(Phoenix, Ariz.—May 30, 2012) The Little Colorado River was celebrated today as the third “River of the Month” in a year-long series in honor of 100 years of Arizona statehood. Five conservation groups released a short profile of the Little Colorado River detailing its ecology, geography and use, as well as threats to the river. The profile is available here.
The “Celebrating Arizona’s Rivers” series profiles a different Arizona river each month to raise awareness about rivers in a state not often thought of for its river resources. It also encourages people to get involved by joining a local watershed group or by communicating with elected officials about the value of the state’s water resources. The series is produced by Environmental Defense Fund, Sierra Club, Grand Canyon Trust, Sonoran Institute, and Western Resource Advocates.
According to the Little Colorado profile released today, the Little Colorado River watershed spans over 27,000 square miles and covers 19 percent of the state of Arizona – a significant drainage area that also includes a small portion of western New Mexico as well as Navajo, Hopi and Zuni tribal lands. The Little Colorado River watershed supports over 5,000 acres of streamside wildlife habitat, varying from alpine meadow to desert cottonwood groves. The river originates in the White Mountains in eastern Arizona and flows for 315 miles before meeting the Colorado River in Grand Canyon in a spot that is also “a place of cultural and historical confluence,” according to the profile. Threats to the river include extended drought and wildfires, continued decreases in flows due to diversion and groundwater pumping, and loss of native vegetation and springs.
Previous Arizona River of the Month profiles have featured the Colorado River and the Salt River. “From the mighty Colorado to the smallest ephemeral streams, these waterways have supported Arizona’s people and places for thousands of years,” said the groups in the “Celebrating Arizona’s Rivers” introduction. “With good stewardship and thoughtful planning, they will continue to flow into Arizona’s next 100 years.”
The next river featured by the groups will be the Santa Cruz River. The University of Arizona’s Water Resources Research Center (WRRC) has provided technical assistance in preparation of the profiles.