Colonias on the border struggle with decades-old water issues
YUMA, Ariz. – Nestor Alaniz didn’t get a permit to build a well in his mother’s backyard, and he didn’t get it inspected.
In fact, he didn’t even know how to dig a well. He learned by watching tutorials on YouTube while his brother, a construction worker, helped him drill the 25-foot-deep hole.
They built the well after the old one dried up for the fourth time. Their mother, who lives in a “colonia” – an unincorporated community – of about 400 residents outside of Yuma, Arizona had gone without water to her home for a year.
They didn’t have the $5,000 to $10,000 to pay a certified well driller, so they spent $1,200 to buy their own equipment and build it themselves.
County officials said they’re concerned when residents build wells without required permits. They know there’s often not enough separation between the wells and septic tanks, which can increase risk of contamination. And they fear some of the wells do not go deep enough. However, officials said their hands are tied because the legal process to get things done is too complicated.