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CWP's Monsoon 2014 Newsletter: The Water Issue

The Cienega Watershed, part of the larger Santa Cruz watershed, has its headwaters in Elgin and, flowing north, contributes significantly to the aquifer of Tucson and Pima County.  The watershed contains unique vegetative communities, including five of the rarest habitat types in the American Southwest: cienegas (marshlands), cottonwood-willow riparian forests, sacaton grasslands, mesquite bosques, and semi-desert grasslands. 


Ci�nega Creek is one of the few remaining streams in southern Arizona that continues to support native vertebrate species originally inhabiting the ci�negas of southern Arizona. The Cienega Watershed Partnership facilitates cooperative actions that steward resources of the Cienega Watershed while enabling sustainable human use.

In This Newsletter
Local Drought Update
Living in the Watershed
Kids Create Resiliency through Restoration
Learning in the Watershed
Make Your Voice Heard
Creating Connection
Who is the CWP?
Featured Partner
Upcoming Dates
A Poem
CWP Board
Drought Update - Record Levels
Watershed Monitoring Coordination    
Diminished perennial reach at Marsh Station on Lower Cienega Creek

The CWP helps to facilitate water monitoring coordination for cohesive methods and analysis throughout the watershed. 

In June, Pima Association of Governments and the Bureau of Land Management each monitored the minimal perennial miles of flow of Cienega Creek before monsoons arrived, with the generous help of several volunteers.

The results on the lower portion of the creek show the third consecutive year of record breaking low flow.
  • In the Pima County Preserve the perennial extent was found to be 0.85 miles, down from 2.3 miles in 2006. 
  • In the National Conservation Area it was found to be 5.10 miles, down from 6.03 miles in 2006.
This July 2014 Pima County report reveals the increased fragmentation of aquatic habitat with drought, with highest impacts and vulnerability in the early, dry portion of the summer season. Seasonal variation of water levels fluctuates greatly so it is important to track annual trends through consistent, long term monitoring are regular intervals.  The Cienega watershed in unique in having this rich (>20 year) dataset from PAG to evaluate condition in the shallow groundwater dependent ecosystem.

In shallow groundwater systems, such as Cienega, the Creek's base flows are closely tied to groundwater levels (also analyzed in the same report). Nogales International's  recent article about the small aquifer capacity of the Sonoita area describes concerns for well owners of quickly dropping water levels. Drought and pumping impacts between every watershed so residents in the Cienega Watershed will want to note local conditions.

Large tropical storms as Arizona is receiving this week can aid water level recovery through stormwater recharge. Cities such as Sierra Vista have found that enhanced stormwater recharge and offsetting groundwater use through conservation practices can also help to sustain both the creek and human water needs.
For more information on drought impacts and responses in the greater Southwest, explore this recent comprehensive article in the Desert Sun, which contains stunning photography and interactive maps. Plus, here is a NYT article with updates on water reliability which interviews several local experts: 'Arizona Cities Could Face Cutbacks in Water From Colorado River, Officials Say'.  


Living in the Watershed 
Pima County Aquifer Monitoring Report, 2008

Sustaining groundwater for the future:

During dry seasons and drought, the water needs of people and landscapes increase. The resulting pumping of groundwater may impact the shallow groundwater dependent ecosystems near which we enjoy living.
You can view Sonoita groundwater use in this Sonoran Institute report and for other parts of the shallow groundwater ares in the watershed in this PAG report (right hand side of the page).

What you can do:

Rainwater harvesting is a great way to reduce your imported water needs and groundwater pumping! Our region is leading the way in this field. Native landscapes can be made more drought resilient by contouring your land to direct water to plantings. Shallow groundwater systems can also be supported when earthworks are used to help slow down and infiltrate stormwater.

Arroyo Restoration at LCNCA
There are many local places you get help with consultations and installations. For example, with Watershed Management Group, you can learn at workshops, join the co-op to earn assistance, and use their free on-line guide books.  Borderlands Restoration offers volun
teer opportunities and training for adults and also holds a youth institute. 

If you live in the Vail area where Cienega Creek turns into the Pantano wash, and are served by Tucson Water, you are eligible to join the Conserve 2 Enhance program and apply for neighborhood restoration grants to support desert riparian habitat.


Rain can also be harvested for direct household use. Here is a story on Arizona Public Media of a local resident, Charles Cole, who has reliably replaced his well with a large rain cistern.


CWP Watershed Restoration Projects     
They make installing one-rock dams for erosion control fun!
Their design was Xs and Os, like hugs and kisses for the grasslands. (Pre-Monsoons Photo)
Youth Engaged Stewards (YES!) of 2014 restored sites  at Las Cienegas including sacaton grasslands and springs.  

Learn more about it from the students' point of view on this Arizona Illustrated documentary!!!

It worked! The students' effort showed results this September.

We are so proud and amazed with our student partners. 
YES! Partners include CWP, Ironwood Tree Experience and Chris In-Albon.

CWP's Arroyo Restoration and Frog projects continue with NEW funding this Fall!  Keep your eye out for announcements this Winter about future of workshops.


Learning in the Watershed 

Ever wondered which species live in the Cienega Watershed? This guide is a great start. Learn about fish, amphibians and plants including those endangered or invasive.

Cienega Creek is has successful preserves and conservation areas where endangered species are surviving and invasive or game species have not taken over. Let's keep it that way!

For thousands of years, Arizona's native fish adapted to life in habitats ranging from small springs and intermittent creeks, to the raging torrents of the Colorado River. Their ability to adjust to periods of drought and flash floods is truly a marvel of nature and has been a key to their survival.


Unfortunately, native fish have not done as well adapting to the influences of humans on their environment. Habitat loss and alteration, and the introduction of non-native fish species, have caused sharp declines in many native fish populations. Out of the 35 fish remaining species native to Arizona, 34 have been identified as Species of Greatest Conservation Need in Arizona.


The FROG conservation project, a CWP Partner, features many more native and invasive aquatic species to learn about and ways to become part of the effort. Helping out can be as simple as conserving water, keeping invasives out of your ponds, volunteering with CWP partners, avoiding desert creeks and wetlands with your ORVs, and never releasing pets into the wild. Thanks!
Sign on to support the EPA to uphold the Clean Water Act protections of the Waters of the US including our desert intermittent and ephemeral rivers and wetlands, which in the arid west have disproportionate value to wildlife and ecosystem services to humans.  Make sure to mention that Cienega Creek, one of the last lowland perennial creeks in southern Arizona with valuable ephemeral and intermittent reaches.

Want to learn more about the Waters of the US Proposed Rule? Determining when the Clean Water Act protected streams and wetlands became confusing and complex following Supreme Court decisions in 2001 and 2006. This rule proposes to clarify protections. Ditches and agricultural lands are excluded from jurisdiction. Submit formal comments until Oct. 20, 2014. 
Take Action to protect our community and water from irresponsible mining.  Tell your member of Congress to support 1872 Mining Law Reform. Make sure to mention Cienega Creek and Rosemont to put this on the national radar. And if Raul Grijalva is your congressman--thank him for introducing the mining reform. 
Sign the petition by Save the Scenic Santa Ritas - Petitioning the White House and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to protect the Santa Rita Mountains in AZ from the proposed Rosemont Mine 

Please share! 

If you use social media, such as Twitter or Facebook, we encourage you to use #SaveCienega on your relevant posts that celebrate and sustain the rich landscape.  

Artful Ways to Share Understanding 
First, we learn to understand a place; then we gain connection and respect.  This love then grows the desire to protect it.  Our experiences can be shared in many ways, such as through stories and paintings. Here is a video  from Lens on the Land of stunning photos taken by photographers from across the watershed, revealing its amazing richness of life. We hope it will transport you there and grow your relationship to this precious place.

***Do you have a connection with any way to get Lens on the Land shown in DC for decision makers to see? We need Cienega watershed to be on the national radar so that the EPA and Army Corps make full consideration of the impacts of the proposed mine in Rosemont Valley. 


Cienega means 'wetlands'. In a desert landscape where most riparian areas are threatened, we work to preserve the Cienega Creek watershed into perpetuity.


Our mission is to keep this cool desert respite - a home for significant natural and cultural resources - as a legacy for our children and their children. CWP works with all stakeholders who can impact the sustainability of the ecosytems.


Visit our website at for the latest updates on the Youth Engaged Stewardship summer projects, videos form the Science on the Sonoita Plains,  and Forest Service response to CWP objections to the proposed mine in the Santa Ritas.


Thank you so much Summit Hut and Patagonia for the $750 check to CWP.

You are great Partners for our watershed.






Colossal Cave's Halloween Howl
Oct. 19 & 20 
Oct. 26, 27 & 28
5:00 - 9:00 p.m. 


Candlelight Ghost Cave Tours, 
Haunted Ranch Hayrides, Thrilling Maze, Pony Rides, Petting Zoo. RESERVATIONS (required only for tours and rides)




  National Public Lands Day:

Saturday, September 27, 2014, 8am-2pm at Empire Ranch Headquarters on the BLM's Las Cienegas National Conservation Area. A workday and educational event. VOLUNTEER

Audubon's Appleton-Whittell Research Ranch: The Living Gently on the Land Potluck and Presentation Educational Series takes place each 2nd Saturday from September -May, begins at 5 pm.  October 18 presentation: "Student Scientists" from Elgin and Patagonia Schools. RSVP




a poem by 

Kimi Eisele



Sweet snail of the Sonoran


yours is a quiet resignation


I do not imagine you'll make a sound--

no snide remark, no snicker, no song


This snare, not some secret request of yours


What has a snail ever said?


What say has a snail ever had?


You do not even know your name




What is your sense of this?


There is no sense in running


Speed does not fit inside your vocabulary


or even inside your shell


Speed does not linger in your furls


No, speed does not linger 


So you can't see what's coming 


your long eyes-the kind teachers, 

mothers dream of-not quite long enough


this encroachment, silent and gigantic 


gleaming and electric 


the hawk can see it 

advantaged by height


the jaguar too, its wide stealthy range


but you, no



curl up, sweet snail


close your eyes, Sonorella


close your eyes.




-kimi eisele








Martie Maierhauser, Chairman

David Scalero

Shela McFarlin

Mead Mier

Larry Fisher

Kelly Mott Lacroix

Thomas Meixner
Chistine In-Albon



Dennis Caldwell
Arlan Colton
Mac Donaldson
Julia Fonseca
Trevor Hare
Travis Huxman
Laura Lopez-Hoffman
Lynsey Miller
Dan Robinette
Jennifer Ruyle
Bill Savary
Karen Simms
Steven Strom
Beth Sullivan
Ian Tomlinson
Jeff Williamson



 plus many PARTNERS

including you!




This issue written by: 
Mead Mier,
CWP Board Member

Cienega Watershed Partnership

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