A kayaker in a wide-brimmed straw hat paddles a greenis
Verde River A kayaker paddles near Camp Verde. © Tana Kappel/TNC

The Nature Conservancy in Arizona

Salt and Verde Alliance

Arizona’s first water fund is designed to secure our state’s water future.

The Salt and Verde Rivers With support from Pepsico, we're working to find water-use solutions for the environment, farmers and communities.

WATER FOR ARIZONANS

The Salt and Verde Rivers, part of the Colorado River Basin, provide a substantial portion of the state’s population and economy with water—the greater Phoenix area and the communities and farms upstream. Sections of the Verde are seasonally dry due to water withdrawals. Continued groundwater pumping is depleting flows.

It is now time to address these issues on a larger
 scale, and inspire partnerships based on action with cities, corporations, farmers and other organizations, via a water fund. To oversee this effort, we’ve invited elected officials and community leaders to be part of the Salt and Verde Alliance: Healthy Rivers, Healthy Communities.

Water funds are founded on the principle that it is more cost effective to invest in natural solutions upstream to improve water flows and quality than build hard infrastructure downstream.

OUR GOALS

  • Create a sustainable funding mechanism for projects
  • Raise public awareness of the source of their water
  • Design and implement cost-effective projects as a way to close the gap between future 
water demand and our current supply to create
water security that supports continued economic development & healthy communities.
Protecting the Source Rivers and lakes are the lifeblood of our economy and our way of life in Arizona. Help us protect the source!

FREQUENTLY ASKED QUESTIONS

What is a Water Fund?
Water funds are based on the premise that natural ecosystems provide benefits to people - including freshwater. The quality and quantity of that freshwater can be impaired and put at risk by upstream uses and management decisions. Investments by downstream users to improve conditions upstream are often far more cost effective than the risk to operation of water treatment plants or developing alternative supplies of water.

What’s at Risk? 
Several sections of the Verde River go dry seasonally due to water withdrawals. Continued ground water pumping is river basins will result in declines in flow. Unmanaged forests and shrub lands put water supplies at risk from the pollution caused from catastrophic fires and overly dense trees reduce water supplies.

Do Water Funds Produce Results? 
The Nature Conservancy has established water funds in more than 60 locations that are in operation or development benefitting over 60 million people. Water funds can be designed to meet the needs and challenges of specific watersheds.

How is The Salt and Verde Valley Water Fund Unique? 
It is being designed to invest in specific projects that would benefit both water quality and water quantity.

What Qualifies as A Project?

  • Benefits both upstream and downstream interests
  • Measurable benefits to water quantity and quality
  • Cost effective

What Are Some Project Opportunities I Could Sponsor? 
To date, projects that have the most impact and meet the criteria above include working with farmers, irrigation districts, communities and others.

Projects could include automated diversions structures to better manage water withdrawals; drip irrigation and crop switching to reduce the amount of water diverted and consumed and improve water quality; land protection agreements to prevent more intensive water uses that result from subdivision; acquisition of water rights to help settlement agreements and create a mitigation to better manage groundwater use by developing a “ river friendly water market;” stormwater and effluent management to reduce impacts from pumping and sediment transport to the river, and forest restoration projects designed to accelerate the pace and scale of forest restoration.

How Will You Measure Project Effectiveness? 
The Conservancy is developing a system to quantify the benefits from projects and has completed a hydro-engineering study to identify the most cost effective projects in the Verde Valley based on cost and expected water return.

What Are Your Funding Goals? 
We want to raise $7 million in private, business and foundation funds to match with investments from cities over the next three years.

An estimated $20-100 million in priority projects have been identified. Funding will come from a variety of sources. The Conservancy has directly invested over $300,000 from corporate and foundation funds during the pilot phase. The Conservancy was also successful in crafting a $2.8 million federal matching grant to deploy drip irrigation on five farms and put a conservation easement on a portion of one farm.

How Can Corporations Ensure Arizona’s Water Future
It is expected that corporate and foundation investment would serve to help build momentum and proof of concept to attract sustainable funding from cities and provide matching funds for investments by cities. Funding can either come directly to the Conservancy or directly to the project recipient. In either case, the funds would be counted toward the funding goals.

Who Should I Contact? 
Call us directly about your interest in becoming an Arizona water leader.

Chandra Stewart – (602) 322-6996

Will Mandeville – (602) 322-6992