Verde River Water Savings

Verde River Water Savings

Flows in the Verde River in central Arizona are at historic lows and sections of the river are close to drying up due to imbalanced water use. Drought, competing demands and overuse are straining the river. For many years, the Trust has worked with conservation partners on projects to restore and protect the Verde.

In 2020, the Trust began implementation of a five-year Environmental Initiative Roadmap, which guides the current phase of its environmental work in Arizona and Indiana. The majority of the Trust’s environmental efforts in Arizona are focused on the Verde River watershed. From 2020-2024, the Trust plans to invest $7.7 million in Verde projects.

Three Trust-funded Verde roadmap projects, led by The Nature Conservancy, saved more than 2.1 billion gallons of water in 2021 and protected more than 140 miles of river and habitat.

Eureka Ditch Piping

The Eureka Ditch, established in 1895, is the newest of the four major ditches in the Camp Verde area that draw water from the Verde River. Originally, the earthen irrigation ditch served six farms. Today, it provides water to more than 200 property owners. Because of its dirt lining, a nearly three-quarter-mile section of the Eureka Ditch near Camp Verde sees the greatest water loss, with 10-15% of the diverted river water intended for irrigation lost through seepage and evaporation. In March 2021, The Nature Conservancy installed piping in the leaky stretch, eliminating water losses and reducing the amount of water the ditch company operator must divert to meet user needs.

Yavapai-Apache Nation Small Grains Program

In 2019, The Nature Conservancy partnered with Yavapai-Apache Nation’s Agriculture Resource Department on a demonstration project to help restore streamflow to the Verde River by converting a portion of YAN’s farm along the river to small grain crops that require up to 50% less water than traditional crops, like alfalfa. The first year of the project, YAN converted 12 acres to less thirsty crops. Based on initial success, it expanded the project area to include nearly 100 acres of grain in 2021, with plans to convert additional acreage in 2022. In addition to crop conversion, YAN is improving irrigation efficiency by switching from flood to sprinkler irrigation. This project is both restoring the Verde River and increasing economic opportunities for YAN.

Mason Lane Ditch Headgate

Oak Creek is a tributary of the Verde River and one of the few perennial streams in the high desert region of northern Arizona. The Mason Lane Ditch is the largest diversion on Oak Creek, used to irrigate more than 230 acres of land. Before The Nature Conservancy installed an automated headgate, no controls were in place to regulate the amount of water being diverted from Oak Creek into the ditch. The new system lets irrigators more precisely control how much water they divert from Oak Creek, allowing them to take only the amount needed to adequately water their crops.

To learn more about the Trust’s environmental initiatives, visit here.