Brief History of the Water Resources Department
In the 1980’s, the Water Resources Department (Department) conducted its first Well Inventory across the main portion of the reservation. Many of the historical records from this time period were hand written and some well locations were documented by employing the triangulation method, which uses common visual markers such as mountain tops, home sites and village locations to make three lines intersect on a map.
The above picture was taken at the Barajita Well site which is located west of Gu Vo in the Ajo Mountain Range. Selso Villegas (Hydrology Technician at the time of the picture, current Executive Director) was one of several O’odham members employed by the Department. The historical picture below is the Cowlic DW12 well. This well was drilled in 1919 and was equipped with a windmill driven pump. The following pictures show the condition of this well as time progressed.
In the 1990’s, the Department became the Water Resources Study Program and was placed within the Natural Resources Department. In the late 1990’s and early 2000’s, with advances in GPS/GIS technology, the Department conducted a second Well Inventory for the entire Nation, including the San Xavier and San Lucy Districts. All wells were located using survey grade GPS equipment that registered each well with latitude and longitude coordinates. Starting in 2001, a comprehensive well drilling program was conducted to enhance the Nation’s knowledge of its groundwater resources. This drilling program was complete in 2007, 44 new wells were drilled as part of this drilling program.
Along with monitoring the groundwater resource, the Water Resources Study Program began constructing and installing rain and stream gage stations throughout the Nation for collecting rainfall and stream flow data that is currently used by the Department and the National Weather Service for early flood warnings. As of January 2018, there are 39 electronic rain gages, 17 stream gages and 1 lake level monitor installed and maintained by the Department.
In 2007, the Tohono O’odham Legislative Council enacted the Interim Allottee Water rights Code, which created the Water Resources Department (Department). In 2011, the Tohono O’odham Legislative Council repealed the Interim Allottee Water Rights Code and enacted the Tohono O’odham Nation Water Code (Nation’s Water Code). The Nation’s Water Code governs how water will be used and regulated throughout the Nation’s land. In 2013, the Department completed the Basin Report for the Nation. The Basin Report is a comprehensive report that estimates the quantity of groundwater beneath the Nation’s land, assesses potential threats to the water and delineates water quality issues associated with the groundwater resources. In 2017, the Department completed the draft Water Management Plans for each basin and is currently scheduling informational meetings with each affected District.