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Living River of Words

For more information, call 724-5375 or email Environmental EducationPima County invites local youth (ages 5 to 19) to explore the wonders of water and express their creativity by entering the Living River of Words: Youth Poetry and Art Contest.

This website provides ideas and resources for teachers, parents, club leaders, or anyone in the community to engage young people in a mixture of art, science, and nature. By participating in the Living River of Words (LROW), young people can:
Artwork by Evelyn Allen - LROW 2020 Finalist
  • Learn about water resources.
  • Develop a sense of place by getting to know the Santa Cruz River and their own local watershed.
  • Sharpen the skills critical to both art and science:
  • Share their learning and creativity with the community by entering the Living River of Words: Youth Poetry and Art Contest (deadline: April 2, 2021).

Download the 2020-21 Entry Form and Rules: Tri-Fold Brochure with Entry Form | Easy-to-Print 8.5x11 Entry Form

Teachers and Group Leaders: 
Due to the COVID-19 pandemic and the evolving situation in K-12 schools, we will not be offering the structured LROW field trip and residency program during the 2020-21 season, but we are still here to help!

Please explore these resources and contact us if you have questions, need help engaging your students, or would like to arrange a time to drop off contest entries: Pima County Environmental Education | (520) 724-5375 or

Living River of Words is a regional coordinator providing local support for River of Words®.

Living River of Words: Youth Poetry and Art Exhibit 2020

Due to library closures during the COVID-19 pandemic, the exhibit featuring the winners of the 2020 Living River of Words: Youth Poetry and Art Contest is unable to travel in the community this season. During the late fall and early winter, the beautiful, award-winning artwork and poetry was on display in the windows of the Pima County School Superintendent's Office in downtown Tucson. Thank you to all the community partners, teachers, schools, families, and students who helped make that bright spot in our community possible during these challenging times.

Now, you can e
njoy the wonder of our local waterways and wild places through the eyes of these talented young poets and artists online. Download the digital version of the exhibit book in PDF format or browse the gallery of finalists and winners on the Pima County NRPR Facebook Page.

2020 LROW Cover 2020 LROW Digital Gallery
photoLiving River of Words Partners with the Living River Project
Since it began attracting people to the region more than 12,000 years ago, the Santa Cruz River has undergone a series of dramatic changes. Initially a flowing life force teeming with fish, frogs, and other wildlife, the river all but dried up over the last century as groundwater pumping increased along with the human population and its ever-growing demand for water.

Today, however, thanks to the release of effluent — or highly treated wastewater — into the river, certain sections of the Santa Cruz River again flow year-round. This practice is not only re-creating our flowing river heritage, but is also supporting important wildlife habitat and building a valued community amenity. As effluent helped create a thriving river ecosystem along this corridor, the community responded by building numerous river parks and The Loop recreational trail ( to provide easier access to this river bounty.

Effluent in the Lower Santa Cruz River is not new; two wastewater treatment plants have been operating on this section of the river since the 1970s. What has changed is the quality of the effluent being released. In its largest public works project ever, Pima County upgraded two wastewater treatment plants in 2013. The upgrade significantly improved the quality of water released into the river, a key ingredient for a healthier river. The river now attracts walkers and bikers and is a popular birding destination from the Sweetwater Wetlands to the Marana Flats.

The Living River Project aims to gauge conditions of this valuable ecosystem and track the impacts of our community investment. All Living River reports and associated documents for the Lower Santa Cruz River are available for download on the Sonoran Institute website at

In 2014, EPA grant funding for the Living River Project allowed for a pilot project to bring student groups on field trips to the flowing portions of the lower Santa Cruz River. Through this partnership, Pima County was able to expand environmental science, poetry, and art residencies for students to prepare entries to the Living River of Words: Youth Poetry and Art Contest. Each year since then, hundreds of students have visited the Santa Cruz River and shared their creative reflections with the community through art and poetry.

LROW is also a partnership with the Regional Flood Control District.
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Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation

3500 W. River Road
Tucson, AZ 85741

(520) 724-5000

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