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Verde River to Benefit from Nearly $3 Million in Federal Conservation Funds

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A nearly $3 million grant from the federal government will help restore parts of the Verde River. As Arizona Public Radio’s Ryan Heinsius reports, the funds will boost a decade-long effort by conservation groups and farmers to increase sustainable water use on the river.

In the last decade drought and increased agriculture have led to sharply declining flows on the Verde River. As a result, fish and animal habitat has been destroyed and a source of drinking water for millions of people has increasingly been put at risk.

The grant provides financial incentives for farmers to adopt more efficient methods for watering crops. It will also focus on removing invasive species and slowing erosion along a 20-mile stretch of the river.

The Nature Conservancy is heading up the effort. Kim Schonek is the group’s Verde River project manager.

“I think everyone who lives in the Verde loves the Verde River. I don’t think anyone disagrees with the importance of protecting the river and keeping it here. Through this grant opportunity we’re actually able to work with farmers and ranchers and landowners in a way that benefits them but also benefits the river,” Schonek says.

According to Schonek the economy benefits from the Verde River beyond just agriculture. She says kayak guiding companies and even local wineries depend on the health of the Verde.

The initial phase of the project has already begun, and in the next five years Schonek hopes to convince farmers to adopt efficient water use on a thousand acres of the Verde Valley.

Ryan joined KNAU's newsroom in 2013. He covers a broad range of stories from local, state and tribal politics to education, economy, energy and public lands issues, and frequently interviews internationally known and regional musicians. Ryan is an Edward R. Murrow Award winner and a frequent contributor to NPR.
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