Agua Fria River, Arizona. K e v i n/Flickr (CC BY NC 2.0)

Why is groundwater important to birds, how is it at risk, and what can we do to protect it?

In Arizona, groundwater makes up a significant portion of the state’s water supply, particularly in rural, or greater, Arizona—areas outside of the central populous part of the state. Sometimes, groundwater is the sole source of water for communities, farming, and industrial activities like mining.

While groundwater in Arizona is regulated in places like Phoenix and Tucson, groundwater throughout most of rural Arizona is not. This has led to the expansion of groundwater pumping and groundwater declines affecting nearby rivers, springs, and habitat—in addition to people’s existing wells.

Groundwater is the source of wells and springs, and sustains rivers and streams in between rain and snow events. These same rivers, streams, and springs provide vital habitat for birds and other wildlife in our arid landscape.

To better convey the groundwater-to-birds connection, we invite you to check out our new ArcGIS “story map,” Understanding Arizona’s Groundwater: Why Sustaining Healthy Groundwater Supplies is Critical to Birds, Habitat, and People.

In the story map, you will:

  • Get a quick primer on what groundwater is
  • Gain an understanding of the importance of groundwater to birds and people
  • See stunning visualizations demonstrating the worrisome growth in the number of wells over time near our rivers and streams
  • Learn how groundwater is managed (or not managed) in Arizona
  • Discover some policy tools we can use to protect our precious groundwater supplies

The story map is a web application tool that utilizes Geographic Information Systems (GIS) technology and brings GIS datasets to life. It wields an urgent narrative using data from multiple sources, such as the Arizona Department of Water Resources and the United States Geological Survey, to illuminate the importance of groundwater in Arizona. And with beautiful photography, a sense of place accompanies the narrative—showing what the importance of groundwater actually looks like on the ground and from the air.

Birds need water. In arid states like Arizona, this also means groundwater. Its importance for both birds and people is often overlooked, leading to potentially dangerous consequences. Help us bring this issue to the surface. Gain a better understanding of what is at risk if we do not properly manage our groundwater resources. Then, let’s make progress on protecting our water resources into the future.

Explore the story map: Understanding Arizona’s Groundwater: Why Sustaining Healthy Groundwater Supplies is Critical to Birds, Habitat, and People.

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