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Restore Sabino Creek

Watershed Management Group and partners are leading a community campaign to restore habitat and surface flow to Sabino Creek downstream of Sabino Canyon, the most visited natural area in Tucson.

Our vision for Sabino Creek

Restoring Sabino Creek is the first targeted effort in WMG’s larger 50 Year Program to restore our desert rivers. After meeting with scientists, policy makers, and community members, we are confident that we can restore the flow to Sabino Creek. The creek is supported by a shallow groundwater area, where groundwater levels can recover rapidly with reduced pumping from nearby wells and recharge with local infiltration. We are uniting with hundreds of community groups, agencies, businesses, and policy makers to protect and enhance the Colorado River and its many tributary creeks and rivers—like Sabino Creek.

With strong community effort, we can restore year-round flow to Sabino Creek.

What is happening at Sabino Creek

Pockets of shallow groundwater around Tucson—like the one that supports Sabino Creek—are drying up. Heavy pumping, poor water management, and drought have significantly depleted Sabino Creek’s flows, reducing this once-perennial stream that supports important habitat for plants and animals to an ephemeral waterway.

The effects of drought and pumping can have severe and devastating impacts on shallow groundwater dependant creeks and springs. Image credit: Pima Association of Governments

The pillars of our campaign

Residents and visitors to Tucson now see dry creeks and rivers as the norm. Through this program, Watershed Management Group will reconnect people with our heritage of flowing desert rivers. Together we can write a new story for Sabino Creek and our other diminished desert rivers. With funding from American Rivers and the National Fish and Wildlife Federation—and support from many WMG donors—this campaign is coming to life.

Stakeholder advisory group: Led by WMG, this group meets monthly and is working to create a comprehensive watershed plan to restore Sabino Creek. We are expanding this group to include more riparian restoration experts and residents of the Tanque Verde area. Contact Catlow to learn more.

Public education campaign: We are building interest and awareness through videos, social media, online resources, and public events. These efforts are being spearheaded by Joaquin Murrieta, WMG’s Cultural Ecologist, and Lisa Shipek, WMG’s Executive Director. Contact Joaquin to schedule a presentation.

On-the-ground restoration: A number of projects are in the works to install water-harvesting and stream restoration features on public and private lands along Sabino Creek to reduce outdoor use of potable water, improve soil health to prevent erosion, and increase infiltration to recharge the shallow groundwater that supports the creek. Sign up to receive WMG's River Speaks bulletin to receive action alerts, workshop announcements, and more.

Our partners

This work would not be possible without our many partners and funders.

American Rivers
Arizona State Forestry Division
City of Tucson, Mayor’s office
Hidden Valley Homeowner's Association
In2Wells, LLC
Metro Water
National Fish and Wildlife Foundation
Pima Association of Governments
Pima County
Pima County Regional Flood Control District
Private landowners 
Sky Island Alliance
Tucson Water
University of Arizona

Promoting a healthy Colorado River watershed

Sabino Creek is part of a network of desert rivers that joins with the mighty Colorado River, linking Tucson’s watershed to the highest peaks in the Rockies and the coastal delta in Mexico.

Check out our companion campaign to Revive Tanque Verde.Become an advocate for our desert rivers!

Sabino Creek Living Waters gallery