LOCATION: Oak Creek and Verde River Valley, Arizona
PROJECT PARTNER: Friends of the Verde River Greenway
START UP DATE: 2016
PROJECT TYPE: Water Management Agreements
WRCs GENERATED: No
The Verde River is treasured by Arizona communities that rely on it for drinking water, food production, and recreation. Its flowing waters and green, living corridor provide a unique and lush oasis in the high desert.
In the arid Southwest, many of the once flowing rivers and streams now only see flowing water during periods of extreme rain. In Arizona, 35% of the river miles that once flowed freely year-round no longer do. Several factors contribute to low water levels in these rivers including greater water demand than available river flows and proliferation of groundwater wells. One of the significant long-term threats to the Verde River is posed by continued increases in groundwater pumping.
One solution to these challenges is the preservation of groundwater and river flows through the implementation of voluntary groundwater mitigation programs.
In Arizona, groundwater makes up almost half of the state’s water supply, providing water resources for municipalities, businesses, homes, and agriculture. As groundwater is depleted, the amount of surface water in streams and rivers can also be depleted with reduced river flows over time.
Change the Course’s support for a voluntary pilot program led by the Friends of Verde River Greenway has the potential to shift this outcome, preserving a flowing river and protecting water supplies, while promoting sustainable economic development.
The pilot Groundwater Mitigation Program provides a vehicle for current and potential water users to work in concert to reduce the amount of water removed from the river and groundwater system through a balancing mechanism moving toward water neutrality. The mechanism involves “sellers” and “buyers.” Willing water users (“sellers”), voluntarily agree to not use a certain quantity of water for a defined period of time. A corresponding credit is provided to another user, (“buyers”) who wishes to balance the impact of their new or existing groundwater pumping.
Friends of Verde River Greenway (FVRG), working with a diverse set of collaborators, has developed several first of their kind groundwater mitigation demonstration projects. Pilot groundwater mitigation transactions will demonstrate that Verde Valley community members and local businesses are ready to be leaders in finding a solution that preserves the area’s waterways and promotes sustainable development.