Not only does a river need water of an adequate quality to support a significant riparian ecosystem; it also needs a healthy watershed. The watershed is the entire area that drains into the river; its edges run along the peaks of all the surrounding highlands and mountains. The quality of the land that rain runs across on its way to the river makes a big difference to both the resulting water quality in the river and its flow characteristics.
Within the watershed, all rivers specifically need a functioning floodplain if they are to bring all their potential benefits to the communities they flow through. The floodplain is the part of the watershed that is periodically flooded near the river; it is generally flatter than the surrounding terrain. A broad, tree-filled floodplain built up with rich, spongy soils will absorb, slow and spread torrential floodwaters much more effectively than will a narrow, barren floodplain. Imagine a cement-lined canal as the ultimate non-functioning floodplain, and you can appreciate the difference.
FOSCR works with landowners and local and State agencies to protect the river by protecting, or improving, watershed lands and our functional floodplain through:
- Encouraging the techniques of water harvesting to keep water close to where it falls, so it can percolate into the ground;
- Supporting “best management practices” on grazing lands;
- Monitoring County regulation of building/development practices to assure that the long-term health of the watershed is maintained in the face of development;
- Serving on an advisory committee to update Santa Cruz County’s floodplain ordinance (http://www.co.santa-cruz.az.us/258/Ordinance-Advisory-Committee).