Scottsdale invests to protect water resources

The Scottsdale City Council approved a three-year investment in the Northern Arizona Forest Fund, where they will strive to improve forest health and water quality in the Salt and Verde Rivers watersheds.

With a $120,000 investment in the Northern Arizona Forest Fund, developed by the NFF and Salt River Project (SRP) in 2014, the city’s Water Resources Division will handle watershed improvements.

“Forests in northern Arizona are the lifeblood of SRP’s water supply to metropolitan Phoenix," SRP Senior Analyst Rebecca Davidson told Arizona Business Daily. The runoff from rain and snow that falls on those forests flows downstream, filling Salt and Verde River reservoirs. When those forests are healthy, they protect winter snowpack, preventing it from melting too fast. And they filter runoff so that water flowing into reservoirs is clean and relatively free of sediment. Scorched forests do the opposite, exposing snow to excessive sunlight, which causes it to melt more quickly. Post-fire flooding and runoff from fire-scarred areas drains into SRP’s reservoirs and brings with it ash and debris. This waste settles at the base of the dams, reducing reservoir capacity, affecting water quality and causing maintenance problems for water infrastructure.”

By improving the watersheds and returning them to more natural conditions, the Northern Arizona Forest Fund can ensure long-term and sustainable water supplies for Arizona residents. Therefore, they are implementing high-priority projects in the Apache-Sitgreaves, Coconino, Kaibab, Prescott and Tonto National Forests.

“The future of Northern Arizona Forestlands looks bright. The vision is a restored landscape resilient to drought and fire that moves us closer to more historic ecological conditions that includes restorative low-intensity fire," Davidson said. "Through improved conditions, we benefit from cleaner air and a more certain future for the water supplies that are so important to the environment and to local and state economies."

Still, Davidson says the bright future and overall health of Arizona's forests and water is dependent on cooperative efforts. 

"But there is still much work to do. And we in Arizona must work together to innovate solutions, to create efficiencies in process and to get work done on the ground. Everyone has a role to play and has a stake in our future.”

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