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Cañada del Oro Streamsheds

Priority Restoration Actions

  1. Reduce residential groundwater demands through water conservation practices and education. Groundwater is currently being pumped faster than naturally replenished through mountain front and channel recharge.
  2. Enhance recharge of urban enhanced runoff through on-site water harvesting, green stormwater infrastructure features, and arroyo and floodplain restoration. An example is WMG's restoration work with Pima County Regional Flood Control at La Cholla and Overton to redirect stormwater across floodplain to enhance habitat and deep infiltration.
  3. Maintain natural channel morphology and function by protecting floodplain access.
  4. Support U.S. Forest Service, Catalina State Park, Arizona State Land, Pima County, and other upland land management agencies in watershed restoration efforts.

Fauna of Interest: Bird Species: Bell’s vireo, Abert’s towhee, Lucy’s warbler, common yellowthroat, yellow-rumped warbler

Learn more about each streamshed:


Upper Catalina Streamshed

Restoration Goal: Groundwater supported seasonal flow fed by winter and summer rainy seasons.
Current Status: Historical overgrazing, un-maintained dirt roads, and fire have led to degradation of this headwaters system.
Historical Interest: This streamshed is almost completely on the Coronado National Forest, Santa Catalina Ranger District. The Cañada del Oro and Sutherland Wash system’s headwaters are high in the Catalina Mountains just below Summerhaven. This area was burned severely in the 2002 Bullock Fire and again in the 2003 Aspen Fire.
Additional Fauna of Interest: Fish species: Longfin dace, Gila chub, Sonora Sucker, desert sucker, Gila Topminnow (Historical Occurrence of Fish in Pima County, 2000, pg21); Sonoran mud turtles, lowland leopard frogs, Bell’s vireo, Abert’s towhee, Lucy’s warbler, common yellowthroat, yellow-rumped warbler
Cultural Interests: Recreation is an important activity in this streamshed, horseback riding, hiking, mountain biking are a predominant use, and the infamous Charleau Gap Road is a favorite ATV and Jeep trail. 

Lower Catalina Streamshed

Restoration Goal: Groundwater supported seasonal flow fed by winter and summer rainy seasons.
Current Status: Development of Saddlebrooke community and associated groundwater pumping combined with historical overgrazing, un-maintained dirt roads, and upland forest fires have led to degradation of the area.
Historical Interest: The eastern half of this streamshed is almost completely on the Coronado National Forest, Santa Catalina Ranger District. The western half is almost all the Saddlebrook retirement community.  
Cultural Interests: Recreation is an important activity in this streamshed, horseback riding, hiking, and mountain biking are a predominant use, and the infamous Charleau Gap Road is a favorite ATV and Jeep trail. 

Upper Cañada del Oro Streamshed

Restoration Goal: Stabilization and then restoration of groundwater levels to support seasonal flow fed by winter and summer rainy seasons.
Current Status: Historical overgrazing, un-maintained dirt roads, and large scale housing developments have led to degradation of the area. Groundwater pumping exceeds natural recharge and decline in groundwater levels are 2-4 ft per year. (updated February 2018) 
Historical Interest: Big Wash and Twentyseven Wash are important tributary drainages to the Cañada del Oro (CDO) and are completely inside this streamshed. On the CDO quite a bit of money has been spent by Pima County Flood Control on floodplain acquisition upstream from Catalina State Park. Downstream of Catalina State Park the river is constrained and in some areas soil cemented. An ecological reconnaissance of the area upstream of the park at the request of Pima County Regional Flood Control identified 45 county held properties with mesoriparian habitat along the CDO from Hawser Road south the Bowman Road. This approximately 2 mile stretch still has significant riparian vegetation. In addition, the ecological reconnaissance found over three miles of hydroriparian (wetland) habitat further north in the Rancho Solano area.
Cultural Interests: Recreation is an important activity in this streamshed, horseback riding, hiking are a predominant use. Catalina State Park is a popular state park at the foot of the Santa Catalina mountains.  

Middle Cañada del Oro Streamshed  

Restoration Goal: Groundwater levels recovered and maintained with seasonal variation of no more than 50 feet below channel bed surface. Surface flows will remain as storm-event based (ephemeral) with potential for a longer-period of post-event flows due to near channel bed surface groundwater levels during seasonal and/or annual wet periods.
Current Status: Groundwater pumping exceeds natural recharge and decline in groundwater levels are 2-4 ft per year. (updated February 2018) 
Historical Interest: The historical Steam Pump Ranch along the Cañada del Oro was established in 1874 and used what was state-of-the-art at the time, a steam powered pump to pump water from the shallow aquifer for irrigating a manufactured oasis. Overpumping in this area has dropped the groundwater level by over 200 feet since then.
Cultural Interests: Steam Pump Ranch, a Multi-use path along the CDO connects to the Santa Cruz River Loop 

Lower Cañada del Oro Streamshed

Restoration Goal: Groundwater levels recovered and maintained with seasonal variation of no more than 50 feet below channel bed surface. Surface flows will remain as storm-event based (ephemeral).
Current Status: Groundwater levels have declined, 35 - 40 ft, over the last 16 years. Flow is currently defined as ephemeral (flows only due to storm events). The CDO floodplain has been constrained with bank protection in place.
Cultural Interest: a Multi-use path along the CDO connects to the Santa Cruz River Loop  

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