State of New Mexico > Environment Department > Surface Water Quality Bureau

Surface Water Quality Bureau
Watershed Protection Section
Wetlands Program

Types of Wetlands
in New Mexico

There are many different types of wetland ecosystems in New Mexico:
riverine - lacustrine - depressional - slope - mineral soil flats - organic soil flats

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There are many different types of wetland ecosystems in New Mexico...

SWQB uses the Hydrogeomorphic (HGM) classification system developed by the US Army Corps of Engineers (US ACE) to define wetland areas. This system is based on three fundamental factors that influence how wetlands function:

Download the US ACE's wetlands classification report:

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Maryann McGraw
Wetlands Program Coordinator
(505) 827-0581


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Riverine wetlands in the Jemez River Basin, New Mexico, USA

Riverine wetlands occur in floodplains and riparian corridors in association with stream channels. Dominant water sources are overbank flow from the channel or subsurface hydraulic connections between the stream channel and wetlands. Additional water sources may be interflow and return flow from adjacent uplands, occasional overland flow from adjacent uplands, tributary inflow, and precipitation.


Lacustrine fringe wetlands near Zuni, New Mexico USA

Lacustrine fringe wetlands are adjacent to lakes where the water elevation of the lake maintains the water table in the wetland.  Additional sources of water are precipitation and groundwater discharge. Surface water flow is bidirectional, usually controlled by water level fluctuations in the adjoining lake. Lacustrine wetlands lose water by flow returning to the lake after flooding, by saturation surface flow, and by evapotranspiration.



Depressional wetlands occur in topographic depressions with a closed elevation contour that allows accumulation of surface water. Dominant sources of water are precipitation, groundwater discharge, and interflow from adjacent uplands.  Water normally flows from the surrounding uplands toward the center of the depression. Depressional wetlands may have any combination of inlets and outlets or lack them completely. Depressional wetlands may lose water through intermittent or perennial drainage from an outlet, by evapotranspiration, and, if they are not receiving groundwater discharge, may slowly contribute to groundwater. Water levels will most often vary seasonally.  Prairie potholes are a common example of depressional wetlands.  Playas of the  Llano Estacado are also considered depressional wetlands.


Slope wetland in the Leonora Curtin Wildlife Preserve, near Santa Fe, New Mexico USA

Slope wetlands are normally found where there is a discharge of groundwater to the land surface.  Elevation gradients may range from steep hillsides to gentle slopes. Principal water sources are usually groundwater return flow, interflow from surrounding uplands, and precipitation. Slope wetlands can occur in nearly flat landscapes if groundwater discharge is a dominant water source. They loose water primarily by saturation subsurface and surface flows and by evaporation. Springs are an example of slope wetlands in New Mexico.


A Mineral Soil Flat Playa near Lordsburg, New Mexico USA

Mineral soil flats are most common on interfluves, extensive relic lake bottoms, or large floodplain terraces where the main source of water is precipitation. They receive virtually no groundwater discharge which distinguishes them from depressions and slopes.  They lose water by evapotranspiration, saturation overland flow, and seepage to underlying groundwater.  They are distinguished from flat upland areas by their poor vertical drainage.  Mineral soil flats that accumulate peat can eventually become the class organic soil flats.  The Lordsburg Playa is an example of a mineral soil flat wetland.


An organic soil flat in the Valles Caldera of the Jemez Mountains, New Mexico USA

Organic soil flats, or extensive peatlands, differ from mineral soil flats, in part, because of their elevation and topography are controlled by vertical accretion of organic matter. They occur commonly on flat interfluves, but may also be located where depressions have become filled with peat to form a relatively large flat surface. Water source is dominated by precipitation, while water loss is by saturation overland flow and seepage to underlying groundwater.  Alamo Bog in the Valles Caldera is a good example of organic soil flats.


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Wetland Types


Bulleted item... REQUEST FOR PROPOSALS: Mapping and Classification of Wetlands in the Sacramento Mountains Region of Southwestern New Mexico
DEADLINE: 3:00PM September 23, 2015
Bulleted item... Public Notice
Bulleted item... Upper Gallinas Watershed Wetland Action Plan released (2015)
Bulleted item... REQUEST FOR PROPOSALS: Rapid Assessment Method for Springs in Southwest New Mexico
DEADLINE: 3:00PM MDT October 1, 2015
Bulleted item... Public Notice
Bulleted item... Rio Nutrias Watershed-Based Plan released
Bulleted item... Technical Guide #1: Wetland Functions
Bulleted item... Technical Guide #2: Characterization and Restoration of Slope Wetlands in New Mexico
Bulleted item... Paso del Norte Watershed-Based Plan
Bulleted item... Summer 2015 Clearing The Waters Newsletter
Bulleted item... 2014 NPS Annual Report
Bulleted item... 2014 US EPA-Approved NPS Management Plan



Contact us at:

The New Mexico Wetlands Program
ATTN.:  Maryann McGraw, Coordinator
New Mexico Environment Department
Surface Water Quality Bureau – Watershed Protection
1190 S. St. Francis Drive, Santa Fe, New Mexico 87502

Tel.:  (505) 827-0581 FAX.:  (505) 827-0160

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