Anne Minard

Freelance Reporter

It’s tough to miss a century plant in full bloom. The plant’s base of wide, pointed leaves sends up an enormously tall stalk that blooms brilliantly in spring. Also called agave or mescal, it’s a plant that’s common throughout the desert Southwest.

People have been pitching in to help out some of Arizona’s endangered rivers—and they’re starting to make waves.

The Water Sentinels program got its start in 2006 as part of the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon Chapter.

Members say they grew tired of seeing local streams degraded by pollution, or “reduced to bone-dry washes” because of dams, diversions, and pumping.

Now more than 100 regular volunteers work on two main rivers—the Verde and the Salt.

Randall Babb / Arizona Game and Fish Department

There was a time when scientists feared the demise of an ugly little fish called humpback chub, which has lived in southwestern rivers for millions of years. One of its last holdouts is in the Grand Canyon section of the Colorado River at a major tributary, the Little Colorado. Glen Canyon Dam took its toll on the little fish, and by the late 1990s, its population plummeted to a few thousand.

But these days, the humpback chub appears to be making a comeback.

Photo courtesy of the National Park Service.

Grand Canyon National Park has issued five warnings this year about water shortages due to pipeline breaks. That means so far, it’s actually been a good year for the aging water system that park officials are dying to replace. 

Imagine hiking in the Grand Canyon and seeing a geyser. There are no natural geysers at Grand Canyon. But up to 25 times a year, the pipes break that carry water from the Inner Canyon to the rims.

Anne Minard / KNAU

The San Francisco Peaks appear to be as parched as the surrounding high desert landscape.

It may surprise some people that there are springs hidden in the forests throughout the small mountain range.

And in theory, there’s plenty of water for the animals that make a home in the Peaks, and perhaps even for the people who visit.

The biggest of these, Leroux Spring, has appeared bone dry for almost a century because its water has been diverted for other uses.

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