New Mexico American Water exploring aquifer

CNJ staff photo: Kevin Wilson New Mexico American Water is working to drill a second exploratory well, following the failure of the original well, in the Lower Dockum Aquifer, located 1,600 feet below ground.

Kevin Wilson

New Mexico American Water hopes to know in two months whether the Lower Dockum Aquifer is a solution for water needs.

Officials with Clovis’ water supplier said a second exploratory well, drilled about 160 feet from a first exploratory well, is on track.

Daniel Bailet, vice president and general manager of NMAW, said the company should complete the drilling and separate water testing by the end of October.

“It’s exploratory to try to determine the quantity and quality of water in the Lower Dockum Aquifer,” Bailet said.

The company received permission from the Office of the State Engineer to drill about three miles east of the Curry-Roosevelt county line on Highway 70 — and permission for a second well — as a way to find additional water after a moratorium was imposed on new appropriations for the High Plains Aquifer (also known as the Ogallala Aquifer).

Jeff Kelsch, a field technician with John Shoemaker and Associates, said the process is going as expected.

“We’re drilling what’s considered reverse circulation,” Kelsch said. “Basically, we’re vacuuming the cuttings from the hole as we go. We’re going to go on this well with what we learned from the last well.”

Bailet said the original well would have interfered with the integrity of testing. That was a result of drilling too deep, Kelsch said.

“The first one we drilled to 2,000 feet and we found some high salinity,” he said. “Our cuttings increased beyond what would be a usable production zone.

The new site is being dug to 1,750 feet.

“We don’t expect any major differences in lithology (physical characteristics of rocks),” Kelsch said. “In fact, we’ve seen pretty much a mirror image at the new site.”

The High Plains Aquifer is about 340 feet deep in Roosevelt and Curry counties. A fact sheet from NMAW said the aquifers are partially separated by a 200-foot layer of triassac redbed that water can’t pass through.

The project’s cost is $900,000, but Bailet said expenses of the second well are being paid by the contractors.

Kelsch said it’s hard to predict drilling, but he had no reason to doubt Bailet’s estimates.

If the testing reveals the Lower Dockum is not a good source of water, Bailet said NMAW would look at other options, including benefits for conservation.