The Sandia Mountains. Wikimedia Commons.
The Sandia Mountains. Wikimedia Commons.

A Water Crisis in Bear Canyon

How the Bear Canyon well is faring against New Mexico drought conditions.

It is no surprise that with the recent extremely hot and dry conditions around the state of New Mexico we are facing a water crisis. Bear Canyon is one of the areas that is suffering the worst from this water shortage. Bear Canyon runs straight through the center of Albuquerque and even through our own campus. At the start of the canyon is where Experiential Education department chair Sarah Councell lives with her partner and where sixth and seventh grade Ex Ed trips take place. The well that supplied water to the Councells’ cabin in Bear Canyon ran dry a year and a half ago during a sixth grade Ex Ed trip. Water had to be supplied through a tank that was brought into Bear Canyon and used for this year’s sixth and seventh grade Ex Ed trips, but how exactly did Bear Canyon run dry?

Part of the reason is that rainfall in New Mexico has been extremely low this year. According to the U.S. Weather Service, the monsoon season in Albuquerque, which generally occurs from about early to mid-July to early October, has been one of the driest that has ever occurred in New Mexico’s history. Although in November the Rio Grande was flowing at the high level of 3.5 feet in Albuquerque due to water being released from dams farther up on the river. Despite the Rio Grande being so high, the rest of Albuquerque was rather dry. Rainfall is the only way that Bear Canyon gets its water, and since Bear Canyon is on the slope of the Sandia Mountains, the water does not stay in the canyon for very long. With the current rate and amount of rainfall that is occurring in New Mexico, Bear Canyon is becoming extremely dry this year, and with underground wells, the water being pulled up is often not from that year. Therefore, the well in Bear Canyon ran dry because of the lack of rainfall and an overuse of the water in the well.

Sarah Councell has been trying to figure out the best solution to the problem since it emerged over a year ago. She finally settled on digging a new well in Bear Canyon’s flood zone, where much storm runoff occurs, meaning that the top of the well had to be put on a concrete slab to ensure that it would not break or get swept away by rainfall. The new well, which was installed this past September, is now up and running. It is about 55 feet deep, which is 20 feet deeper than the previous well. This makes it easier to access Albuquerque’s watershed. Although this new well is not extremely deep, it is much less likely to dry up due to its depth and location in the flood zone.

Although this problem has never happened to the Councells before, it is a common occurrence in Albuquerque. The water pockets in Albuquerque are pretty patchy, and when you do find one, often it can run out of water rather quickly. Albuquerque, despite being on top of an aquifer, is just not an ideal spot to have a well. Luckily for the Councells and the AA community, the well in Bear Canyon was replaced, and we can look forward to many more Ex-Ed excursions into Bear Canyon in the future.

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    Patricia A. LincolnDec 7, 2023 at 10:09 am

    Very informative and timely. Glad to see that you addressed a broader problem at the local level.