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  • Water and Riparian Resources

    Riparian HabitatThe Water Resources Division encompasses a diverse group of programs that support the Regional Flood Control District mission by protecting public safety and providing a balanced multi-objective approach to managing regional watercourses and their natural and water resources.

    We maintain and operate an extensive Precipitation and Streamflow Monitoring program (ALERT System). Central to this program is a network of sensors that automatically collect and transmit hydrometeorologic data from regional watersheds that affect eastern Pima County. This system is important in flood warning/emergency preparedness efforts and data collected is useful for other purposes.

    Riparian habitatRain and streamflow in our arroyos and rivers support vegetation that, due to the presence of water, is distinctly different from the vegetation of adjacent upland areas. These wetter habitats are called riparian areas. Riparian areas contain critical ecosystems that support native and migratory species. In fact, Sixty to seventy-five percent of all species in Arizona rely on a riparian environment at some point during their life cycle.  Planning and construction of projects that include Riparian Habitat Restoration provides an array of benefits to the natural environment and the urban community. Riparian Land Acquisition and Management is important as both natural riparian areas and constructed ecosystem restoration projects can have unique resources and management needs.

    The water resources in Pima County are used not only to support the environment, but also to support the community. Through our Groundwater Recharge and Replenishment program we are replenishing the urban aquifer. Our Water Conservation and Management program contributes to regional drought management and public education. We have an array of Water Resources Planning and Reports available.

    Many of these programs and other activities carried out by staff support the goals and objectives of the Pima County Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan, and associated Multi-Species Conservation Plan.

    Water Resources

    Water Resources Planning and Reports

    Among its many functions, the District is involved in water policy and the protection of the County’s water resources. Water resources play in important role in many of Pima County’s activities. The Pima County Board of Supervisors approved and supports Pima Prospers, which includes a Water Resources Element. These policies bring water resources impacts resulting from changes in land use intensity and density to the attention of the Planning & Zoning Commission and the Board of Supervisors. By bringing these impacts to their attention earlier in the planning stages the impacts can be considered along with the other regional plan elements before land use decisions are made.

    Water Conservation and Management

    The most precious resource in our Sonoran Desert is life-giving water.  Although Pima County is not a water provider, water conservation is highly encouraged and is promoted through Drought Management awareness efforts. Your local water provider will have suggestions on how to conserve water. Information about rainwater harvesting may be found on our Water Harvesting page.

    The Southwest is in its second decade of drought. In response, the Pima County Board of Supervisors has enacted a Drought Management Plan and Pima County is designated by the Arizona Department of Water Resources as the Local Area Drought Impact Group.

    Groundwater Recharge and Replenishment

    Water resources in Pima County support the natural environment as well as the urban community. The District’s statutory authority under ARS 48-3603 allows us to construct and operate groundwater recharge facilities that also have flood control benefits. Through the Groundwater Recharge and Replenishment program, the District uses this authority to replenish area aquifers. The Regional Flood Control District is involved in several pilot recharge projects, primarily intended to evaluate groundwater quality and riparian habitat viability.

    The Marana High Plains Effluent Recharge Project was conceived as a two-year constructed pilot project to investigate the feasibility of using treated Santa Cruz River effluent to enhance riparian habitat while recharging the aquifer. Because of favorable recharge rates, the project was extended beyond the pilot stage, as noted in the fact sheet.

    The Lower Santa Cruz Replenishment Project was completed in 1998 by the District in partnership with the Central Arizona Water Conservation District. The project was constructed in conjunction with a flood control levee along the Santa Cruz River to protect the Town of Marana from flooding and to provide for underground storage of Central Arizona Project water. Entities storing water include the Arizona Water Banking Authority, Central Arizona Groundwater Replenishment District, Metropolitan Domestic Water Improvement District, the Town of Marana and Robson Communities.

    The Lower Santa Cruz Managed Recharge Project is a cooperative effort among the US Bureau of Reclamation, Pima County, the City of Tucson, Metropolitan Domestic Water Improvement District and the Town of Oro Valley to store effluent underground for recovery at a later time. Each of the cooperators have control of a share of effluent generated at Pima County’s Ina Road Water Pollution Control Facility and Roger Road Wastewater Treatment Plant that is discharged to the Santa Cruz River.

    Located at the Avra Valley Wastewater Treatment Facility, the Avra Riparian Restoration and Groundwater Replenishment Project is a proposed project that will create a world-class site for wildlife watching; protection and enhancement of scarce riparian areas and wildlife habitat; environmental education and other outdoor recreations activities, while reclaiming, reusing and recharging valuable and scarce water resources.

    Riparian Habitat Restoration

    Only a century ago the Santa Cruz River flowed year-round at San Xavier del Bac and near downtown Tucson. Rillito Creek and portions of Tanque Verde Creek, Sabino Creek, and even Pantano Wash were also perennial. High water tables supported extensive forests of mesquite, cottonwood, and willow. Beaver swam in Tanque Verde Creek.

    Habitat loss due to stream flow disappearance, groundwater pumping, floodplain development, erosion, and urban development have significantly altered the biologically rich and diverse riparian corridors of eastern Pima County. Wherever feasible, Pima County supports riparian restoration in our areas river corridors and floodplains.

    There are new opportunities to recreate or enhance some of our river systems and their associated floodplains. We are actively working to restore sensitive environments in riverine corridors and floodplains throughout our community. The watercourses in Pima County continue to serve as critical habitat and important community areas.

    Please see the active links below for more information for selected projects. Many of the projects are still being planned and designed, so more information will be posted as it becomes available. For a brief summary of several of our more significant pending projects and competed projects, see our Riparian Projects brochure. More detailed information on projects can be found from the list of active and completed Riparian Habitat and Ecosystem Restoration Projects on the Projects page.
    Riparian habitat restoration

    Resource Management

    The District manages and maintains land throughout eastern Pima County for the purpose of preserving riparian habitat and the natural function of floodplains to reduce flood hazards to the public.  Please visit our Riparian Land Acquisition and Management page for more information.

    Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan and Multi-Species Conservation Plan

    An important goal of Pima County's Sonoran Desert Conservation Plan is to ensure the long-term survival of the full spectrum of plants and animals indigenous to the county.

    One of the most effective ways we can accomplish this is by preserving or improving riparian habitat areas and the ecosystem functions necessary for their survival. The Riparian Element of the SDCP identified the need for additional protection, management, and restoration of riparian areas, springs, streams and supporting shallow groundwater resources.

    The District is involved in an array of activities in support of the SDCP. Check out the links below for more information on some of these core activities. While much has been accomplished, protection, management and restoration efforts will continue to be an important task for the coming decades.

    • Riparian Protection—includes revisions to standards and guidelines for mitigating and protecting riparian habitat in Pima County.
    • Riparian Land Acquisition and Management—includes management of lands acquired under the Floodprone Land Acquisition Program.  Many of these areas are sensitive ecologically.  Open space acquisition provides benefits to the land, water, and quality of life that all Pima County residents can enjoy,
    • Riparian Restoration—includes projects designed to repair damage to floodplains caused by previous agricultural, mining and urban activities.
    • Water Conservation and Management—includes the new water policy.
    • Ecological Monitoring—includes development of the monitoring methods for regional ecosystem trends
    • Pima County's Native Plant Program - A status update on Pima County's Native Plant Salvage and Reestablishment Program. The Native Plant Tool allows users to create a native plant list by Township, Range, and Section.
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    Regional Flood Control District

    201 N. Stone Avenue, 9th Fl.
    Tucson, AZ 85701

    Phone: (520) 724-4600
    Fax: (520) 724-4621

    Customer Service Hours:
    8:00AM - 4:00PM

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