LFA staff recently attended the Verde River: State of the Watershed Conference. Our takeaways from the conference are below, with resources listed from "Verde River Basin Water-Resources Primer" (VRBP, 2015). This post is part one of our four part series.
The Verde River is one of the few remaining perennial rivers in our state, and it's up to us to preserve it. The river and its connected groundwater sub-basins are critical to the communities and present-day citizens of its entire drainage basin - providing fresh water, recreational opportunities, local identity, and an agricultural lifestyle.
Not only does the Verde River provide virtually all the domestic water for communities spanning from Prescott to the Verde Valley, it also provides water to 2.5 million metropolitan Phoenix homes and businesses. So, what are we currently doing to help keep the river healthy and how can we step up our game?
On May 11, 2017, community members, officials, and experts gathered in the historic Clark Memorial Club House in Clarkdale, Arizona to discuss the many ways organizations have been partnering to restore habitat, sustain flows, and promote community along the Verde River Watershed. This inaugural Verde River: State of the Watershed Conference was a step forward in uniting efforts concerning the health of our waterways and efforts to preserve this resource for generations to come.
Organized by Friends of Verde River Greenway and the Verde Watershed Restoration Coalition, this conference aimed to build a cohesive understanding of the wide array of partners, programs, and initiatives in the Verde Watershed; strengthen communication; and expand collaboration efforts among existing and new partners.
Challenges the River Faces
In short: we've got a lot of wells, and they are threatening the year-round flow of the River. Water wells provide unnatural diversions of the flowing groundwater that disrupt the long-term, natural balance of the quantity of water that seeps below the ground surface and the quantity exiting to springs and streams. A well either intercepts groundwater that was en route to springs and streams, or accelerates the transfer of stream-flow to the groundwater.
The evidence of the impact of groundwater pumping on rivers in Arizona is stunning. Numerous rivers or parts of Arizona rivers - for example, substantial sections of the Salt, the Gila, the Little Colorado, the Santa Cruz, and the San Pedro - that once flowed year-round have become dry washes that now flow only following storms or snowmelt.
The inescapable implication is that if we continue to support an ever-expanding population as we have done so far - by simply consuming more groundwater - the Verde, or at least substantial parts of it, will become another Arizona dry wash flowing only briefly in response to storms or snowmelt. You can read more about the issue here (p. 11-12).
(Wolfe, E. W., 2015, Verde River basin water-resources primer. p. 11 - 12)
With that being said, can we sustain our treasured Verde River? Yes! Stay tuned for the second blog post of this series.