Caring for the Santa Cruz River: Making Improvements for Nature and Community

Newly Released Living River Report for Water Year 2018 Highlights Aquatic Invertebrate Diversity Increase and Improved Water Quality

The health of the Santa Cruz River continues to improve significantly. The return of aquatic wildlife to the river is proof that clean and reliable water benefits this unique desert ecosystem. In the newly released Living River report, Pima County and Sonoran Institute highlight the increase in aquatic invertebrate diversity, the newest arrival of the russet-tipped clubtail, and continued improved water quality and clarity. The Gila topminnow continues to thrive in the Santa Cruz.

“Today, you can walk or cycle along The Chuck Huckelberry Loop and see the beautiful perennial flow, aquatic habitat, and wildlife in and around the Santa Cruz River. Seeing the changes along our Living River reminds us that a healthy river is pivotal to our future water needs and regional vitality.” Sonoran Institute Ecologist, Claire Zugmeyer, said.

New legislation allows more credit for effluent recharged along the river. The river flows year-round through northwest Tucson and Marana, with most of the water coming from Pima County’s two regional water reclamation facilities –Tres Ríos and Agua Nueva, which began operations in 2013 following $600 million in improvements. The high quality water has been the key ingredient in the rebirth of the lower Santa Cruz, now the longest stretch of river in Arizona dominated by effluent and Pima County’s principal wetland.

“Having an improved continuous source of water flowing through the Santa Cruz River has generated a lot of community interest, which the Regional Flood Control District is now using to form a river management plan. This plan will help the District provide new recreational opportunities and restore native vegetation to previously disturbed areas while simultaneously protecting people and property from flooding hazards,” stated Joe Cuffari, Pima County Regional Flood Control District.

The Living River reports are modeled from the series Sonoran Institute pioneered for the river near Nogales. In collaboration with Pima County and Pima County Regional Flood Control District, the 2012 series expanded to include the reach near Tucson. The latest report is the sixth annual of this series, and is available online.

Join the Sonoran Institute and Pima County in celebrating the Santa Cruz River.

  • Pick up your copy of the Living River Report for the 2018 Water Year at Tucson Meet Yourself at the Pima County Downtown Library in the Regional Flood Control District and Regional Wastewater Reclamation Department display, Friday and Saturday, Oct. 11-12, 2019 from 11:00 AM–5:00 PM.
  • Attend Dragonfly Day on the Santa Cruz at Crossroads at Silverbell Park, 7548 N Silverbell Rd., Marana, AZ (Ramada #2 near baseball diamonds) on November 9, 2019 from 9 AM–2 PM.