New Water Sentinels Group Working to Protect Arizona's San Pedro River
Thanks to Arizona Water Sentinels Sandy Bahr and Steve Pawlowski, the San Pedro River, one of the most vibrant but endangered rivers in the state, will now be the focus of protection efforts under the umbrella of the Sierra Club's Water Sentinels Program.
Bahr, director of the Club's Grand Canyon Chapter, and Pawlowski, the chapter's Water Sentinels coordinator, teamed up with the University of Arizona and the Bureau of Land Management to train volunteers to test water quality and set up a plan to regularly monitor the San Pedro, one of only two rivers that flow north from Mexico into the United States. Below, volunteers at the training.
"The San Pedro is really important and essential to the survival of a number of imperiled species," Bahr told a reporter from the Sierra Vista Herald who came out to cover the event. "About 60 percent of Arizona's native wildlife relies on riparian areas associated with rivers and streams."
Under the tutelage of Bahr, Pawlowski, a water quality specialist from the University of Arizona, and a hydrologist from the BLM, some 20 volunteers from the Sierra Vista area, southeast of Tucson near the Mexican border, learned the basics of water testing.
Pawlowski outlined a plan to test four times a year at five different points along the river, and the newly anointed Upper San Pedro Water Sentinels got hands-on and knee-deep as they took water samples on the river. That's volunteer Eva Nagy, above.
The group will monitor the river's vital signs by testing its pH level and amounts of dissolved oxygen and dissolved solids. They will also collect samples for a lab in Tucson that will analyze E. Coli levels in the water. The data will be given to the BLM to help determine if the San Pedro is in compliance with water-quality standards that have been set for it.
Also part of the group's agenda is to conduct regular cleanups of the Upper San Pedro. The first cleanup—a joint effort with Huachuca Audubon, Friends of the San Pedro River, and the BLM—took place last December on a 5-mile stretch of the river, and another was held April 2 at a different location.
"We've demonstrated that we're capable of effectively killing rivers in Arizona, but we've not yet demonstrated that we can save them," Bahr told the group. "That's part of what you all are doing."
Earlier this year, Bahr was recognized by the Arizona Republic, the state's largest newspaper, as one of Ten Inspiring Women in Arizona.