Arizona Businesses Step Up to Protect Our Water Supply and Enhance Verde River Flows

Out of Africa and The Fish’s Garden Join Verde River Exchange

Phoenix, Arizona | October 17, 2017

Arizona Business leaders are taking the lead in protecting water for our future while enhancing Verde River flows to support fish and recreation. The Verde River Exchange Water Offset Program, a water conservation program aimed at protecting the flowing waters of the Verde River and connected streams, doubled its size in its second year with four Verde Valley business leaders joining the program. As a result, about 2,591,000 gallons (9.2 acre-feet) of water will be returned to the Verde River and its tributaries through the Exchange this year.

The Verde River Exchange provides a way for Verde Valley groundwater users to voluntarily buy “Water Offset Credits,” which are generated from willing water users who temporarily reduce their water usage. “The Exchange allows Verde Valley residents and businesses to reduce their water ‘footprint’— and thus help protect Verde River flows,” says Jocelyn Gibbon, who coordinates the program on behalf of Friends of Verde River Greenway.

The program’s inaugural pilot project leaders, Page Springs Vineyards & Cellars and Merkin Vineyards, have renewed their participation. Eric Glomski of Page Springs Cellars commented: “We are excited other Verde Valley business owners are participating in this innovative and locally grown program. The Verde River is a gigantic indicator for the condition of our landscape and of our relationship to it. It’s good business to keep it flowing.” For its 2017 commitment, Page Springs is offsetting the water used to grow about four and a half acres of grapes.

Merkin Vineyards will be offsetting the water used at the Merkin Vineyards Tasting Room & Osteria in downtown Cottonwood, Arizona. Owner Maynard Keenan is dedicated to protecting the area’s water resources and the river that runs through the Verde Valley’s unique landscape—while demonstrating the potential for long-term sustainability of the wine industry in arid Arizona.

Two additional local businesses joined the Verde River Exchange in 2017:

“Each business and landowner who joins the exchange program increases our ability to protect and enhance the Verde River for the communities, landowners and nearly 300 wildlife species that depend on it,” said Carol Peden Schilling, chair of the board of trustees for the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust, a program funder. “We are pleased to invest in such forward-thinking endeavors in support of Arizona’s critical waterways.”

The Verde River Exchange, launched in July 2016, is an innovative new program designed to spark dialogue and engagement around local water management while putting real water back in the river. Without action, Verde River water levels are expected to continue to decline over time as increased groundwater pumping and changing weather patterns intensify the stresses on the river system. “We are very pleased to see four Verde Valley business leaders joining the Verde River Exchange in 2017,” says Chip Norton, President of Friends of Verde River Greenway, the non-profit heading up the Verde River Exchange. “This kind of community-driven progress is exactly what’s needed to protect the Verde River and to ensure that the Verde Valley thrives for generations to come.”

Verde Valley businesses and residents interested in participating in the Exchange can contact Friends of Verde River Greenway. The program has limited additional Water Offset Credits available for purchase in 2017.

Out of Africa Wildlife Park, one of the Verde Valley’s largest businesses, plans to use the water offset through the Verde River Exchange for a local celebrity—Totter the Otter—the baby otter that gained national attention after being rescued from a Salt River Project canal this spring. Out of Africa is creating a habitat that will cater to the baby otter’s playful nature and will offset that water use, as well as water for its Tiger Splash exhibit. “Totter is known and loved across Arizona, and Out of Africa is one of the Verde Valley’s largest local businesses,” notes Bill Jump of Out of Africa. “We hope that our decision to offset some of the water used at Out of Africa will be highly visible and will inspire thoughtful and responsible water management in the Verde Valley and beyond.”

The Fish’s Garden, already a sustainability-minded business, is taking its water conservation leadership to the next level by joining the Verde River Exchange. The Fish’s Garden utilizes aquaponics, a cutting-edge method of low-water-use farming that combines fish and vegetable farming in a single system. First started as a small family business in Camp Verde, Arizona, Cat and B.J. Davis now run a 3,000-square-foot commercial greenhouse that sells produce to local restaurants in the Verde Valley. Says B.J. Davis, “Offsetting our water use through the Verde River Exchange is a great way to make The Fish’s Garden even more sustainable while protecting the Verde River in the process.”

Along with Friends of Verde River Greenway, Verde River Exchange partners include Environmental Defense Fund, The Nature Conservancy, Walton Family Foundation, the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust and Bonneville Environmental Foundation.

The Nature Conservancy is a global conservation organization dedicated to conserving the lands and waters on which all life depends. Guided by science, we create innovative, on-the-ground solutions to our world's toughest challenges so that nature and people can thrive together. We are tackling climate change, conserving lands, waters and oceans at an unprecedented scale, providing food and water sustainably and helping make cities more sustainable. Working in 72 countries, we use a collaborative approach that engages local communities, governments, the private sector, and other partners. To learn more, visit or follow @nature_press on Twitter.

Contact information

Tracey Stone
The Nature Conservancy
(602) 738-1586

Nicole Gonzalez Patterson
Friends of Verde River Greenway
(602) 316-1343