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Shallow Groundwater Primer

Shallow groundwater is found within 50 feet of the land surface—vital for supporting mesquites, willows, and other streamside plants.

Graphic: What is happening to shallow groundwater at Sabino and Tanque VerdeWhy does it matter?

Groundwater this shallow is only found in small pockets of the Tucson Basin and is important because it is the source for many of our creeks and rivers.

Tucson receives only 12 inches of rain per year—that's not a lot! Pockets of shallow groundwater provide a reliable source of water that is easily accessed by the roots of trees, shrubs, and other native desert plants. These plants are an essential feature of habitat for many of the region’s most iconic animals, including endangered and threatened birds, lizards, fish, frogs and toads, and larger mammals like the jaguar and ocelot. Without the habitat provided by these riparian areas, we would lose the diversity of species that makes the Sonoran Desert so special.

What is happening to our shallow groundwater dependent streams?

Pockets of shallow groundwater around Tucson are drying up. We are pumping water out of these small reserves faster than nature can replenish them, removing the supply of water to creeks and the trees and other plants nearby.

What you can do

Watershed Management Group has a three-tiered approach to improving our shallow groundwater and riparian areas—and you can get involved with all of them!

Help restore our watershed and revive our rivers

WMG hosts trainings and workshops to teach you all kinds of hands-on skills that can improve our watershed from top to bottom.

Learn what you can do at home to support a healthy watershed and reduce groundwater pumping by harvesting free and readily available rain and greywater—join our Tucson Co-op and find trainings and hands-on workshops on our Events calendar.

Learn more about our River Run Network!

Join our Flow365 Monitoring Team. As part of the River Run Network you can help monitor groundwater levels and surface flows in your target streamshed.

Shift local, regional, and state water policy

WMG leads a dynamic stakeholder committee to find ways we can all work together to ensure a brighter and wetter future for our shallow groundwater areas.

You can stay up-to-date on developments, opportunities to add your voice to the conversation, and chances to get involved in on-the-ground work—sign up for our River Run Network.

WMG also supports other innovative community efforts advocating for our desert rivers. You can too–be a river advocate!

Learn more about shallow groundwater and why it matters

Knowledge is the first step in any successful campaign. WMG is developing a variety of outreach and educational tools, including school curriculum, a video series, and more.

Bring shallow groundwater education to your school. We've created an easy to understand curriculum packet for high school students to learn about this issue and create a cadre of Youth Advocates. Email Joaquin Murrieta to bring this program to your school. And visit our Schoolyard Education program page to learn about our other youth programs.

Get informed. Pima Association of Governments has a number of resources, including a detailed report on shallow groundwater areas and the impacts of wells. Learn more at their website.

View maps of Tucson's shallow groundwater areas.

Pantano - Rincon shallow groundwater areaTanque Verde - Rillito shallow groundwater areaTortolita shallow groundwater area