Excessive groundwater pumping is depleting rivers and streams across the U.S. In the arid southwest, it is particularly important that our desert aquifers are managed wiselyl. A new border wall is planned close to Quitobaquito Springs in the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve, with no strategy to insure that this historically and environmentally important aquifer remains healthy.
Quitobaquito Springs in Arizona’s Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument (OPCNM) is a repository of Arizona’s cultural history. Prehistoric peoples reliably found water in this desert oasis for more than 16,000 years, as did explorers like Father Kino and Juan Baptista De Anza as they pioneered the first route from Mexico to California. Abounding with ancient artifacts of the O’odham people, Quitobaquito is on the National Register of Historic Places, deeming it worthy of preservation. Ancient burial sites and traditional coming-of-age ceremonies continue to tie the O'odham to the lands adjacent to Quitobaquito. To protect the cultural heritage and ancient burial grounds of the O'odham people, we must preserve Quitobaquito.
Quitobaquito Springs and the OPCNM get only about 5 inches of rain per year. Luckily, there is another source of water in this part of the Sonoran Desert. The water in Quitobaquito Pond bubbles up from an underground aquifer fed by the underground flowing Aguajita Wash and the Sonoyta River in Mexico and sustains four species found nowhere else in the world—the Sonoyta mud turtle, Quitobaquito pupfish, Quitobaquito snail, and the desert caper plant. Construction of a wall near Quitobaquito could disrupt the aquifer and result in the loss of rare species that depend on Quitobaquito for survival.
Quitobaquito Springs is a rare source of perennial water in the Sonoran Desert. The federally endangered Sonoran pronghorn, many other local species, and migrating wildlife all depend on this “tinaja” (source of fresh water in the arid desert) to provide the water they need to survive droughts, now exacerbated by climate change. Damage to Quitobaquito Springs or its underground aquifer threatens the existence of many desert species.
The border wall, as planned, is a death sentence for Quitobaquito Springs. 10 ft. deep concrete footers are proposed to support the wall, and lots of water is needed to make that much concrete. One plan to obtain the necessary water is to dig a well every five miles along the wall’s proposed route, depleting and possibly contaminating the groundwater that feeds Quitobaquito Springs. No one has even ruled out pumping water from the pond itself. A wall built near the Springs also means more roads, construction noise, and on the finished wall, bright lights shining all night. This much disturbance will frighten away wary wildlife looking for a safe place to drink.
Here’s how YOU can help protect Quitobaquito Springs and the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument: 1) Write to your U.S. Representative and Senators (https://www.usa.gov/elected-officials) and demand that they protect this desert oasis from destruction by a border wall; 2) Sign our letter opposing the construction of a border wall near Quitobaquito Springs (https://wildlandsnetwork.org/support-gems-of-the-sonoran-desert/); 3) Make a donation, however small, to FRIENDS OF THE SONORAN DESERT to help us fight this battle to save this gem in the Sonoran Desert (https://www.friendsofthesonorandesert.org/donate).