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  • Lower Santa Cruz River health study shows improving conditions‚Ä®

    Jun 08, 2015 | Read More News
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    lower santa cruz riverPima County and the Sonoran Institute are now releasing their second annual Living River report, which shows improved aquatic habitat, improved water clarity and increased infiltration in the Lower Santa Cruz River. This change is a result of upgrades to the wastewater treatment facilities completed in December 2013. The Living River Project aims to measure, track and communicate water quality and environmental improvements in the Lower Santa Cruz River.

    Community members can get copies of the report at its release celebration from 5 to 7 p.m. June 19 at Agua Caliente Park. The celebration will include an exhibition of winning entries from the Living River of Words youth art and poetry contest, which brought more than 500 local school children to the effluent-dependent Santa Cruz to learn about the aquatic habitat of the river as background for preparing contest entries.

    “We are excited that local school children who were not familiar with the Santa Cruz River had great opportunities to learn more about the history and improved condition of the river,” said Evan Canfield, Pima County Flood Control District’s Living River project manager.

    This year’s Living River report documents changing river conditions following a $605 million investment by Pima County to upgrade the quality of effluent released into the river.  
    “The new, state-of-the-art infrastructure produces high-quality reclaimed water, which benefits the Santa Cruz River and our community” said Jackson Jenkins, Pima County Regional Wastewater Reclamation Department director.

    The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency awarded a four-year, $307,000 wetland health grant to the Pima County Regional Flood Control District in 2012 to implement the project. These funds are matched by additional direct and in-kind support from Pima County Regional Wastewater and Pima County Regional Flood Control. A group of technical experts in water, wildlife and river dynamics provided their time and insight to select indicators used in the study to gauge wetland health.

    Many of the initial changes highlighted in the report illustrate improved conditions for aquatic life. 
    These and other key findings include:
    • A significant reduction in ammonia and increase in availability of dissolved oxygen
    • Improved water clarity and less riverbed muck
    • Signs of increased diversity of aquatic life with a greater number of pollution-sensitive insects being seen in the river
    • Fewer odor complaints reflecting an effort to reduce odors associated with wastewater facilities along the river
    • Amount of groundwater recharge nearly doubled from the previous year
    • Decreased flow extent resulting from increased infiltration rates
    “The effluent released into the Lower Santa Cruz River is helping maintain a piece of our flowing river heritage”, said Claire Zugmeyer, the Sonoran Institute’s Ecologist and project manager for the Santa Cruz River. “It’s great to see the initial improvements, as this stretch of river is an important wildlife, recreation and economic corridor in the greater Tucson region.”

    Learn more about the June 19 event and access an RSVP link and visit the Living River Project page at SonoranInstitute.org.