Managing Water For a Better Arizona Future

Watershed mgmt backyard image future
By Jill Bernstein

Water is life, and as desert dwellers it is especially important that we make the most of this precious resource. To do that, we need to understand and work with the basic fact that water flows. Where and how it flows – from our yards, to the gutters in our streets, the washes running through the desert, and the streams flowing to the rivers, lakes and oceans – is determined by geography of the setting and the watershed, the area bound by a divide that directs that flow.

Luckily, Arizona is home to the Watershed Management Group (WMG), a Tucson-based nonprofit organization that works throughout southern and central Arizona helping individuals, businesses, schools, community groups and water advocates develop community-based watershed management solutions. These solutions include programs for individuals who want to transform their yards; businesses that want to create sustainable landscaping; educational programs for schools that range from students to teachers and maintenance staff; and community workshops for neighborhoods who want to create community gardens, pocket parks, or improve their local streetscape. WMG also works with diverse community stakeholders to develop stormwater resource plans and infrastructure, stream restoration, and sustainable policies and codes to help move them toward a healthier, more water-resilient future.

There are a variety of ways to get involved with WMG. You can supply much-needed donations, sign up for the newsletter and weekly email, or become a “get your hands dirty” volunteer by joining either the Phoenix or Tucson Co-op, taking classes and tours,Watershed Mgmt workers on project and more. You can also join the Monsoon Squad, WMG’s on-the-ground task force caring for community rain gardens in Tucson. If you’re looking for a more serious commitment, become a Living Lab & Learning Center Docent by participating in a 50-hour program that provides you with the skills and knowledge to lead tours and spread the WMG mission through Living Lab & Learning Center projects. Docents make a 5-10 hour a month service commitment for one year.

In 2017, WMG is focused on watershed unity, which includes advancing women through safe and encouraging learning environments and new “women build” workshops; embracing diversity both in their staff and programs; redoubling their efforts to serve low-income communities through partnerships and development of environmental literacy curriculum for teachers in areas that suffer from chronic flooding and urban heat islands; and building political bridges across party lines to restore Arizona rivers.

To forge a new path for Arizona’s water future, in 2013 WMG launched the 50-Year Program to “restore the heritage of year-round, free-flowing rivers in southern Arizona.” Until the 1950s much of the Santa Cruz River and its tributaries flowed year round. Today, springs throughout southern Arizona have diminished, and many creeks and rivers flow only after heavy rains. You can learn more about efforts to make these rivers flow again by joining the River Run Network, becoming a river advocate, and learning about WMG’s hydro-regional policy platform developed in concert with the Community Water Coalition.

Water is life. Understanding how to best manage this precious resource is key to building a healthy, sustainable future for our desert state.

Learn more about Watershed Management Group and the important work they are accomplishing at, or call 520-396-3266 (Tucson) or 602-618-6650 (Phoenix).

Jill Bernstein is the Executive Director of Keep Arizona Beautiful, a statewide nonprofit organization dedicated to empowering communities to take care of their environment through litter abatement, recycling and beautification.

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