An aquifer is a pocket of rock which can hold groundwater. Aquifers exist in the dark, far below the earth’s surface. These bodies of water can travel between each other through fissures in the rock, and surface water can penetrate in through fissures or porous rock. The water in aquifers comes from precipitation as rain or snowpack sinking into the ground to recharge them. Although technology is being introduced which can put a fraction of our wastewater back into wells, this is not an adequate solution to the problem of pumping out more water than we are recharging.

Aquifers are ‘in the dark’ for another reason: We have no idea how much drinking water might be in any one of them. A rough measurement is taken by dropping a measuring device down a well, but that cannot tell us the amount of drinking water it can provide before it becomes too brackish or salty to be useful.

In 2002 two satellites were launched as part of the Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE), a joint project between NASA and its German counterpart. The satellites use earth’s gravity fields to locate the margins of aquifers. They can tell if an aquifer is expanding or contracting but not the overall amount of water.

Here in New Mexico, aquifers supply 87% of our drinking water. As we face increased aridity caused by temperature increases and decreased snowpack, surface water in streams and rivers has been decreasing. With less surface water to meet human needs, agricultural producers and municipalities have relied on groundwater more. As a result, aquifers are not only failing to be recharged with sufficient surface water but also being pumped out even faster. Already jeopardized aquifers are thus declining even more rapidly.

Aquifer health is at risk because of decreased water input and increased demands for their water. Where are our local and statewide policy makers? Both need to start making painful decisions. The legislative session is coming up, and in future issues of the Mid Rio Grande Times we will keep you updated as to any progress on water policy and ways you might help support policies to avert a water crisis.

                                                                                                By Sue Brown


Dragonfly nymph and ice (composit). Photos: Dragonfly nymph, by Dave Huth, Allegheny County, N.Y. / Wikimedia Commons, and ice by Jan Koprova / unsplash.

Seems like insects have as many strategies as humans do for making it through the cold and dark of winter. Surprisingly, different species do it in different life stages. 

Praying mantids winter as eggs, as do some mosquitos. A more common method is employed by cutworms, which as larvae burrow into leaf litter or soil, or even replace the water in their bodies with glycerol (a type of alcohol) which has a lower freezing point. Alerted by shorter days, some fly larvae inhabit galls on tree leaves. Corn borers can withstand temperatures down to -40 degrees F. by balling up inside corn stalks or cobs.

Dragonflies hang out as nymphs under water, even under ice, actively feeding. Less active insects (the majority) reduce their metabolic rate to a level high enough to keep them alive but not to move or produce growth, which is called diapause. Silkworms build cocoons to overwinter as pupae

Monarch butterflies migrate annually as adults to warmer climes, which requires about four generations for the round trip. Adult bees cluster in the hive, eat honey, and fan the air around the queen to stay warm. As temperatures have begun to stay warmer in autumn, bees are sometimes fooled into thinking that spring has begun. When this happens, the queen swarms to begin a new hive just as colder temperatures arrive and kill the flowers that would provide food for a large population with no stored honey.

We were invaded by little Aedes mosquitoes this summer, but will they survive our winter and be around next year? We know they are cold-blooded, and if the temperature is less than 50 degrees F. they become less active. They may hibernate in holes or lay eggs in cold water that then hatch when the water warms. Spraying is an inefficient way of controlling them and a danger to other insects such as bees and lady bugs. (Read more on mosquito control in the upcoming May 2023 Issue of the Mid Rio Grande Times.)

And finally, some insects make their homes around the equator, where temperatures are consistently warm enough to grow and reproduce year-round without having to adapt to winter. Or they hang out on warm-blooded animals like us…think bedbugs, fleas, and lice. Ick!

By Donna Detweiler

What is your favorite strategy for enduring – or even enjoying – winter? Are you a snowbird, or do you prefer to hole up in a cocoon of quilts and eat honey? Maybe we can learn new tricks from our insect neighbors.


Embudo night sky. Photo: mike lewensky : unsplash. Contact at

This season of darkness is a good time if you are interested in the galaxies. The Albuquerque Astrological Society (TAAS) has over 300 members who enjoy gazing upward and who work to educate our schoolchildren and larger community about what the sky has to offer after dark.

Programs for children and youth are in the daytime and school-based. They have a portable planetarium with seating and offer presentations on constellations and mythology. TASS also holds Star Parties – the next one is at Valle del Oro on December 16th at 6 p.m. Telescopes are set up around the site and visitors can move from scope to scope to learn about the sights each is focused on. This December, Saturn will be one of the visible planets! There is no registration requirement for the Star Parties, so show up and enjoy a luminaria walk, story time, snacks, and the stars.

The community is also invited to attend the UNM Observatory which is open on Friday nights at 6 p.m. when UNM is in session and the sky is clear (check this page each Friday at 3pm to see if it will be open). However, currently there is quite a bit of light pollution at this site.

Bernalillo County and other urban areas in this watershed are greatly affected by light pollution, but TAAS has a list of good places to go for star gazing. In Bernalillo County, one might choose Chamisoso Canyon’s Coyote Trail, south of Tijeras. In Sandoval County near San Ysidro is the White Ridge Bike Trail. South of Grants there is good viewing at the El Morro National Monument Campground, and in Socorro County, the Datil Well BLM campground is recommended. Other sites and many more driving details are on the TAAS web site.

If this sounds exciting, you may want to consider a yearly membership in TAAS. The organization holds members-only events, and all members are entitled to use their secluded observation facility in Socorro County and borrow telescopes. Yearly membership is $30.00.