Innovative Conservation

Successful Partnership

Upper Verde River and Big Chino Grasslands

Nature Conservancy has chosen to work with CALT which is providing information about conservation easements and how they can benefit landowners of farms and ranches in the Upper Verde. CALT has been working successfully with willing land owners in the area for over 30 years to help them protect family lands from development permanently, through leveraging public and private funding sources to the table.

The Verde River watershed encompasses more than 6,600 square miles in north central Arizona. The Verde River emerges from aquifers underneath the Big and Little Chino Valleys. The uppermost 24 miles of the Verde is sustained by groundwater discharges, known as “baseflow,” and occasional stormwater runoff from precipitation. These flows provide healthy, intact habitat for a diverse native fish population. The groundwater comes from the Little and Big Chino Aquifers. These “basin-fill aquifers” contain significant amounts of groundwater that accumulated very slowly over millions of years.

Investments in Conservation Easements on the grasslands over the Big Chino Aquifer and near the river’s headwaters will be most effective for protecting our shared water supplies. Such a program would balance growth with our future needs and help the region to maintain its rich agricultural heritage.

Conservation Easements are one of many innovative strategies that can be used to improve watershed health and reduce wildfire risk.

Funding from a combination of public (e.g., Farm Bill programs) and private sources is needed for this voluntary market-based solution for managing groundwater that is an effective alternative to regulation.