Verde River – Diamond-S Flow Restoration
The Verde River is Arizona’s only designated Wild and Scenic River. It delivers 40% of the surface water for the Phoenix metro area and is a critical Colorado River tributary providing diverse ecological benefits for myriad native desert fish and wildlife species. However, like many rivers in the West, the Verde River suffers from the existence of so many dams and diversions that, in places, the river’s flow is inadequate to fully support native fish, wildlife and recreation.
The Verde River Water Restoration Certificate® (WRC) flow restoration project is located near Camp Verde, AZ. Under historical conditions, area irrigators diverted the majority of the river’s flow into their irrigation canals during the dry summer months. Typically, the canal system would divert 30 or more cubic feet per second of flow from the river, and water that was not used by irrigators would flow through a five mile long ditch and be returned to the river at the end of the ditch. The consequence of this very large diversion is that the mainstem Verde River is seasonally dewatered over a 4.5+ mile section where the ditch bypasses water around the natural river channel.
Partnering with The Nature Conservancy, this project coordinates with local irrigators to install new infrastructure in the ditch system—such as modern, automated control structures that allow the irrigators to precisely control how much water they divert—helping them meet their farming needs while leaving significant amounts of “restored” water in the Verde River.
This project restores flow to the dewatered river reach that is immediately adjacent to the Wild and Scenic River section of the Verde River. As a result, the project extends viable habitat for several at risk and endangered fish species including the Razorback Sucker, Pike Minnow, Loach Minnow and Round Tail Chub. Importantly, the project has strong local support from irrigators (who will continue to receive their full allotment of water) and from local communities that desire to establish river recreation and tourism on the Verde River.
* Project supports agricultural water use efficiency to reduce the amount of water withdrawn from surface or groundwater sources.