Any river is really the summation of the whole valley. To think of it as nothing but water is to ignore the greater part.

Hal Borland

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What We Do

Verde River Flow is Declining

One of the immediate consequences of a hotter, dryer climate here in Arizona is a decline in the base flow of the Verde River. Since 1990, flow in the Verde River has been steadily declining. From 1990 to 2020, flow declined by 34 percent in the Upper Verde and 41 percent in the Lower Verde Valley.

Upper and Lower Verde Valley

Since 1990, flow in the Verde River has been steadily declining. From 1990 to 2020, Verde River flow declined by 34% in the Upper Verde and 41% in the Lower Verde Valley. Trends are based on the average June 7-day low flow in cubic feet per second (CFS), measured by the U.S. Geological Survey.

View the Upper Verde map

View the Lower Verde map

The downward trend suggests that at some point in the not-too-distant future, the Verde may not flow year-round. This would be devastating for all that depend on flowing water. People live and visit here because of the flowing river. Given that part of the economy depends on water recreation, it could harm the local economy. And over three million people in the Phoenix metro area rely on water from the Verde for drinking.

What is Friends of the Verde River doing to address this challenge?

We are using markets and tackling the root causes of lower flows – declining levels of water in our aquifers. The Verde and all rivers draw their baseflow from groundwater. Replenishing groundwater is a long-term strategy for the rivers.

The Verde River Exchange is a voluntary, market-driving program to incentivize irrigators and others to leave some of their flowing water in the river. Since 2016, over 24 million more gallons of water have been kept in the river.

One of the most important things we can do is to slow water runoff down and keep it from washing rapidly into the river, carrying sediment and endangering lives and property. Erosion gullies result from water running too fast downhill, uprooting plants and removing topsoil. You see gullies everywhere in Arizona. One of our partnerships with the Forest Service addresses and solves the causes of erosion. Once we address the reasons gullies started in the first place, we can install low-tech structures to slow the water down. As a result, more water sinks into the ground, soil is deposited, and plants regrow. The ground is a better sponge, soaking in the rain.

Native trees hold the water better than many non-native invasive plants. In the riverside zone, native trees slow down water on its way to the river. Every raindrop that falls on a leaf takes longer to fall and soak into the ground.

Friends and our partners in the Verde Watershed Restoration Coalition have so far restored over 10,500 acres of riverside lands. We want to keep those lands native and double our success in the next eight to ten years.

Replenishing aquifers involves using nature’s methods within the urban areas and on personal landscapes. We want to slow down the rain and allow water to soak into the ground. One way to do this is by installing rainwater catch basins.

You can see our first project at 497 S. Main Street in Camp Verde. When Yavapai Title remodeled their building, they wanted to make it as green as possible. Friends of the Verde River helped them manage runoff from their parking lot by installing three large catch basins. Their basins are designed to capture and soak in over 300,000 gallons of water annually.

Additional benefits include reduced flooding in downstream neighborhoods and improved water quality in the river. Our goal is to continue incentivizing smartly designed rainwater harvesting systems throughout the Verde.

River Friendly Living is a program designed to reduce water use and help rivers. If you want to be river friendly, we invite you to contact us and get certified. With every person and business that signs up, the Verde Valley will become more resilient to climate change. And that’s good not only for our local economy, but it’s good for the planet, too.

With a higher water table, groundwater will seep slowly into the river, year-round, increasing river baseflow.

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