Protecting Arizona Rivers Supports a Vibrant State

Linda Stitzer“From the majestic Colorado to the Agua Fria, rivers have supported Arizona’s people and places for thousands of years. Together our dedicated stewardship and wise planning can continue to keep Arizona’s rivers healthy and flowing for the next 1,000 years.”

– Linda Stitzer, Arizona Senior Water Policy Advisor

Arizona Rivers Support Vibrant Communities, Environments and Economies

Arizona’s rivers are part of the state’s rich cultural and natural history. They support communities, agriculture, mining uses, and are also “ribbons of life” for plants and animals. For example, it’s estimated that almost half the bird species in the U.S. use the San Pedro River in southeast Arizona at some point in their lives. Arizonans visit their rivers for fishing, swimming, boating, and relaxation. Wildlife-based recreation alone brings more than a billion dollars to the state’s economy every year.

Some Arizona Rivers Have Disappeared and All Are Threatened and in Need of Greater Protection

Many of Arizona’s rivers and river habitat have been destroyed or altered by human activity and climate change. An estimated 35 percent of Arizona’s rivers have disappeared. The ones that remain are critical both to wildlife and to Arizona’s citizens. In 1979, Arizona established an instream flow water right program, which lets landowners apply for a right to keep water in the stream for recreation, wildlife and fish. This program is a good start to protecting our rivers, but is in need of much greater use.

Arizona River Factsheets Provide Useful Overviews

During 2012 Western Resource Advocates partnered with Environmental Defense Fund, Sierra Club, Grand Canyon Trust, and Sonoran Institute to produce factsheets on 12 Arizona rivers. These factsheets review:

  • geography,
  • ecology,
  • uses of the river, and
  • threats to their health.

Western Resource Advocates Promotes Innovative Water Management to Keep Water in Arizona Rivers and Help our Communities, Businesses, Agriculture and Wildlife Thrive

Western Resource Advocates works throughout Arizona to participate in various efforts to promote water conservation, water reuse, agricultural water conservation and keeping water flowing through the rivers. Click here for more on our Healthy Rivers Program efforts in Arizona

We are involved in increasing the legal protection for water to remain in rivers. While surface water rights can be transferred from existing uses to instream uses without losing priority, this has yet to actually happen in Arizona. There are two current applications to do this on the San Pedro River and Aravaipa Creek in southeast Arizona. If these transfers are approved by ADWR it will represent a major milestone in river protection because of the old water rights involved and strong protection they would provide for these rivers. Click to download a .pdf map of the applications that are meant to protect water in rivers for current and future generations.

Project Staff

Linda Stitzer

Linda Stitzer

Arizona Senior Water Policy Advisor