YUMA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) -- At the southern end of the Chocolate Mountains near Yuma a herd of desert bighorn sheep reside in the wilderness area. In dry periods, when water is scarce, the animals are provided a reliable source to drink in the arid environment.
“Rain is unpredictable in southwest Arizona, and this requires innovative approaches and partnerships to protect wildlife," said Arizona Game and Fish Department Yuma Regional Supervisor Mike Sumner.
Wildlife in the area can get to water with the help from remote wildlife water catchments, AZGFD officials say. These critical water sources are equipped with solar-powered remote water sensors that were developed and installed by the United States Army Yuma Proving Ground, located nearby.
The sensors provide timely information about the water level in real-time, which helps the Arizona Game and Fish Department (AZGFD) monitor the remote locations where the tanks are situated.
This past month was the hottest July recorded in Arizona and the system proved it's value by alerting officials that one of the water catchments had gone dry.
July 2020 saw an average high of 110 degrees while the average low was 88 degrees.
Once they received the alert, an AZGFD team hiked in roughly 2 miles through the steep terrain to the site and discovered 15 bighorn sheep standing near the empty water catchment. A pipe that feeds the tank had broken. The team turned on a back-up water system and once again filled the tank.
"Without the real-time data from the electronic water measuring system, AZGFD would have not found the failure for weeks, which could have resulted in the death of bighorn sheep and other wild animals," officials said.
In total, soldiers at the Yuma Proving Ground have developed and installed four remote sensors on its property, where AZGFD manages several water catchments.
"By continuing to foster our relationship with our partners at the U.S. Army’s Yuma Proving Ground – who adapted existing range equipment to monitor these water sensors – we can develop affordable solutions to protect wildlife and provide them with the water they need to survive during dry periods,” says Sumner.