Phantom Springs Cienega
A 2011 Desert Fish Habitat Partnership Funded Project-Phantom Lake Springs Ciénega supports an assemblage of five aquatic species of concern: two endangered fishes, and three candidate invertebrates.
Phantom Spring, owned by the United States Bureau of Reclamation (USBR), is an isolated spring located near the west Texas town of Balmorhea. Spring flow from Phantom Spring has continually declined since flow measurements began in the 1940s. Corresponding aquifer levels in Phantom Cave have dropped 2.5 feet in elevation in the last 10 years. Habitat in the spring pool has been maintained by pumps since 2001.
The submersible pump system circulated water to the spring pool from about 75 feet back in Phantom Cave. The system was not regularly monitored and the small check dam constructed to maintain water in the spring pool was leaking so severely that the pump system needed constant adjustment to maintain a target water level in the pool. The system experienced several short-term pump failures resulting in extreme conditions in the pool; with a small amount of stagnant water remaining until pumping could be resumed.
In 2011, the TXFWCO and its partners, the Desert Fish Habitat Partnership, the United States Bureau of Reclamation, Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, and others, completed a habitat restoration project which tripled the size of the ciénega, sealed the leaky check dam, installed two new “spring” water delivery systems, and installed a backup generator and alarm system.
In 2013, the Desert Fish Habitat Partnership provided funds to replace one of the pumps that was running erratically and causing sporadic alarms.
The project stabilized the current cave pool and rebuilt a larger, more natural ciénega. Fish species addressed were Comanche Springs pupfish and Pecos gambusia. Currently, the restoration project has been completed. However, monitoring and maintenance activities will be ongoing to ensure the spring continues to be a healthy habitat.
TX Parks and Wildlife
United States Bureau of Reclamation