Water Resources Professional Project Reports


Katharyn M. Lee

Document Type

Technical Report

Publication Date



Past practices of produced water management in southeastern New Mexico have caused impact to ground water at numerous locations. Impacted ground water shows elevated levels of dissolved solids, including chloride and in some cases petroleum hydrocarbons. Operators must abate ground water impacts to comply with New Mexico Oil Conservation Division Rules. This paper discusses the environmental costs associated with several ground water abatement strategies that might be employed to cause ground water quality to meet the New Mexico ground water standard for chloride (250 mg/L). This investigation examines two sites that exhibit ground water chloride concentrations ranging from 5,000 mg/L to 1,500 mg/L caused by past produced water releases. Several strategies to abate contamination could be employed, including natural attenuation alone, a vadose zone remedy, point-of-use treatment and a pump-and-treat ground water remedy. Each strategy was evaluated based on ground water cleanup effectiveness, economic and environmental costs. Applicable regulations concerning ground water impact under both the New Mexico Oil Conservation Division (NMOCD) and the New Mexico Environment Department are presented and discussed. After operating a point-of-use treatment system at one site for several months and evaluating the efficacy of natural attenuation at the second site, a strategy of natural attenuation appears to be best for the environment and compliance with NMOCD Rules. Lessons learned are applied to a decision tool regarding the environmental impact and ease of operation of similar systems for the future.

Language (ISO)



produced water management, ground water abatement, New Mexico Oil Conservation Division, point source treatment, natural attenuation, vadose zone remedy, saltwater disposal system, Federal Underground Injection Control (UIC) program, Ogallala aquifer, Petroleum Storage Tank Bureau


A Professional Project Report submitted in partial fulfillment of the requirements of the degree of Master of Water Resources, Water Resources Program, University of New Mexico.