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San Pedro River Water Use Challenge

Case Number # 2413, 2459

The Southwestern willow flycatcher would be threatened with extinction if groundwater pumping were allowed to continue. (USGS)
The Southwestern willow flycatcher is one of two species that would be threatened with extinction if groundwater pumping were allowed to continue. (USGS)

Earthjustice represented the Center for Biological Diversity and the Maricopa Audubon Society in challenging the lawfulness of a U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service’s biological opinion, which concluded that continued, even increased, water withdrawals by the Army for Fort Huachuca, a U.S. Army base near Sierra Vista, Arizona, will not unduly impact the San Pedro River. In May 2011, Earthjustice won this case in the District of Arizona.

Recognized as a world heritage natural area by the United Nations World Heritage program, the San Pedro River supports 400 species of birds (nearly half of the U.S. total), 100 species of butterflies, 83 species of mammals and 47 species of amphibians and reptiles. The lawsuit argued that two species—the Huachuca water umbel (a plant) and the Southwestern willow flycatcher—will be threatened with extinction if the opinion was allowed to stand.

The San Pedro is the Southwest's last surviving undammed desert river, threatened by local groundwater pumping that intercepts water that would ordinarily move from the aquifer seeping through the riverbanks to provide surface flow to the river. The annual local groundwater deficit, or overdraft, of the aquifer is now approximately 6,000 acre-feet per year and growing. This was the third lawsuit the groups filed challenging the Fort's water use.

Press Releases

Monday, February 3, 2014
River draining continues despite court order nearly three years ago
Wednesday, October 30, 2013
More than two years pass with no solution to ongoing river draining
Friday, September 13, 2013
Massive new development and groundwater pumping threaten river and wildlife
Wednesday, May 15, 2013
Massive new development threatens river and wildlife
Tuesday, April 16, 2013
Massive new development threatens river and wildlife
Tuesday, May 31, 2011
Judge says government plan doesn’t do enough to protect San Pedro River, endangered species
Friday, November 16, 2007
Earthjustice comes out in support of Grijalva bill
Tuesday, September 25, 2007
Bad science and excessive water withdrawals slowly killing river and wildlife
Friday, June 15, 2007
Conservation groups consider legal action to stop expansion by Fort Huachuca
Thursday, March 2, 2006
Fort Huachuca forced to reevaluate impacts from on and off-post actions