Old Water and New Knowledge at Cienega Creek

“How old is your water?” That’s not a common question among water users, or even in water education, yet it’s high on the list for Dr. Jennifer McIntosh. She’s an Associate Professor in Hydrology & Atmospheric Sciences at the University of Arizona whose focus is the elemental and isotopic chemistry of water. For her, estimating the age of water can be a key tool in understanding the structure and functioning of aquifers. More…

Toads in Monsoon Mud

How do you give kids a sense of the enormous challenge it is to survive in the Arizona desert, kids who turn a tap for water, adjust a thermostat for cooling, and send someone to the store for food or treats? How can you pass along to adults a measure of the effort needed to adapt to the the drier and hotter conditions that (we are told) are in our future? One Tucson father and biologist has an answer. More…

Water for Silver

Southern Arizona’s Ciénega Creek, a small stream in the Sonoran Desert, supports an ecosystem of great variety and resilience. The upper story is cottonwood and willow, perennial water runs in many stretches, and hundreds of species make a home here including several endangered or threatened: Chiricahua Leopard Frog, Yellow-billed Cuckoo, Gila Chub, Southwest Willow Flycatcher. There is almost no reserve in the creek’s water supply…

Including a Total Wreck story from Edward Vail.

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A Pulse for Science

Karl Flessa, Professor of Geosciences at the University of Arizona and Co-Chief of the Science Team for the Colorado River Delta Pulse Flow, gets very animated about this natural experiment. “It doesn’t take much to get me started on my favorite topic,” he said to Dos Aguas. His excitement has a solid basis: after decades of studying the decline of this once vibrant delta through its remains, the large Pulse experiment is designed to see if part of it can be rejuvenated – to learn what happens to the land, vegetation and animals when adding a one-time pulse of water. For eight weeks in 2014 the Colorado Delta Pulse Flow project released 107,000 acre feet of water into the dry channel of the Colorado River – a few drops of “back to the future.” Now we have the first report of the results. More…

Colorado Delta Diary

In the 20th century human beings managed to divert and assign ownership to every single drop of water in the Colorado River, leaving nothing for the riverbed and its surrounding delta below Yuma, Arizona. Since 1965 the only flow into these last one hundred miles of the river has been water no one wanted: spring floods too voluminous for the irrigation or diversion canals, groundwater below irrigated fields too salty for good crop growth, urban sewage too contaminated for reuse. Now in the 21st century there are efforts to find new sources of water to rejuvenate some of the Colorado Delta’s former abundance. More…

Monsoon and Frogs at Empire Gulch

Gulch is a vivid name, suggesting hot sun on a jumble of rocks, some bleached cattle bones lying in the dust, a crusty prospector leading a mule into the hills, temperatures over 100 degrees, and occasional torrents of water. But Empire Gulch this August morning, just steps away from the surrounding Sonoran Desert, was shady, cool, deserted, covered with a carpet of greenery, and sporting a muddy stream channel winding through its downed timber.

Included is a return visit from Francisco Eduardo Valdés Acuña.

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Controversy at Ciénega Creek

The Empire Ranch entrance road transports its travelers from 21st century Sonoran Desert – scattered desert scrub, paved highways, speeding traffic, Border Patrol checkpoints, copper mine arguments – into a world of different dimensions. More…

Mountain Springs at Rosemont

Springs were once plentiful along the slopes of the Santa Rita Mountains, the broken rocks of the mountains leaking moisture down the slopes to support sedge, a few sycamore or sometimes willow and cottonwood trees, Sonoran Desert wildlife, and eventually men and cattle. Most of the springs are gone now, or much diminished. The men are also gone, but not diminished. More…