Pima County renews desert water stations

Craig Smith

Pima County says placing water stations along desert routes helps reduce the need for expensive search and rescue operations

Pima County renews desert water stations

CREATED Aug. 19, 2013

TUCSON (KGUN9-TV) - Water stations placed in the desert are meant to save lives---but whose lives they save stirs up controversy.
Now Pima County Supervisors have renewed their commitment to help pay for water stations that help illegal immigrants.
You don't need us to tell you getting caught in the desert without water can be a death sentence.  For many years now Pima County has helped pay for water tanks in the remote areas illegal immigrants pass through, now with illegal immigration still a hot button issue, they've renewed the program again.

For more than 10 years Humane Borders has placed water tanks along immigration routes, to give people risking the desert, the water they need to survive.
For most of that time Pima County has helped cover the cost, arguing the tanks are humane but practical too, because they can reduce the need for expensive search and rescue operations.
Now the county has contracted to pay Humane Borders $22,500 to help keep the stations going for another year.
Supervisor Ally Miller was the only no vote.
She says when smugglers and immigrants know they can rely on the water stations, it encourages them to risk a desert crossing.

"No one wants to see anyone die, especially me, however the damage that these criminal gangs and drug dealers do in our country far exceeds the argument that we're putting this water out there specifically to rescue the cost of these emergency rescue operations."
Humane Borders says there have been more than 2200 migrant deaths between October 1999 and March 2012.

The contract calls for Humane Borders to consult with local, state and federal authorities to decide where the water will go.
Instead of water barrels, Supervisor Miller would rather see something like solar powered phones so migrants in trouble can call officials for help.
Supervisor Ray Carroll had a schedule conflict that made him unable to vote on this issue Monday but he said if he had been able to vote, he would have said no.  The measure would have still passed with a three to two majority.
Humane Borders did not have anyone available to speak on camera Monday.