Funding the Future of Arizona's Water

Posted on January 24, 2017 • Category: Water, Forests & Open Spaces

By Mindy Riesenberg

Arizona’s nearly 20-year drought has caused a 35 percent decline in the average flow of the Salt and Verde Rivers systems, which provide about 30 percent of metro Phoenix’s water. With our water supply at risk, The Nature Conservancy in Arizona has created The Salt and Verde Rivers Water Fund to encourage watershed restoration projects that help to reduce that danger.

Modeled on similar water funds the Nature Conservancy introduced in Latin America and, most recently, Nairobi, Kenya, the fund is intended to create a shared culture for the future of Arizona’s water.

“The Salt and Verde Rivers Water Fund is a way for communities to invest in river-friendly projects upstream that benefit communities both on the river and downstream,” said Patrick Graham, State Director of The Nature Conservancy in Arizona.

“By investing and keeping healthy watersheds we can improve the quantity and quality of our water and also save money,” he said. 

The fund is the first of its kind in Arizona, as the projects chosen must be beneficial to both upstream and downstream interests and benefit both water quality and quantity. It is less costly and more effective to improve water management upstream than to build costly infrastructure projects downstream, like desalination plants.

The goal of the fund is to raise $7 million over three years through corporate, community and philanthropic dollars to support cost-effective investments like crop rotation, water banking, forest thinning and irrigation efficiency. Corporate partners include Avnet, Boeing, REI and PepsiCo, among others. 

A summit was held last November to kick off the fund and discuss why investing in the Salt and Verde Rivers is important to Arizona’s future. Mayors, water managers, community leaders and businesses from 14 communities participated, including Phoenix Mayor Greg Stanton.

“The big cities like Phoenix need to work with the communities of the Verde Valley,” said Mayor Stanton. “We all must have the political will to invest in this fund.”

Graham echoed this sentiment. “If we want to make sure we have a water supply for the future, we can’t take it for granted,” he said. “We’re going to have to invest in that system.” 

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