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Earth Notes: Sedona Wetlands Preserve

Courtesy photo

What happens to the water that runs down your kitchen or shower drain? If you live in Sedona, Ariz., the answer is that it helps migratory birds along their way.

Most people don’t think much about used water, but Sedona has taken the step of ensuring that its wastewater is a boon to the environment. That’s because it is, after treatment, placed in a 27-acre series of ponds and marshes that have been engineered to provide quality bird habitat.

Water leaves the site either through evaporation or by seeping into the ground and feeding the water table. But before it does it nourishes native riparian vegetation, some of it planted by volunteers from the Northern Arizona Audubon Society.

Surrounded as it is by desert scrubland, the patchwork of open water and marsh and dense thickets attracts a great variety of birds.

In 2013, a new trail around the preserve was dedicated. County supervisors also helped pay for other amenities, such as picnic tables.

As a result, the Sedona Wetlands Preserve has become a go-to destination for birders looking to spot species absent from most of the region’s drylands, such as ducks and shorebirds. Many migratory songbirds show up, too.

The Audubon Society hosts periodic bird walks at the preserve, or you can check the mile-long trail out yourself. And wherever you are you can remember that drain water never really goes away—it always shows up again, ready to nourish life somewhere.

Peter Friederici is a writer whose articles, essays, and books focus primarily on connections between humans and their natural surroundings. His most recent book is Beyond Climate Breakdown: Envisioning New Stories of Radical Hope (MIT Press, 2022). He also teaches classes in science communication and sustainable communities at Northern Arizona University.

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