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Cochise County’s only source aquifer keeps three communities flowing with water

NACO, Ariz. (KGUN) — Water conservation efforts in Cochise County tend to focus on the San Pedro River and its recharge, but in Naco, Naco Sanitary District board members are trying to conserve the only water source aquifer. I am concerned about this.

“Everyone has been ignoring this aquifer,” said Steven Day, Naco Sanitary District board president.

The Nacobisbee Aquifer supplies water to Naco, Arizona. Naco, Sonora, Mexico. And Bisbee. Day said he has 86,000 gallons of wastewater in four wastewater lagoons.

“If we focus on it and develop it properly, we can probably continue to control the stability of this aquifer, probably indefinitely,” he said.

Day said there is still enough water for human consumption, but there are still concerns about the water supply. The threat to groundwater comes from a sulfate plume moving from south of the Warren area toward the wells the city of Bisbee uses for water. Sulfate contamination is a thing of the past, when the mines were still active in Bisbee.

“Aside from the sulfate plume, it's a perfectly stable aquifer. That's the only threat,” Day said. “Fifty percent of the wells in this aquifer are unusable and contaminated with sulfates.”

This doesn't have to be an unsolvable problem. Naco Sanitary District Vice Chairman Charles Behney said the problem could be resolved by stopping water pumping or by back pumping the contaminated water and treating it before entering the treatment pond.

“We need to clean up the sulfate plume and ensure water adequacy for the next 100 years,” he said.

The City of Bisbee releases a portion of its treated wastewater onto the grounds of the Naco Sanitary District. Day said it would be beneficial to the aquifer if the water was treated a little more than it is now, by reducing contaminants in the water and allowing the aquifer to recharge.

The City of Bisbee is transferring some of its wastewater through the Bisbee Drainage Project. The city partnered with Cochise County to help recharge the San Pedro River.

“It's 19 miles from here to the river, and the real goal is to get as much water as possible and recharge it near the Mexican border and the river,” said Mark Appel, Cochise County's environmental project coordinator. he said. As much as possible. “

The project, which is still in the planning stages, would run a pipeline through the community of Nako to the border, where it would discharge treated wastewater near the river. Appel said this could speed up a natural process that could take water 100 years to travel 12 miles, or it could never get there due to evaporation.

“It's like shortening the roots that water normally takes underground. We may have a lot of water under our feet, but rivers depend on the first 10, 20, 30 feet. ” he said.

Ken Budge, Bisbee mayor and chairman of the Upper San Pedro Partnership, said the San Pedro River has been studied for 25 years. He sees an opportunity to continue supporting the river, and that's what the partnership between the city of Bisbee and the county came to fruition in 2019.

“This is another part of working on sections along the river to make it more viable,” Mr Budge said.

Day and Behney said the project could pose a threat to the sole source aquifer because it would extract water and relocate it.

“We don't want our aquifer water to be used in either of these two aquifers until they allow us to use our water a little more responsibly. ,” Day said.

Alexis Lamangel I'm a reporter for KGUN 9 in Cochise County. She began her journalism career at the Herald/Review in her hometown of Sierra Vista.Share your story ideas by emailing Alexis or by connecting Facebook.

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