Earth Harmony Festival Session on the IOI Water-Sewage Situation

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Report by Ben Lomeli 

The Nogales Wash channel is very old, in bad condition and way under capacity to safely convey increasingly bigger floods and sediments flows due to upstream development, expected to continue.

  • Detention basins constructed in Mexico are too few, too small and have quickly filled up with sediments.
  • Watershed improvements are also needed to reduce stormwater peak flows and excessive sediment flows
  • Climate change predictions are for warmer and drier conditions overall, with:
    • Less frequent but more intense storms,
    • Increased drought,
    • Increased threat of wildland fire,
    • Changes in vegetation types
    • Less vegetative cover to protect undeveloped portions of the contributing watershed
    • Increased storm intensities can be expected to cause more erosion, more sediment production and higher peak flows.

Groundwater recharge to the aquifer that we all depend on for all our water needs is reduced by impervious and flashy watershed conditions.

  • Our lives and the long-term economic sustainability depend directly on the available quantity and quality of groundwater; it is our only source of potable water supply.

The IOI is located underneath Nogales Wash and is threatened by flooding.

  • Proposed CIPP (cure-in-place pipe) lining will only address leaking problems (infiltration of groundwater into the IOI and exfiltration of raw sewage into the aquifer occurring at several locations),
  • CIPP will not address or reduce the threat of flood-induced ruptures.
  • The capacity of the Nogales Wash channel must be upgraded to relieve flooding in Nogales and to eliminate threats of bursting the IOI.
  • As long as the contributing watershed in Mexico continues to produce abrasive sediment-laden peak flows that far exceed the conveyance capacities of Nogales Wash, all our local stormwater infrastructure remains at risk.
  • As long as the IOI remains underneath the deteriorated unstable and undersized Nogales Wash, the threat of IOI ruptures remains a reality that will most likely be increased by climate change.
  • We were lucky this time. It was a single and only partial rupture, it was detected in reasonable time, the flows were not as large or as long-lasting as they can be, and the rains did not continue to produce subsequent flows that would have further delayed the temporary repairs that were undertaken.

Next Steps:

  • Enact International legislation that will bring Inter-National funding for permanent solution.
  • Examine available GIS layers and other useful data sets to begin conceptual planning of possible permanent comprehensive solutions for the Nogales Wash/IOI/railroad problems.
  • CIPP should be used immediately, but only on section(s) known to be leaking (exfiltrating) raw sewage into the aquifer.
  • Install real-time transmitting transducer sensors that can detect flow levels and water quality changes for breach monitoring.
  • This is a matter of true national security; if we don’t have clean drinking water and are not protected from public health threats, how secure are we?
  • The IBWC must take responsibility and secure funding for this border crisis and first, repair the IOI leaks. But second and more importantly, they must get the IOI out of the Nogales Wash, keeping it at same elevation profile to accommodate all existing lateral connections.
  • “Business Friendly” approaches.

The Union Pacific Railroad (UPRR)

  • Is aligned next to Nogales Wash,
  • Bisects the City of Nogales,
  • Often causes traffic delays and emergency response concerns.
  • Relocating UPRR east to river is a terrible idea!!
    • Excessive costs,
    • Environmental impacts and consequences,
    • Potential riverine contaminations,
    • Lost economic opportunity for downtown passenger trains.

A holistic integrated engineering approach and sufficient funding to comprehensively address all comingled stormwater infrastructural, water resource and environmental issues facing Ambos Nogales and Southeastern Arizona communities along Nogales Wash and the Santa Cruz River are desperately needed.

  • A grant for the U of A (Colleges of Engineering and of Landscape Architecture) is recommended to evaluate conceptual integrated solutions.
  • Coordination with UPRR is critical,
    • Should begin ASAP,
    • May offer best possible solutions and outcomes. (e.g., possible IOI & additional wash capacity under UPRR).


IBWC Southeast Arizona Citizens Forum September 21 at 5pm

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International Boundary and Water Commission
United States Section

For immediate release
September 7, 2017


Aid for Rural Drinking Water Systems and Sanitation Concerns to be Discussed in September 21 Public Meeting in Tubac

The United States Section of the International Boundary and Water Commission (USIBWC) has scheduled a public meeting of the Southeast Arizona Citizens Forum for Thursday, September 21 at 5:00 p.m. at the Tubac Community Center, 50 Bridge Road, Tubac, AZ. Agenda items will cover state legislation to help small rural drinking water systems and a timeline of events leading to the partial breach of a manhole in a Nogales, Arizona sewer pipeline. The purpose of the forum is to promote the exchange of information between the USIBWC and the community regarding Commission projects and related activities in Pima, Cochise, and Santa Cruz Counties.

Amanda Stone, Chief Policy and Legislative Affairs Officer, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality (ADEQ), is presenting on the significant bill amendment to House Bill 2094 – Small Water Systems Fund. Ms. Stone will share ADEQ’s new statutory authority to help small rural drinking water systems return to compliance with the Safe Drinking Water Act requirements by providing another source of grant funding to implement system repairs and upgrades. There are approximately 50 small drinking water systems (serving 10,000 or fewer people) delivering water that contains contaminants at levels exceeding safe drinking water standards today in Arizona.

In other business, Sherry Sass, President, Friends of the Santa Cruz River (FOSCR), will present a video, Flirting with Disaster. The video is an encapsulated warning message distributed earlier this year regarding a sewer pipe, known as the International Outfall Interceptor (IOI), located in the Nogales Wash. The FOSCR is campaigning for a permanent fix to the IOI so the waters of the Wash do not become contaminated in the future.

Mr. Wayne Belzer, Environmental Engineer, USIBWC, will provide information on the partial breach of the IOI’s manhole 89 in the Nogales Wash. On July 25, 2017, the manhole became dislodged after heavy rainfall, resulting in a partial breach of the IOI and release of sewage into the Wash. A temporary bypass system has been installed to contain the sewage leak until a permanent repair is put in place. The bypass system, proposed solutions, and status of repairs will be discussed during the presentation.

In addition, Mr. Belzer will talk about future plans to repair the entire IOI. His presentation will include the history of the IOI, the planned use of Cast in Place Pipe (CIPP) technology, the status of the design that’s underway for the rehabilitation of the IOI, and projected completion of the design.

A complete agenda follows. Members of the public who would like more information about the meeting may call 520-281-1832 or email
News Media Contact:

Lori Kuczmanski


Southeast Arizona Citizens Forum

Thursday, September 21, 2017
5:00 – 7:00 P.M.

Tubac Community Center
50 Bridge Road*
Tubac, AZ 85646

  • Welcome and Introductions – John Light, Area Operations Manager, USIBWC, and Citizens Forum Co-Chair
  • Small Water Systems Fund – Expansion of Authorized Uses (HB2094) –Amanda Stone, Chief Policy and Legislative Affairs Officer, Arizona Department of Environmental Quality
  • Flirting with Disaster, video presentation – Sherry Sass, President, Friends of the Santa Cruz River
  • Update on Plans to Repair the International Outfall Interceptor (IOI) Sewer Pipeline and Manhole in Nogales, Arizona – Wayne Belzer, Environmental Engineer, USIBWC
  • Public Comment
  • Board Discussion
  • Suggested Future Agenda Items

From Tucson, take I-19 South, take exit #40 toward Chavez Siding Road, turn left onto Chavez Siding Road, turn right onto I-19 Frontage Road, turn left onto Bridge Road, turn left at Crosby Road, destination is on the right.
If you have a disability that you wish to self-identify confidentially that requires accommodation, please advise us ahead of time.

For more information, call 520-281-1832 or email

Lori Kuczmanski
Public Affairs Officer
International Boundary and Water Commission
Office: 915-832-4106
Cell: 915-494-6027
Fax: 915-209-8927

The information contained in this electronic message and any attachment(s) to this message are intended for the exclusive use of the addressee(s) and may contain confidential or privileged information. You are hereby notified that any unauthorized use, disclosure, and/or distribution of the information is strictly prohibited. If you are not the intended recipient of this e-mail, you are prohibited from sharing, copying, or otherwise using or disclosing its contents. If you receive this e-mail in error, please notify the sender immediately by reply e-mail and permanently destroy along with any attachments without reading, forwarding, saving, or disclosing them.


Endangered Gila topminnow to combat mosquitoes, West Nile and Zika in Pima County

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From the Arizona Game and Fish Department:

Endangered Gila topminnow to combat mosquitoes, West Nile and Zika in Pima County: Fish used to reduce West Nile, Zika virus threat

Posted May 26, 2017
(*This release is issued jointly with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and Pima County.)


Gila Topminnow
Gila Topminnow

PHOENIX — Pima County will have a new ally in the battle against mosquito-borne diseases this summer: endangered Gila topminnow.

The Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) provided 500 of the native fish, which will be introduced into standing waters in urban county areas. The project is being done under the Department’s federal permits and an Endangered Species Act Habitat Conservation Plan between Pima County and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. The three agencies are cooperatively spearheading this effort to reduce threats to public health in the county.

The project is part of an overall plan by Pima County Health Department, Pima County Sustainability and Conservation, the Phoenix Zoo and Arizona State University to use the federally endangered fish to target mosquito larvae and reduce the threat of mosquito-borne diseases, such as the West Nile and Zika viruses. This approach is also being considered for future deployment in Pinal County and hopefully other county governments around the state.

“This project is one of the first to use an endangered species for vector control of mosquitoes,” said Ross Timmons, AZGFD’s project coordinator. “Standing waters are prime breeding habitat for mosquitoes, and that can pose a serious public health threat to the community.”

In cooperation with AZGFD and the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, Pima County will establish a holding facility where Gila topminnows can be stocked and raised. The fish will then be placed into abandoned urban sources of water, such as swimming pools, fountains and backyard ponds within the counties.

“This partnership provides Pima County with a smart, conservation minded tool to help us prevent mosquitoes and the diseases they spread,” said Dr. Francisco Garcia, Deputy County Administrator and Chief Medical Officer for Pima County.
Research over the past 20 years shows that Gila topminnow are just as effective at targeting mosquito larvae as the use of the exotic mosquitofish, which is a non-native species. While mosquitofish have been used with some success in reducing disease-carrying mosquitoes, their use has unintended consequences for native fish and their ecosystems when they escape confinement.
“This is a terrific example of how native species may provide benefits to human health and welfare, while recovering endangered species,” said Doug Duncan, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service fish biologist. “Giving our native Gila topminnow a leg-up against their mosquitofish competitors is a logical advance in their recovery while guarding against the spread of dangerous diseases.”
The Gila topminnow is a small, short-lived fish, with a general lifespan of less than a year. As their name suggests, topminnows spend the majority of their time close to the water’s surface feeding on plants, small crustaceans and small invertebrates, including mosquito larvae.

Historically, topminnow were the most abundant fish species in the Gila River basin from western New Mexico to southern and western Arizona. Over time, habitat loss and degradation brought the topminnow to the brink of extinction.

It was listed as a federally endangered species in 1967. Since then, AZGFD and its partners have worked to restore topminnow populations with the goal of delisting the fish.

For more information on topminnows, visit and click on “Nongame & Endangered Wildlife.”

Or Contact:
Nathan Gonzalez (623) 236-7230
Public Information Officer

Jeff Humphrey (602) 242-0210
Public Affairs Specialist USFWS

Julia Flannery (520) 724-7989
Public Information Officer
Pima County