Living River of Words: Youth Arts and Science

Pima County invites local youth (ages 5 to 19) to explore the wonders of water and express their creativity by entering the Living River of Words: Youth Poetry and Art Contest.
Desert Bloom by 2022 LROW Finalist Sadie Brown
This website provides ideas and resources for teachers, parents, club leaders, or anyone in the community to engage young people - independently or in organized groups - in a mixture of art, science and nature. By participating in the Living River of Words (LROW), young people can:
  • Learn about water resources.
  • Develop their sense of place by getting to know the Santa Cruz River and their own local watershed.
  • Sharpen the skills critical to both art and science: observation, curiosity, and creativity.
  • Share their experience with the community by entering the Living River of Words: Youth Poetry and Art Contest (deadline: Feb. 1, 2023).

Visit our Resources Page for tips, activity suggestions, and ideas to inspire you.

Download the 2022-23 Contest Entry Form & Rules:
Brochure with Entry Form (English) | 8.5 x 11 Entry Form (English)
Folleto co la Planilla de Entrada (español) | 8.5 x 11 Planilla de Entrada (español)

Questions? Please contact us at: or 520-724-5375.

Living River of Words is a regional coordinator providing local support for River of Words®.

Living River of Words: Youth Poetry and Art Exhibit 2022

Congratulations to the finalists and grand prize winners of the 2022 Living River of Words: Youth Poetry and Art Contest! Enjoy the wonder of our local waterways and wild places through the eyes of these talented young poets and artists. Download the digital version of the exhibit book in PDF format or see their work in-person at:

  Apr. 21 - May 31, 2022
Wheeler Taft Abbett Sr. Library 

7800 N. Schisler Dr., Marana, AZ 

June 2 - June 29, 2022
Santa Rosa Library
1075 S. 10th Ave., Tucson, AZ

July 6 - Aug. 29, 2022
Murphy-Wilmot Library
530 N. Wilmot Rd, Tucson, AZ

Sept. 1 - Sept. 29, 2022
Joyner-Green Valley Library
601 N. la Cañada Dr. Green Valley, AZ

Oct. 3 - Oct. 31, 2022
Dusenberry-River Library
5605 E. River Rd., # 105, Tucson, AZ

Nov. 3 - Dec. 29, 2022
Eckstrom-Columbus Library
4350 E. 22nd St., Tucson, AZ

Jan. 3 - Jan. 30, 2023
Joel Valdez Main Library
101 N. Stone Ave., Tucson, AZ

Feb. 1 - Feb. 28, 2023
Quincie Douglas Library
1585 E. 36th St., Tucson, AZ

   2022 LROW Exhibit Book Cover

photoLiving River of Words Partners with the Living River Project
Since it began attracting people to the region more than 12,000 years ago, the Santa Cruz River has undergone a series of dramatic changes. Initially a flowing life force teeming with fish, frogs, and other wildlife, the river all but dried up over the last century as groundwater pumping increased along with the human population and its ever-growing demand for water.

Today, however, thanks to the release of effluent — or highly treated wastewater — into the river, certain sections of the Santa Cruz River again flow year-round. This practice is not only re-creating our flowing river heritage, but is also supporting important wildlife habitat and building a valued community amenity. As effluent helped create a thriving river ecosystem along this corridor, the community responded by building numerous river parks and The Loop recreational trail ( to provide easier access to this river bounty.

Effluent in the Lower Santa Cruz River is not new; two wastewater treatment plants have been operating on this section of the river since the 1970s. What has changed is the quality of the effluent being released. In its largest public works project ever, Pima County upgraded two wastewater treatment plants in 2013. The upgrade significantly improved the quality of water released into the river, a key ingredient for a healthier river. The river now attracts walkers and bikers and is a popular birding destination from the Sweetwater Wetlands to the Marana Flats.

The Living River Project aims to gauge conditions of this valuable ecosystem and track the impacts of our community investment. All Living River reports and associated documents for the Lower Santa Cruz River are available for download on the Sonoran Institute website at

In 2014, EPA grant funding for the Living River Project allowed for a pilot project to bring student groups on field trips to the flowing portions of the lower Santa Cruz River. Through this partnership, Pima County was able to expand environmental science, poetry, and art residencies for students to prepare entries to the Living River of Words: Youth Poetry and Art Contest. Each year since then, hundreds of students have visited the Santa Cruz River and shared their creative reflections with the community through art and poetry.

LROW is also a partnership with the Regional Flood Control District.
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Natural Resources, Parks and Recreation

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Tucson, AZ 85741

(520) 724-5000

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