Environmental problems in New Mexico, as elsewhere, arise from modern society’s intensive use of the earth. The hallmark of environmental geology should be effective communication with nongeologists. Available information on deep-seated and surficial geologic processes and products should be clearly presented. Above all, the impact of these processes and products on human affairs must be put in proper time-space perspective. The following examples of geology-related problems discussed in this paper reflect the varied geologic terranes and physiography of the state.
Large deposits of coal, uranium, and natural gas underlie tablelands and valleys of the Colorado Plateau province. Environmental concerns include impacts of underground mining, mine and mill waste disposal, and power-plant siting. Rugged terrane, relatively cool-moist climate, and mass-wasting processes characterize high mountain areas throughout the state. Mineral and forest exploitation has affected these areas for several centuries. Modern society increasingly uses alpine terranes for intensive recreational pursuits, and development of geothermal resources is planned in several areas. Extensive Quaternary solution-subsidence features associated with Permian carbonate and evaporite terranes in the Great Plains-Pecos Valley region are being investigated in connection with evaluation of bedded salt as a repository for radioactive wastes. In the Basin and Range province traditional environmental concerns relate to management of water resources in the Rio Grande Valley and adjacent intermontane basins. Metal mining and agriculture have had significant impacts. Recent geologic investigations have focused on young faults and site selection for hazardous-waste disposal.