Protecting the San Pedro River

Linda Stitzer“The San Pedro River is a life-giving ribbon of green and a critical resource for wildlife and people. Together we can keep it flowing for the future”

– Linda Stitzer, Arizona Senior Water Policy Advisor

The San Pedro River is a National Treasure

The San Pedro River is a lush river in the deserts of southeastern Arizona. As the only flowing river along the Mexican border between the Colorado River and the Rio Grande, it is an essential migratory flyway for millions of birds as they travel between North and South America. It is estimated that nearly 45% of the 900 total bird species in North America use the river at some point in their lives. People from all over the country come to bird in this unique setting.  In addition to being a lush river corridor and offering rich bird life that draws visitors from around the country, the San Pedro provides habitat for a broad array of wildlife including beaver, 14 species of native fish, and endangered species such as the Southwestern Willow Flycatcher.

Human Impacts Have Stopped the River from Flowing in Sections

However, a growing human population in nearby Sierra Vista has resulted in a significant increase in groundwater pumping, lowering the water table and reducing the connected flow of water in the San Pedro River.  At times parts of the San Pedro no longer have flowing water. This stress on the river is increasing invasive plants which crowd out native plants. It also threatens the abundant birdlife and other wildlife that depend on the year-round flowing water and the native plants along the river.

Western Resource Advocates Promotes Water Conservation to Keep the San Pedro River from Drying Up

The community of Sierra Vista and Fort Huachuca, a U.S. Army base, have made significant efforts to reduce water demand and reuse water which are helping the San Pedro River. Western Resource Advocates supports these efforts and is exploring additional actions to keep the river healthy. We conducted a first of its kind study evaluating an overlooked impact on rivers – domestic wells. With approximately 5,000 homes served by their own wells in proximity to the river, this river-connected well water use can represent a significant impact to river flow. As a result of our evaluation and in conjunction with the Cochise Water Project, a toilet replacement program was launched that has decreased well pumping by over 16 million gallons. This water savings is helping keep the San Pedro River flowing and healthy. We increased water use efficiency in restaurants and evaluated the potential for water companies to save water by finding and repairing water system leaks. Altogether we can keep this important Southwestern river and national treasure flowing for future generations to enjoy.

Other Resources

Celebrating Arizona Rivers – San Pedro

Estimated Water Demand and Conservation Potential of Domestic Wells in the Sierra Vista Subwatershed, Arizona

Estimated Water Demand and Conservation Potential of Domestic Wells in the Sierra Vista Subwatershed, Arizona Fact Sheet

The Cochise Water Project

Project Staff

Linda Stitzer

Linda Stitzer

Arizona Senior Water Policy Advisor