Sharing Research to Improve Life Along the Santa Cruz

Tenth annual Research Days includes premiere of new online tool and field trip

The Sonoran Institute is hosting the Santa Cruz River Research Days 10th Anniversary event, drawing scientists and community leaders from throughout Southern Arizona for two days of learning, catalyzing collaborative projects, prioritizing research, and visiting a successful restoration site. A group of more than a dozen juried ecologists, hydrologists, planners and officials will present their research and conservation efforts focused on the river.

The Santa Cruz is unique because it is dependent on effluent, or highly-treated recycled water, that supports almost 50 miles of vital wildlife habitat. The river has seen remarkable improvements to its health in recent decades and has assumed an increasing role in community development and local economics. “The one thing that’s certain is that the Santa Cruz River is alive and significantly healthier with each passing year,” said Claire Zugmeyer, Sonoran Institute’s ecologist. “The Living River is worth celebrating and protecting for wildlife and the community who is drawn to walking, biking and birdwatching along the river.”

However, effluent is not guaranteed to remain in the river and could be diverted to other uses.

A new online tool will premiere during the first day of the event: an interactive story map titled, The Many Benefits of Effluent Flows in the Santa Cruz River, designed to lead viewers through a richly-illustrated guide to river history and current status as Pima County’s primary wetland habitat. The tool is geared to water managers to help them identify areas with the highest value in several categories: natural environment, water supply, and human landscape, which includes historical and cultural value, economic development, recreation, safety and social equity.

A field trip on the second day takes participants to a restoration site along the river in Midvale Park, a Tucson neighborhood originally designed and built in the 1980’s with new housing and businesses still popping up today. Changes to floodplain maps meant that some of the land originally bladed for homes remains undeveloped. On windy days, dust from the vacant land lowers air quality for nearby families, and the lack of vegetation has allowed stormwater to rapidly erode the barren landscape.

Restoration efforts include planting native vegetation and shaping basins and berms to better control flooding, which has improved wildlife habitat and quality of life for neighbors. “This site is a great place to be creative and try innovative ideas,” said Watershed Management Group’s Trevor Hare, who will lead a tour of the area. “For example, we are collaborating with Kieran Sikdar from Holistic Engineering and Land Management, Inc., to bring goats in to control weeds and invasive plants.”

All events are free and open to the public.

Tuesday, October 30, 2018 from 8:30am–5:00pm
Wednesday, October 31, 2018 from 8:30am–3:00pm

Pima Community College–Desert Vista Campus, Community Room
5901 S. Calle Santa Cruz; Tucson, Arizona 85709 

Full Event Program

Tour of Midvale Restoration Project
Wednesday, October 31, 2018 from 1:15 pm–3:00 pm
Closest address: Bufkin Dr & W Lama Dr; Tucson, AZ 85746