City of Scottsdale invests to protect water supplies

The Scottsdale City Council has approved a three-year partnership with the National Forest Foundation to help protect Scottsdale’s water supply.

The NFF’s work will consist of watershed improvement projects on National Forest lands in northern Arizona.

Through the partnership, the city of Scottsdale Water Resources Division – Scottsdale Water – will invest $120,000 over three years in the Northern Arizona Forest Fund, a program developed by the NFF and Salt River Project that is designed to improve forest health and water quality in the Salt and Verde River watersheds, according to a press release.

The National Forests in northern Arizona provide most of the water to the Salt and Verde rivers, which are vital surface water supplies to downstream users in Scottsdale and the greater Phoenix metropolitan areas.

Most of Arizona’s surface water resources are sustained by high-elevation forested watersheds that capture rain and snow and then carry surface water downstream. Increasingly severe wildfires, drought and historic forest management practices have affected the health of Arizona’s forests and the sustainability and quality of Arizona’s water supplies.

Developed in partnership with SRP, the NFF’s Northern Arizona Forest Fund works with local governments, businesses and Arizona residents that want to invest in the lands and watersheds they depend on. The NFF then partners with the U.S. Forest Service, local nonprofits and private contractors to implement projects that reduce wildfire risk, improve streams and wetlands, enhance wildlife habitat, restore native plants, and limit erosion and sediment into Arizona streams, rivers and reservoirs.

“Scottsdale has a long history of promoting stewardship of both our water supplies and our water quality,” stated Scottsdale Mayor Jim Lane in the release. “Scottsdale is committed to supporting this important effort to restore our state’s forests and watersheds. It is essential not only for Scottsdale, but for the entire state of Arizona.”

The NFF and SRP launched the Northern Arizona Forest Fund in 2014 with the goals of connecting Phoenix area residents and businesses with the forests and watersheds where their surface water supplies are born and spurring investment in the health of those watersheds.

“The water from the watersheds that fill the reservoirs in SRP’s water system starts as rain and snow in the forests of northern Arizona,” stated General Manager Mark Bonsall, SRP’s chief executive officer, in the release. “Stewardship of these watersheds is a fundamental principle for SRP. That’s why we are working with our partners and customers to address important forest health issues. We are very pleased that the city of Scottsdale has decided to partner with us and the NFF in this important effort.”

“Looking at the detrimental effects and costs that unhealthy forests and wildfire can have on water quality and water supplies, this partnership just makes sense,” stated Mayor Lane in the release. “The city has already invested significantly in water treatment activities. This is now an exciting opportunity to improve water quality at the source –  northern Arizona’s forests.”

Municipal investments in watershed health are becoming more common across the West and in Arizona. Forest-based communities, like Flagstaff and Payson, have formed partnerships to support forest health work in their watersheds, and earlier this year the city of Phoenix entered into similar a partnership with the NFF to support the Northern Arizona Forest Fund.

“We are very excited that the city of Scottsdale is further demonstrating the foresight and commitment of Arizona municipalities to their watersheds and sustainable water supplies,” stated Marcus Selig, NFF’s interim vice president, in the release. “This investment will allow us to accomplish some very meaningful, high priority on-the-ground activities on National Forest lands in the Salt and Verde River watersheds.”

Implementation of the Northern Arizona Forest Fund’s two 2014-15 projects is wrapping up. One project is reducing wildfire risk and protecting endangered species habitat near the Happy Jack area on the Coconino National Forest. The other project is reducing erosion and sedimentation into Oak Creek by improving drainage from forest roads on the Coconino National Forest near Sedona, according to the release.

In 2015-16, the Northern Arizona Forest Fund will implement six high-priority projects on all five National Forests in northern Arizona – the Apache-Sitgreaves, Coconino, Kaibab, Prescott and Tonto National Forests.

For more information about the six projects selected for 2015-16, see the news release at http://www.srpnet.com/water/forest/naff.aspx.

For more information on the Northern Arizona Forest Fund visit https://www.nationalforests.org/who-we-are/regional-offices/southernrockies/azforestfund or http://www.srpnet.com/water/forest/.

The Scottsdale Independent is published monthly and mailed to 75,000 homes and businesses in Scottsdale.

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