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The concept is simple enough—when nature is healthy, it provides clean air and water that keeps us healthy, too.
Life here in Arizona cannot be sustained without water. From the waters that beaver and otter silently glide across, to the water that flows from our taps, water is life. But these life-giving waters are being altered in ways that threaten plants, animals and people.
Arizona is at a crossroads. Climate change, dramatic population growth and development are straining our ability to support wildlife, communities and our way of life.
Rivers at Risk
- Arizona is among the fastest growing states in the nation. Our population is expected to double by 2050.
- Arizona could lose 2.6 million acres of critical lands by 2050 based on recent growth patterns.
- Arizona ranks 7th in the nation for the number of species at risk.
- Arizona is the 3rd richest state in its diversity of plants and animals.
- 86 percent of Arizona’s native fish species are at risk of extinction—the highest in the nation.
- More than 35 percent of the streams that flow year round in Arizona have been lost.
The Verde and San Pedro rivers, two of Arizona’s premier waterways, are rich with life and possibilities. These rivers, and the underground aquifers that sustain them, provide homes to a multitude of important wildlife and are a main source of drinking water for growing Arizona communities.
Today, these rivers face a questionable future.
Many rivers in the American Southwest no longer continue to flow all year because of groundwater pumping and other water uses. As a result, ensuring the San Pedro and Verde flow consistently is critical given this loss of habitat on other Arizona rivers.
Eventually, if we don’t manage our limited water resources wisely, continued depletion of our groundwater could result in shortages to the water that now flows freely from the taps in our own homes.
In addition, climate change could cause shortages on the Colorado River, which would impact everyone who depends on this water system. The combination of growth and expected decreases in precipitation throughout the Colorado River Basin could be devastating.
Taxing a Frail Water System
Water in our arid land is a precious gift. Arizona’s rivers struggle against drought, climate change and human demands to quench the needs of nature and people alike.
Human consumption has placed an enormous strain on our fresh water supplies, disrupted migration and life cycles, and endangered vital wildlife and habitats.
The challenges we face today are like no other time in scale or complexity. Within the next 50 years, more than half of humanity will be living with water shortages unless something is done now to conserve this dwindling resource.
Solving our water challenges requires innovation, energy and resources. It also requires a new kind of conservation.
Hope on the Horizon
One of the most vexing global problems facing us today is ensuring peoples’ water needs are met without sacrificing the health of freshwater systems.
Despite these challenges, there is hope. Our commitment to protecting Arizona’s rivers is strong.
We work with communities, landowners, elected officials and public agencies to keep these treasures flowing.
This collaboration helps guide water management and land-use decisions to secure the health of our rivers now and in the future.
What You Can Do
- You can help stop the introduction and spread of invasive species in and around our rivers in six easy steps.
- Meet Taylor Hawes, the director of the Conservancy’s Colorado River Program, and learn how a growing demand on water is affecting this precious river system.
- Find out more about the science behind Arizona’s river systems at Arizona’s science site.
- Volunteer with The Nature Conservancy in Arizona to help conserve our lands and waters.