Infiltration events in channels that flow only sporadically produce focused recharge to the Tesuque aquifer in the Española Basin. The current study examined the quantity and timing of streamflow and associated infiltration in Arroyo Hondo, an unregulated mountain-front stream that enters the basin from the western slope of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. Traditional methods of stream gaging were combined with environmental-tracer based methods to provide the estimates. The study was conducted during a three-year period, October 1999–October 2002. The period was characterized by generally low precipitation and runoff. Summer monsoonal rains produced four brief periods of streamflow in water year 2000, only three of which extended beyond the mountain front, and negligible runoff in subsequent years. The largest peak flow during summer monsoon events was 0.59 cubic meters per second. Snowmelt was the main contributor to annual streamflow. Snowmelt produced more cumulative flow downstream from the mountain front during the study period than summer monsoonal rains.
The presence or absence of streamflow downstream of the mountain front was determined by interpretation of streambed thermographs. Infiltration rates were estimated by numerical modeling of transient vertical streambed temperature profiles. Snowmelt extended throughout the instrumented reach during the spring of 2001. Flow was recorded at a station two kilometers downstream from the mountain front for six consecutive days in March. Inverse modeling of this event indicated an average infiltration rate of 1.4 meters per day at this location. For the entire study reach, the estimated total annual volume of infiltration ranged from 17,100 to 246,000 m3 during water years 2000 and 2001. During water year 2002, due to severe drought, streamflow and streambed infiltration in the study reach were both zero.
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