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As Arizona’s Effluent Becomes More Valuable, Some Worry Rivers Could Lose Out
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Health of the Santa Cruz River: How Is It Doing?
In partnership with FOSCR, Santa Cruz County, and the Environmental Protection Agency (which funded the three-year grant), the Sonoran Institute (SI) developed a tool for assessing the overall health of the upper Santa Cruz River in our county for 2008, 2009 and 2010. We are expecting an abridged assessment of the river’s health between 2010 and 2014 from Sonoran Institute some time later this year (2014).
SI worked with FOSCR and a number of agency and university scientists to design a format regular people could use to find out how well the river is functioning for wildlife and people.
Together, we came up with ten major indicators of riparian health:
- Depth to groundwater
- Variability of groundwater depth (trees can’t grow roots to catch declining water table if it recedes too fast)
- Dissolved oxygen (all aquatic life need some to breathe)
- Ammonia (toxic to fish; organic pollution indicator)
- Riparian vegetation extent and type
- Phosphorus (pollution marker)
- Escherichia coli (E-coli bacteria found in the guts of all mammals; fecal contamination marker)
- Macroinvertebrates (diversity and species types indicate water quality over time)
- Fish (looking for native species, abundance)
To read how our river has changed over those three years (hint: after the 2009 upgrade of the wastewater treatment plant in Rio Rico, our native longfin dace returned!), read the Sonoran Institute’s article Charting the Health of the Upper Santa Cruz River.
Recently the Sonoran Institute updated their State of the Santa Cruz River- Conservation Inventory. The report can be accessed here: www.tiny.cc/santacruzriver