Water stations issue back before Pima County Board - Tucson News Now

Water stations issue back before Pima County Board

Water station in the desert. (Source: Tucson News Now) Water station in the desert. (Source: Tucson News Now)
This is one of the few barrels that have a lock on it. (Source: Tucson News Now) This is one of the few barrels that have a lock on it. (Source: Tucson News Now)
TUCSON, AZ (Tucson News Now) -

Pima County will vote whether to give $22,500 to Humane Borders next month to help pay for 49 water stations in the desert.

The water stations are strategically located in the southern Arizona deserts along migrant trails, in order to provide relief if the migrants are in distress or need water to continue their journey.

The stations created a great deal of controversy when the county first approved the money 17 years ago and while the controversy has died down, some of the anger still remains.

"We see vandalism on almost every run," said 73-year-old Stephen Saltonstall, who delivers water to 15 of the stations. "Sometimes it's shooting, sometimes it's stabbing."

And sometimes, as in recent weeks, gasoline or turpentine, is poured into the 55 gallon barrels, making the water useless.

Humane Borders has started installing locks on them to prevent the water from being tainted.

The original barrel installed 17 years ago is part of a display in the Smithsonian. 

"We save lives," Saltonstall said. "We don't know how many, we just know we saved lives."

The amount of water being used in the barrels in recent years has dropped along with the number of border crossers.

But deaths persist as more and more people are funneled into the west deserts where temperatures on the desert floor can reach 120 degrees. 

"The last I heard, it was 48 and we haven't even gone into summer yet," said Juanita Molina, the Executive Director of Humane Borders. "48 remains have been recovered."

Even though the number of Mexican Nationals entering the country illegally has dropped, the number of Central Americans, who may not be as aware of the perils, has increased. 

"I ask, why do you take the risk, you know it's so dangerous," Molina said. "I hear over and over again, I'd rather die trying."

In part, she believes, because many are in refugee statues. 

"They are in desperate situations and fear being killed in their country," she said. "they're coming to our country to try to survive."

But many don't and that's why for people like Saltonstall, volunteering for Humane Borders is a life's calling.

"Whatever your political viewpoint regarding border issues, these people shouldn't die," he said. "They shouldn't get the death penalty for breaking our immigration laws."

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