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Earth Notes: Verde River Friendly Living Certification

Friends of the Verde River

All kinds of labels help people make decisions these days: organic, water-smart, earth friendly, fair trade. What about a label for homes and businesses that are friendly to the local river?

That’s the idea behind the “River Friendly Living” Certification, a new program launched this year by the nonprofit group Friends of the Verde River. The certifications go to homes, businesses, farms, and ranches that have made strides to protect the region’s water supply for future generations.

The Verde River is special. It’s one of only two Wild and Scenic Rivers in Arizona, and it supports a lush green corridor of cottonwoods and willows. It’s home to playful otters and prowling bobcats. But like many rivers in Arizona, it’s in trouble from long-running drought and water withdrawals.

That’s where the certification program comes in.  The criteria to earn a bronze, silver, or gold certification center on practical ways to protect clean and sustainable water supplies, restore riparian habitat, and foster community connections. For example, a new housing development might build stormwater catchment basins to replenish the aquifer; a homeowner might landscape with native plants; and a farmer could install an efficient irrigation system or switch to low-water-use crops.

Maxwell Wilson of Friends of the Verde River says there’s no other program quite like it. It might inspire residents of other watersheds to start certification programs of their own. In the meantime, Wilson says it’s a way of helping residents of the Verde Valley answer the question: “What can I do to help my river?”

Learn more about the program at

Melissa joined KNAU's team in 2015 to report on science, health, and the environment. Her work has appeared nationally on NPR and been featured on Science Friday. She grew up in Tucson, Arizona, where she fell in love with the ecology and geology of the Sonoran desert.
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