Transboundary Ecological Impacts of a Border Wall


Current Border Wall, Lukeville AZ.  Photo by Alison M. Jones

By Christina Belasco and Alison M. Jones

For all the recent talk about a U. S.-Mexico border wall, most rhetoric has ignored its significant environmental impacts.  Funding efforts for this massive, concrete wall are temporarily shelved; yet No Water No Life wants to promote discussion of the important watershed threats this wall poses, as the proposal is likely to reappear.

Those who think the almost-2,000-mile borderline from Texas to Tijuana would not have environmental impacts don’t understand that this corridor is more than an empty, arid space.  There are tenuous desert ecosystems within critical and vulnerable watersheds.  The health and very existence of local flora and fauna would be threatened.  Resultant flooding would increase.  Meanwhile, many argue that little – if anything – would be gained from constructing a border wall.

Cost of Wall – According to the Washington Post, the Wall will take over 3 years to construct at an estimated cost of $21.6 billion using taxpayer dollars.  This does not even include the $10 million/year for repairs that is currently spent .


Saguaro Cactus in the transboundary Sonora Desert, near Aho AZ.  Photo by Alison M. Jones

Wildlife – The desert is home to bison, saguaro cactus, desert tortoise, prairie dogs, blackbirds, foxes, hawks and countless other species. Added wall construction would impact more than 100 endangered species, 108 migratory bird species, 4 wildlife refuges and critical wetlands.  More than 30 environmental and cultural laws have already been waived in the name of “national security” for just the present border-wall sections.


Migratory cranes just north of the  Mexican border, Bosque del Apache NWR, NM  Photo by Alison M. Jones

Migration Corridors – One of the most devastating qualities of the border wall would be the abrupt blockage of migration corridors.  The wall wouldn’t just keep out unwanted people.  It would prevent species from moving freely to habitat crucial to their survival and to lands they have used for thousands and thousands of years.

Flash Floods – Most of the year, the desert is a very dry place to be; but when it rains, torrents come down ferociously.  Flash floods dump more than 1,000 cubic feet of water per second into the ecosystem, which carry debris downstream with it. A concrete border wall would further exacerbate severe erosion, chaos and destruction in nearby border towns above and beyond the flooding already caused by existing border-wall sections.


Rio Grande in Albuquerque, AZ. Photo by Alison M. Jones

Tohono O’odham Tribe – The Tohono O’odham are a nation of indigenous peoples on the American continent. Their tribe is in a unique transboundary situation because their territory spans both the U.S and Mexico. This tribe is vehemently opposed to a larger border wall as it would directly overrule their sovereignty and would prevent them from reaching their sacred lands.  They also know it would disrupt regional ecosystems.

AZ-CHI-114.jpgPetroglyphs of Anasazi desert culture – similar to that of today’s Tohono O’Odham culture, Chinle AZ .  Photo by Alison M. Jones


Burnett, John.  Mexico Worries That a New Border Wall Will Worsen Flooding.  NPR:  April 25, 2017.

Schuyler, Krista.  Continental Divide – Wildlife, People, and the Border Wall.  College Station TX:  Texas A & M University Press, 2012.


Leave a Reply