Grand Canyon tests change in water system serving visitors

A general view of the South Rim of the Grand Canyon in Grand Canyon National Park, Arizona, on February 13, 2017. / AFP PHOTO / RHONA WISE

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. — Crews are drilling at the bottom of the Grand Canyon to test the idea of shifting where water is drawn to serve millions of people at the national park’s popular South Rim.

Water for the park comes from a natural spring that flows through 12.5 miles of pipeline.

But the decades-old pipeline that twists and turns around trails and through rocky terrain frequently breaks. Repairs cost an average of $25,000 every time.

Pulling water from farther downstream would eliminate 5 miles of pipeline in an area most prone to breakages. Grand Canyon officials say the change also would preserve the lush environment of the natural spring.

A helicopter flew in equipment this week to drill wells. The work is being done over the next few days, stopping for mule traffic.