[IN-DEPTH] Ancient watering hole in Southern Arizona at risk from border wall construction

An 18-wheeler on Highway 2 in Mexico speeds past Quitobaquito Springs, which is just on the U.S. side of the border near Lukeville./Josh Galemore / Arizona Daily Star

By Curt Prendergast | Arizona Daily Star  

An ancient spring near Lukeville has slaked the thirst of desert travelers for centuries, but its days may be numbered as groundwater is pumped to build a 30-foot border wall.

Water has bubbled out of the granite at Quitobaquito Springs for thousands of years, making it a key watering hole for the Tohono O’odham, Spanish missionaries, U.S. and Mexican boundary surveyors, and countless other humans and animals.

The Trump administration decided to build a wall along 44 miles of the border in Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, where the springs are located, and the adjacent Cabeza Prieta National Wildlife Refuge.

Now, federal officials plan to pump millions of gallons of groundwater — some of which dates to the last ice age and feeds the springs — to mix concrete and to spray water on the dusty road where contractors will build the border wall.

At the request of the National Park Service, Border Patrol officials said new wells will not be dug within 5 miles of the springs and water levels will be monitored during construction.

Hydrologists at the University of Arizona caution that drilling anywhere in the aquifer could affect the springs.


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September 2019