Sonoran Institute awarded 2017 RBC Blue Water Project Leadership Grant

Project will address impacts of flooding on Tucson’s south side

Tucson, AZ (April 5, 2017) – Sonoran Institute and Royal Bank of Canada (RBC) are pleased to announce Sonoran Institute’s Airport Wash Green Infrastructure Project focusing on Tucson, Arizona’s south side has been awarded a 2017 Blue Water Leadership Grant. RBC has awarded the Tucson-based organization $55,000. Sonoran Institute is one of four organizations in the United States and one of 28 organizations globally to receive a Blue Water Leadership Grant.

“RBC launched the Blue Water Project in 2007 to address two major issues: watershed projection and access to clean drinking water,” said Richard Schaefer, senior vice president and branch director, of RBC Wealth Management in Tucson, “Since then, RBC has invested over $49 million Canadian dollars ($36.6 million USD) in communities around the world. Sonoran Institute’s long track record of successful community-based conservation in Tucson, and throughout the West, made it the perfect candidate for such a prestigious award. I am excited that the Tucson community will benefit from this investment and this project will strategically address our two major focus points.”

The award-winning project will address urban flooding and water quality issues in the neighborhood adjacent to Airport Wash on Tucson’s south side. The project will use Green Infrastructure (GI) – an approach to water management that protects, restores, or mimics the natural water cycle and often involves planting trees and restoration rather than expensive infrastructure – to build a large pilot GI demonstration site that will serve as a model to fund and carry out similar projects in and around Tucson. Sonoran Institute, along with project leaders Watershed Management Group and the University of Arizona, will begin working with neighborhood leaders to design the project over the summer and anticipate project construction in the fall.

“We are excited to be a partner with RBC in this important project and are grateful for their substantial investment in Tucson.” said Stephanie Sklar, CEO of Sonoran Institute, “Urban flooding and its impacts on our communities have always been a concern; however, with climate change, these impacts have become more severe and more frequent. Tucson is one of the leading communities using Green Infrastructure (GI) to address climate impacts and we believe this demonstration project will make the case that GI can be used more widely to address extensive flooding issues. This project reflects the Sonoran Institute’s core mission. We have spent over 25 years helping communities across the West adapt and face challenges. We can’t wait to get started!”

Beneficiaries of the improvements will include residents around Airport Wash in Tucson’s south side; RBC Wealth Management employees, whom Sonoran Institute will train and engage in project activities; and other Tucson residents who will benefit from wide-spread use of GI. The project links to a broader initiative to create a city-wide GI fund (or utility) advocated by the Community Water Coalition, Ward 1 Councilwoman Regina Romero, and other elected officials.


John Shepard, Sonoran Institute,, 520-290-0828 x 1118