National Geographic | by Sandra Postel
July 25, 2016

In an effort to stem the depletion of groundwater and keep Arizona’s prized Verde River flowing, two vineyards are buying water credits through a new exchange designed to balance the basin’s water use for the good of the river and the local economy.

Launched last week by the not-for-profit Friends of Verde River Greenway, the Verde River Exchange connects residents and businesses in the valley willing to temporarily reduce their water use with others seeking to offset the impacts of their groundwater pumping. As in many basins, groundwater helps sustain flows in the Verde, so the exchange is focused on motivating groundwater users to balance their withdrawals.

In the first pilot, a local family agreed to forego the irrigation of a small pasture for one year, generating water credits that will partially offset the use of groundwater by Merkin Vineyards and Page Springs Vineyards. The two vineyards, in turn, will purchase the water credits, providing revenue that can be used to compensate the local family.

It’s a novel approach to motivating river protection, and it remains to be seen how much voluntary action the exchange generates. But it provides a vehicle for those wanting to do their part to sustain a healthy river in their backyard…


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