Monitoring the Lower Santa Cruz River

May 7, 2013

Rivers in the arid Southwest have sustained people and supported an abundance of plants and wildlife for thousands of years. The numerous services that these rivers perform provide substantial benefits to the people living near them. Plants growing along the river naturally slow flood flows, filter pollutants from the water, improve air quality and provide shade and habitat.

The Santa Cruz River supports the culturally and ecologically diverse region of the Southwest. Recognizing the river's importance to the communities who depend on it, the Sonoran Institute is leading a project that assesses the health of the river and identifies protection and restoration needs of the Lower Santa Cruz River. Sonoran will be working with Pima County, Arizona to use the project to monitor river health and disseminate wetland and river conditions. The project will use the same stakeholder process and report format as the Living River Reports which tracked the health of a 20-mile stretch of the river in Santa Cruz County, AZ, from Rio Upper Santa Cruz River from 2008 through 2010.

EcoFlight flew Sonoran Institute and Pima County staff over an effluent-dependent stretch of the Lower Santa Cruz River where they are working to develop the wetland monitoring program. The aerial perspective was helpful in giving passengers a big picture view of the river and the systems that it supports in this arid region.