Earth Notes
4:00 am
Wed September 5, 2012

Earth Notes: Arizona’s Water Sentinels

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.

The Verde River was listed by American Rivers as one of the country’s most endangered rivers in 2006. It supports important habitat for threatened and endangered species, provides drinking water for Phoenix, and offers ample recreation. But it’s hammered by groundwater pumping and water quality threats like bacteria, arsenic and an overload of sediment.

Water Sentinels volunteers make monthly visits to specific sites between the Verde’s headwaters and Camp Verde, farther downstream. They track the river’s volume and measure indicators like pH, dissolved oxygen, arsenic, suspended sediment, and bacteria levels. They report the data to the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality to help satisfy requirements of the Clean Water Act.

As for the Salt River, the Water Sentinels make frequent cleanup trips to a stretch that flows through the heart of Phoenix. Steve Pawlowski, the program director, said those efforts have made a visible and refreshing difference.

Pawlowski says he’s always looking for new hands on deck. Visit the KNAU website to find out how you can help.