Fri, Feb. 28

Water: What happens here doesn't stay here

Tom O'Halleran

Tom O'Halleran

The Verde River Basin Partnership (Partnership) is working to preserve the Verde River Basin’s groundwater and surface waters by providing scientific and educational resources for citizens, community leaders and educators.

It is important to understand that the Verde River and its tributaries, seeps and springs are hydrologically interconnected. There is also an interconnection between the Basin’s waters and the residents that reside in its watershed.

The Las Vegas Tourism Council has coined the saying “what happens in Vegas stays in Vegas.” While that may be true of some activities in Vegas it is not true of issues dealing with the city’s water supply. As Vegas has grown so has its dependence on water and need for its allotment of water from the Colorado River.

The states upstream and downstream on the Colorado River became concerned and joined in a collaborative effort 90 years ago to assure that the scarce waters of the Colorado River Basin would be protected and fairly apportioned to the states along the river.

Rural communities within Nevada are also concerned that Las Vegas will transport water from their areas to augment supplies for Las Vegas. Taxpayers are concerned when water management planners discuss plans to build pipelines from the Pacific Ocean or Mississippi River at the cost of up to $11 billion in today’s dollars.

We in the Village of Oak Creek/Sedona area and throughout our Basin need to understand that unlike the Las Vegas Tourism Council our slogan should be “when it comes to water what happens here doesn’t stay here it impacts the entire Verde River Basin.”

This interconnected system of streams, creeks and springs all are part of the larger Verde River watershed, also called the Verde River Basin.The Village of Oak Creek and City of Sedona are located in two sub-watersheds of the Verde River Basin watershed.

The Village of Oak Creek is located in the Dry Beaver Creek sub-watershed. Dry Beaver Creek is an ephemeral stream that does not have a constant water flow.

The City of Sedona is located along Oak Creek in the Oak Creek sub-watershed. Oak Creek is a perennial stream that flows throughout the year. Both streams are tributaries of the Verde River.

If you are on earth you are in a watershed. Water that falls onto the ground as rain or snow eventually either evaporates, drains from the area, or infiltrates into the ground. On average only between about 2 to 4 percent of the precipitation that falls within the Basin infiltrates into the ground to supply our groundwater. In our watershed the groundwater flows slowly through pores and cracks in the rocks, eventually finding its way to wetlands, springs and the Verde River and its perennially flowing tributaries such as Oak Creek.

The groundwater and the river are thus intimately connected; indeed, groundwater seeping into the river provides approximates of its annual flow. The preservation and health of our watershed is important to our communities’ quality of life and economic viability.

“When we save a river, we save a major part of an ecosystem, and we save ourselves as well because of our dependence--physical, economic, and spiritual,-- on the water and its community of life.” Tim Palmer,- The Wild and Scenic Rivers of America

The 5,661-square-mile Basin extends from Prescott north to the unincorporated area of Paulden, south from the vicinity of Seligman to vicinity of Paulden, and south from there all the way the junction of the Verde River with the Salt River north of Mesa, Arizona. The Verde River is the basin’s master drainage. It flows essentially without interruption year-round from its groundwater-fed headwaters near Paulden for about 137 river miles to Horseshoe Reservoir. It is one of Arizona’s last-remaining perennial river systems and contains the state’s longest stretch of continuous areas of riparian habitat.

The Basin’s riparian habitat supports an amazing diversity of wildlife; 270 species of birds, 94 species of mammals, and 76 species of native amphibians and reptiles use the watershed at some point in their life cycles. Our Basin is also a national asset with up to two-thirds of its area managed by federal agencies.

The complex issues that involve our water supply are not as simple as water coming from our faucets. Legal issues such as endangered species, senior surface water rights, preservation of riparian habitat, relationship of surface water to groundwater, Native American rights etc. will continue to be at the forefront of our water debate.

Supply issues such as cost, impact on taxes, possible augmentation, water quality and quantity and land management will continue to be relevant components of public water-resource public policy. The impact that water in our desert environment has on our basic economic structure and tourism is immense. The Partnership is committed to providing information on these matters to enable citizens and public officials to make their decisions based on factual information.

So please remember when you hear about issues of water policy-hydrologic, legal, economic, or cultural within the Basin-these are issues that impact our entire shared Verde River watershed.

The Partnership has released the Verde River Guiding Principles to help you understand the influence of the river, its tributaries, and its groundwater sub-basins on you and your influence on them. You can go to to review the Principles and send us a message that you agree. If you have questions concerning water you can email at

“A river is the report card for its watershed.”- Alan Levere

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