Border Wells Drying Up

June 23, 2015

A groundwater crisis is literally deepening in the Juárez Valley across from Texas. Mexican officials report that wells drilled to a depth of about 400 feet are drying up or producing poor quality water, forcing users to contemplate drilling new wells of depths of 750 feet or more.

Gabriel Urteaga Nuñez, municipal president of Guadalupe, blamed the situation on recent drought.

“It’s due to the lack of rain, because the level of aquifer is going down and some wells are beginning to be exhausted,” Urteaga was quoted in the local press. “The quantity of water that is extracted from the wells that supply the town of Guadalupe here has been considerably reduced.”

Three municipalities in the rural Juárez Valley-Juarez, Guadalupe and Praxedis G. Guerrero-are reportedly affected by groundwater supply problems. Historically, the Juárez Valley has been an important producer of cotton and other farm products.

But Urteaga insisted that the overexploitation of water for agricultural purposes is not to blame for the aquifer’s depletion since local crops are irrigated with recycled water drawn from wastewater treatment plants in neighboring Ciudad Juárez.

The Juárez Valley shares an aquifer with Texas that encompasses the growing Lower Valley of El Paso and adjacent rural communities where pecans, cotton and other crops are grown. Besides the availability of groundwater, some communities in the Juárez Valley report supply troubles related to the malfunctioning of pumps and other infrastructure.

Chihuahua State Representative Fernando Rodríguez Giner said he expected the state legislature to begin taking action on the Juárez Valley water crisis this week.

According to Rodriguez, scientifically-based legal reforms will be proposed to adopt “very extraordinary” measures designed to counter aquifer depletion, an issue the lawmaker called of global concern.  For the short-term, the Federal Electricity Commission and Central Water and Sewerage Council of Chihuahua have been petitioned to repair broken wells and fix other technical problems, he added.

Sources: El Diario de Juárez, June 19 and 20, 2015. Articles by Horacio Carrasco.

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