Earth Notes: The Verde River Exchange

Mar 22, 2017

Every year on March 22 the United Nations celebrates World Water Day. And one way to mark the occasion locally is with a new program aimed at keeping water in the Verde River.

The Verde River
Credit Friends of the Verde River Greenway

The Verde, one of the last, healthy, free-flowing rivers in Arizona, supports a vibrant streamside community of plants and animals, and provides water for drinking and for agriculture as well.

Yet as more and more people move into the area and tap underground sources, the water table is slowly dropping, in turn shrinking the river’s surface flow. The Friends of the Verde River Greenway, the Nature Conservancy, and other partners have developed a unique program of voluntary water offsets. The Verde River Exchange matches a landowner willing to reduce water use with someone wanting to buy offset credits to use the water.

The idea sounds great on paper, but can it work in real life? Jocelyn Gibbons, coordinator of the Exchange, has matched two local wineries willing to purchase water credits with a landowner who agreed to stop irrigating a large pasture — freeing up 2.7 million gallons a year.

Eric Glomski, owner of Page Springs Cellars Vineyards and Winery, was one of the water purchasers. He was eager to participate — as a former riparian ecologist he values the Verde River for more than just a water source for his grapes.