CENTER FOR BIOLOGICAL DIVERSITY
New Fort Huachuca data shows increased peril to San Pedro
Fort Huachuca/Sierra Vista cone of depression now directly affecting San Pedro River base flow
New well data from groundwater monitoring wells at Fort Huachuca reveals that:
The new well data includes readings through April 25, 2005. Fort Huachuca’s groundwater monitoring wells are located on the east side of Fort Huachuca adjacent to the San Pedro River. The interpretation of Fort Huachuca’s monitoring well data is supported by newly reviewed U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) data showing reduced water seeping from the regional aquifer to the San Pedro River in the Lewis Springs area. Lewis Springs is located upstream from Fort Huachuca on the San Pedro River.
The San Pedro River is the last surviving free flowing, un-dammed desert river in the Southwest. Stream flow during the driest times of the year seeps directly from the groundwater aquifer into the River.
Excessive, unmitigated and increasing, local groundwater pumping from this aquifer threatens the San Pedro River. The pumping deprives the San Pedro River of surface flow due to the existence of a direct hydrological connection between the water in the area’s underground aquifer and the surface water, or actual stream flow, in the River.
The San Pedro stream flow reflects the surface of the aquifer, or the water table itself. As pumping lowers the aquifer level or water table, stream flow is diminished. During the driest time of the year, most of the surface or stream flow in the San Pedro River comes from this groundwater seeping into the River. This flow is called base flow. San Pedro River base flow continues decreasing dramatically.
A cone of depression is the hydraulic gradient, or valley in the groundwater table, which must be created to cause water to flow toward a well in order to pump water. In an area of concentrated wells, the cone of depression from each well converges into a larger confluent cone of depression.
Two large confluent cones of depression capture aquifer groundwater that would otherwise provide San Pedro stream flow. One of the two problematic cones of depression intersects with the southern part of the River in the Palominas/Hereford area. The other is located in the Fort Huachuca/Sierra Vista area.
The Palominas/Hereford cone of depression underlies the San Pedro River and thus directly affects river flow in the area. Base flow there has now become intermittently absent. Not surprisingly, many endangered Huachuca Water Umbel populations have disappeared from this section of the River.
Data from Fort Huachuca’s groundwater monitoring wells has been used in the past by Fort Huachuca, the Department of Defense (DoD), and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) to argue against any urgency for mitigation against the effects of the local groundwater pumping on River. The Fort Huachuca July 2002, Biological Assessment and the USFWS August 23, 2002, Biological Opinion on ongoing and planned military operations and activities at or near Fort Huachuca, state:
Owing in large part to such past use of Fort Huachuca groundwater monitoring well data, USFWS concluded that mitigation could wait until 2011. This is obviously no longer even remotely true.
The Fort Huachuca/Sierra Vista cone of depression has now reached the San Pedro River east of Fort Huachuca. It is now directly affecting the River.
The August 23, 2002, Biological Opinion mitigation is also based on local groundwater deficit of 5,144 acre-feet/year. According to ADWR data released on November 18, 2004, the deficit has increased by 63.3%, from -5,144 to -8,400 acre-feet/year. According to USGS released on November 18, 2004, the deficit has increased by 134.3%, from -5,144 to -12,050 acre-feet/year, according to USGS 2003 data.
The San Pedro River can no longer wait for help. The time is NOW.
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 ACOE 2005