- Associated Press - Thursday, May 29, 2014

CARLSBAD, N.M. (AP) - It could take up to 500 years to replenish the brine water pumped out of a Carlsbad aquifer if a new potash mine operates for 50 years, according to a state memo.

New Mexico Office of the State Engineer’s Hydrology Bureau memo obtained by the Carlsbad Current-Argus (https://goo.gl/1WnRer) says the Intercontinental Potash’s Ochoa Mine Project proposed for southeast of Carlsbad isn’t predicted to have any effect on the city’s drinking water, but it may still have some impact on the underground water source.

The memo says tests showed that if the mine draws 6,400 acre-feet of water each year at the site for 50 years, it would take 500 years for the Capitan Reef aquifer to restore itself.

The Capitan Reef is the same aquifer that provides Carlsbad’s drinking water, though the potash company would draw its water from the opposite side of the reef.

IC Potash proposed the new mine a few years ago to compete in the area’s potash industry with Intrepid Potash and The Mosaic Company. A consulting group called Intera built a model to simulate the environmental impact from the Ochoa Mine and the results were emailed in a memo from Peggy Barroll in the state’s Hydrology Bureau to Mike Johnson, the Hydrology Bureau Chief, on July 11, 2013.



The tests also showed that water levels could drop as much as 650 feet near the well sites. Current groundwater levels in that area are 720 feet deep, the memo said.

Randy Foote, a spokesman for IC Potash, said he was not concerned by the model’s findings because it was meant to show a “worst-case scenario.”

“What we are doing is developing a very brackish water source that no one else is using They (Intera) wanted a model of (the Capitan Reef Complex) if it was under stress,” Foote said. “It’s not really much different from what happened in the 1940s and 1950s. There was quite a bit of drawdown but it recovered quickly.”

The Capitan Reef Complex is a horseshoe-shaped deposit comprised of limestone, dolomite and sandstone that extends over approximately 200 miles in Southeastern New Mexico and West Texas. The reef wraps around the Guadalupe Mountains to the west, arches northward to split Artesia and Carlsbad, and then extends back south into Texas.

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Information from: Carlsbad Current-Argus, https://www.currentargus.com/

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