PROJECT PARTNER: Arizona Land and Water Trust
START UP DATE: 2015
PROJECT TYPE: Water Management Agreements
WRCs GENERATED: Yes
The San Pedro River is the last major free-flowing river in the American Southwest and is of major ecological importance as it hosts two-thirds of the bird diversity in the United States, providing critical habitat for over 300 species of migrating birds. Despite its great ecological importance, the San Pedro River suffers from chronic low flows that result in part from extensive over pumping and use of groundwater. These low flow conditions negatively affect vegetation along the river banks and also reduce habitat available to support fish and wildlife.
BEF’s Change the Course funding for this project supports the Arizona Land and Water Trust’s work to develop an innovative agreement with a rancher to explore new ways to reduce ground water pumping and bolster flows to support San Pedro River habitat. The project explores alternative methods to manage near-river irrigated pasture lands and grow a drought tolerant native grass/rye mixture, thus reducing groundwater pumping needs and in turn helping the riparian ecosystem and river surface flows. The water conservation and reduction in pumping achieved by this project showcases a pilot approach to reduce the groundwater overdraft and achieve local improvements to water supply and habitat along the San Pedro River.