (dissolved oxygen concentrations and specific conductance). In contrast medium WQSC areas become stagnant, anoxic and concentrated in ions. Areas with low WQSC dry completely. Biologic communities at different WQSC are significantly different from each other. Overall results show that springs of the Zuni Mountains are drying and those remaining are essential to water quality and biodiversity.

Degree Name

Earth and Planetary Sciences

Level of Degree


Department Name

Department of Earth and Planetary Sciences

First Committee Member (Chair)

Dahm, Clifford N.

Second Committee Member

Karlstrom, Karl E.

Third Committee Member

Weissmann, Gary

Fourth Committee Member

Scuderi, Louis

Project Sponsors

Cibola National Forest Geological Society of America New Mexico Geological Society



Document Type


Appendix I DO instant.pdf (1741 kB)
Chapter 1 Appendix I AR DO instant data

Appendix II DO daily mean.pdf (77 kB)
Chapter 1 Appendix II AR DO daily mean data

Appendix III Zuni Mountains Aquifers.pdf (548 kB)
Chapter 1 Appendix III Zuni Mountains aquifer hydrochemistry data

APPENDIX_I AR_CDT_All data.pdf (38476 kB)
Chapter 2 Appendix I AR CDT instant data

APPENDIX_II AR_CDT_Daily Means.pdf (992 kB)
Chapter 2 Appendix II AR CDT daily mean

APPENDIX_III CDT summary of Seasonal Descriptions AR and TD.pdf (152 kB)
Chapter 2 Appendix III AR and TD CDT summary of seasonal descriptions

Appendix_IV Sonde all data AR.pdf (5827 kB)
Chapter 2 Appendix IV AR Sonde instant data

Appendix_V_Sonde mean daily values AR.pdf (266 kB)
Chapter 2 Appendix V AR Sonde mean daily data

Appendix_VI TD_CDT All Data.pdf (99634 kB)
Chapter 2 Appendix VI TD CDT instant data

Appendix_VII TD_CDT_Daily Means.pdf (456 kB)
Chapter 2 Appendix VII TD CDT daily mean data

APPENDIX_VIII Nutrient and Alkalinity values.pdf (46 kB)
Chapter 2 Appendix VIII Nutrient and Alkalinity data

Appendix_I Protocol developed to determine spring locations.pdf (47 kB)
Chapter 3 Appendix I Spring Location Protocol

Appendix_II Cibola Divisions All Spring Data from protocol.pdf (318 kB)
Chapter 3 Appendix II Cibola spring locations

Appendix_III SEAP Form and Scoring Criteria.pdf (642 kB)
Chapter 3 Appendix III SEAP form and protocol

Appendix_IV Zuni visits.pdf (69 kB)
Chapter 3 Appendix IV Zuni Mountain spring visits

Appendix_V Zuni Mountain SEAP forms.pdf (220431 kB)
Chapter 3 Appendix V Zuni Mountain SEAP forms

Appendix_VI Zuni spring field para_ion chemistry all.pdf (248 kB)
Chapter 3 Appendix VI Zuni Mountain spring hydrochemistry data

Appendix_VII Aquifer Piper 1.png (3613 kB)
Chapter 3 Appendix VII Regional aquifer hydrochemistry figure

Appendix_VIII Brennan Cont Mont.pdf (77 kB)
Chapter 3 Appendix VIII Brennan spring instant data

Appendix_IX Cottonwood Cont Mont.pdf (6200 kB)
Chapter 3 Appendix IX Cottonwood Gulch instant data

Appendix_X Bluewater Cont Mont.pdf (11749 kB)
Chapter 3 Appendix X Bluewater Creek instant data

Appendix_XI Mt Taylor visits.pdf (49 kB)
Chapter 3 Appendix XI Mount Taylor spring visits

Appendix_XII Mt Taylor SEAP forms.pdf (17889 kB)
Chapter 3 Appendix XII Mount Taylor spring SEAP forms

Appendix_XIII Mt Taylor spring field para_ion chemistry all.pdf (132 kB)
Chapter 3 Appendix XIII Mount Taylor spring hydrochemistry data

Appendix_XIV Sandia SEAP forms.pdf (10006 kB)
Chapter 3 Appendix XIV Sandia Mountain spring SEAP forms

Appendix_XV Sandia visits.pdf (56 kB)
Chapter 3 Appendix XV Sandia Mountain spring visits

Appendix_XVI Sandia spring field para_ion chemistry all.pdf (177 kB)
Chapter 3 Appendix XVI Sandia Mountains spring hydrochemistry data

Appendix_XVII Las Huertas Cont Mont.pdf (9970 kB)
Chapter 3 Appendix XVII Las Huertas Creek instant data