Groundwater Modeling for the Hueco Bolson

M&A was part of a team hired to evaluate future pumping and brackish water treatment scenarios. These scenarios will consider alternative wellfields, managed aquifer recharge options, and climatic variations.


One of El Paso’s water sources is the Hueco Bolson, a regional aquifer system. Although water levels in the bolson have declined in response to pumping, it contains abundant brackish water. To take advantage of this source, El Paso Water Utilities (EPWU) constructed the Kay Bailey Hutchison (KBH) desalinization plant — the world’s largest inland desalination plant.

Key to EPWU’s future operational strategy is a hydraulic barrier, or “trough,” created by pumping from wells that are strategically located at the KBH desalinization plant. The purpose of the barrier is to intercept brackish groundwater for plant operations and protect the fresh water at production wells to the south and west.


Our work has included evaluating the basin-fill stratigraphy / aquifer system and compiling pumping data for both the U.S. and Mexico portions of Hueco Bolson (including El Paso and Ciudad Juárez Mexico), as well as water level and chloride data.

  • Organized water quality data and prepared maps and time-series plots of chloride concentrations as data inputs for a groundwater flow model
  • Updated hydrogeologic sections with new borehole data and geophysical logs
  • Evaluated data from the Texas Water Development Board’s groundwater database
  • Developed a three-dimensional geologic model in Leapfrog and used it as a basis for constructing a groundwater flow model grid
  • Constructed a numerical flow-and-transport model and calibrated this model to conditions for the period from 1976–2013 using groundwater level and chloride data