March 22 marks World Water Day, and we are choosing at Friends of Verde River Greenway to celebrate water today, and everyday. Friends serves to restore, protect, and promote the health of the Verde River and its watershed.
Water is the essential building block of life. Still, there are more ways that water is life; water is vital for creating jobs and supporting economic, social, and human development. Today, there are over 663 million people living without a safe water supply close to home, spending countless hours queuing or trekking to distant sources, and coping with the health impacts of using contaminated water (United Nations, 2017).
Here at Friends of Verde River Greenway we are working hard to ensure that the Verde River can serve over 2.5 million people living in the Verde Valley and greater Phoenix region, and importantly, to balance our communities’ needs with the need to give the Verde River access to its own water for the benefit of fish, wildlife, and essential flows.
Water is an important part of our economy, too. For a decade now, Friends has worked collaboratively across the Verde River Watershed and Southwest to restore, protect, and promote the health of the Verde River. Ten years of restoration work for the Verde River is proving the reality of what we at Friends are calling a “restoration economy.” The economics of restoration consider the financial and in-kind investments; regional job creation; and professional training and services; surface and groundwater savings; value of water quality and habitat; as well as the sales of native plant materials for our watershed.
This year also marks the five-year anniversary of the Verde Watershed Restoration Coalition (VWRC). VWRC works collaboratively with over 221 private landowners and 13 public partners, working on over 2,000 riparian acres on 7,800 acres of public and private lands to restore the health of the Verde River Watershed. In 2016 alone, VWRC and Friends of the Verde River oversaw 2,150 volunteer hours, for a total in-kind value of $61,327.18. Since VWRC began in 2012, a total of 39 river miles of the Verde River have been restored by treating invasive plant species. This impressive volume of work has created over 100 jobs locally for restoration crews, staff, and consultants through FVRG. Their work together has accumulted to over 65,000 hours over five years.
The Verde River Exchange is one of Friends’ programs that is making a difference in how we buy, sell, and use water in the Verde River Watershed. The Verde River Exchange is a water offset program provides a market-driven vehicle for current and potential water users to balance the economics and ecology of water use on the Verde River. This market-driven water-conservation tool gives incentives for surface and groundwater users to form mutually-beneficial business relationships that in turn, will benefit the Verde River’s surface flows. You can learn more about the Verde River Exchange, and its pilot projects at www.verderiverexchange.org. Also, you can listen to KNAU’s Earth Notes program on the Verde River Exchange.
Promoting our work to restore the Verde River through restoration and conservation projects is an important part of the success of Friends’ work. Our work to engage with the communities of the Verde Valley is best seen by the impressive impact of One for the Verde. One for the Verde is a local business partnership that supports conservation efforts across the region through the Conservation Partner Fund and grants for boots-on-the-ground projects. In 2016, Conservation Partners has contributed $22,300 to local conservation and restoration projects that give professional training and create jobs, provide healthy ecosystem services like habitat and water quality, and make our Verde River Watershed a beautiful and healthy place to live, work, and play.
We are so excited to share these programs with you, as our friends, and supporters. Friends of Verde River Greenway looks to celebrate World Water Day everyday in the work that we do. We hope that you will join us in supporting the restoration economy, and our local economy, by promoting Friends’ collaborative work to restore and protect our Verde River Watershed for generations. Join us for upcoming events, volunteer activities, and educational opportunities to show your support for a healthy Verde River!