Granite Creek in Prescott: Working for Wildlife

Walt Anderson, Professor Emeritus of Environmental Studies, Prescott College

By Walt Anderson

Wood Duck, Granite Creek, Prescott AZ, courtesy Walt Anderson

Prescott’s creeks suffered from many years of human abuse, but the trend since 1995 has been toward better protection and management. Wildlife populations along the creek, including spectacular waterfowl like Wood Ducks and Hooded Mergansers, have rebounded significantly, but development threats to Granite Creek and the spectacular landscape of Granite Dells have awakened citizen efforts to save as much as possible of the remaining wildlife habitat. The entire community—people and wildlife alike—stands to benefit.

The City of Prescott lies in a bowl formed by the Bradshaw Mountains and Sierra Prieta. A half-dozen small creeks running through the city converge into Granite Creek, which is impounded as Watson Lake as it leaves the City. Below the dam, the creek winds through the spectacular rock formations of Granite Dells. Then it descends into valley alluvium until it reappears at the surface just above its confluence with the headwaters of the Verde River.

Wood Duck, drake, reflections, courtesy Walt Anderson

As was typical during early settlement days, the creeks became the dumping grounds, industrial sites, and sewage drains, but gradually, the perceived value of the creeks rose with better understanding of both health/safety issues and aesthetics. In 1995 the City of Prescott and the non-profit Prescott Creeks established a 126-acre preserve known as Watson Woods in what had been a highly altered floodplain used for gravel extractions and garbage-dumping just upstream and south of Watson Lake Reservoir. Passive and active restoration efforts have resulted in amazing recovery of riparian woodland and marshland, and in 2011, this area was recognized as part of the Watson and Willow Lakes Ecosystem Important Bird Area (IBA). It is an impressive example of how a highly degraded area can become prized “natural area” benefiting people and wildlife alike.

Downstream from Watson Woods, the large reservoir provides abundant outdoor recreation and waterfowl habitat. The abundance of water birds and introduced fish attracts species high on the food web, including Bald Eagle, Peregrine Falcon, Osprey, and White Pelican. The creek itself supports several pairs of the rare Common Black Hawk, and Yellow-billed Cuckoos have nested there.

Watson Lake meets Watson Woods, autumn, courtesy Walt Anderson

Two of the region’s most colorful duck species occur here: the Wood Duck and the Hooded Merganser. The intensely colorful Wood Duck is a rare breeder in Arizona, mainly nesting here on Granite Creek and in parts of the Verde Valley. It is a year-round resident, at times gathering in small flocks of up to 50 birds but often in small parties along the creek. At times the birds move to Watson or Willow Lakes, but most of the time, they occur in the wooded riparian areas.

The Hooded Merganser is a wintering migrant, spending time here between October and April, then nesting in northern states and southern Canada. They are more likely to be seen on open lake waters, but they frequent Granite Creek at times, their own colorful patterns rivaling those of the Wood Ducks.

Hooded Merganser, hen, courtesy Walt Anderson

Deer, bobcats, foxes, raccoons, and other mammals thrive along the creek, and both resident and migratory birds are well-served by the healthy riparian community that has returned after decades of abuse. Many birds rare in Arizona have been sighted in this riparian oasis.

So while we celebrate the return of wildlife in the once-destroyed Watson Woods area, we are mindful that the integrity of riparian areas downstream from the dam and in valleys within the Granite Dells could be severely compromised without immediate attention to protection and management. Fragmentation of habitat, as so often occurs with poorly planned development, is a major threat to wildlife populations.

Hooded Merganser, drake, courtesy Walt Anderson

It has been said that a landscape without wildlife is mere scenery. Today, people hiking, biking, and horseback riding on existing trails around Granite Creek and the Dells are often treated to wonderful wildlife sightings, and there is no doubt that wildlife contributes to high-quality recreational experiences.

Watson Lake meets Watson Woods, autumn, courtesy Walt Anderson

Prescott is growing rapidly, and development is putting pressure on remaining unspoiled lands. While the City has an excellent trails system, there is potential for creating a much larger interconnected public open space system, which proponents, such as the non-profit Granite Dells Preservation Foundation, are envisioning as a Granite Dells Regional Park. This would include accessible developed sites such as at Watson and Willow Lakes, as well as wild peaks and valleys in the one-of-a-kind Granite Dells ecosystem, which the City already touts as its top scenic natural attraction. This vision could be accomplished through land-use zoning for functional open space in planned area developments and also through fund-raising for additional land acquisition. Success will depend a great deal on winning the support of City Council members, whose decisions will ultimately determine what kind of city will result.

Walt Anderson

Walt Anderson taught classes (including Wetland Ecology & Management, Wildlife Management, and Natural History & Ecology of the Southwest) at Prescott College for 27 years. He is a wildlife artist, photographer, and international expedition guide who devotes a large share of his time to conservation issues, including serving with the Granite Dells Preservation Foundation.

Painting the Water in Arizona, Scarce but Oh, So Beautiful

Guest Post by Barbara Kemp Cowlin

Why would I paint images of water when I live in Arizona?

Many people ask me this question and I always answer that the scarcity of water is why I am compelled to paint it. My subjects are water as abstraction, water with natural forms, the interaction of people and water. Water contained or harnessed in man-made situations is a new branch of my Painting Water series.

My first experience with painting water was when I lived in Santa Barbara and received an assignment in a painting class to go to the wharf, observe and then choose something to paint on site. The subject most students picked were the sailboats. I, however, looked down and was mesmerized by the reflections on the top of the water, the feeling of impenetrable depth and the changing colors. Did I create a successful painting? No. But the challenge never left me.

When I moved to Arizona long ago the thing I missed most about California was the ocean. While growing up in California, it was in a 10-year drought. When a rare rain occurred kids of all ages went outside to play in the puddles in our suburban neighborhood.

The scarcity of water wasn’t new to me. What was new was the way in which the desert atmosphere, blue skies and monsoon clouds create wonderful colors and reflections in the water. I’ve painted everything water from puddles to creeks, lakes and canals.

Lake•Boat•Wake, 36”x48”, acrylic on panel Barbara Kemp Cowlin
Lake•Boat•Wake, 36”x48”, acrylic on panel Barbara Kemp Cowlin

Lake•Boat•Wake, 36”x48”, acrylic on panel, is from the wake I saw at the back of a boat on Lake Powell.

Organic forms, rocks, reeds, create a different kind of challenge. In addition. I am capturing the movement in the water.

Catalina, 36”x44”, acrylic on canvas by Barbara Kemp Cowlin

Catalina, 36”x44”, acrylic on canvas. This is from a snapshot I took at Catalina State Park. A seasonal stream flows through the wash, which is what I captured in this painting. Beautiful grasses and flowers spring up and wildlife gathers around when the creeks is running. Hikers splash through it.

I work from snapshots taken with my iPhone. Once back in my studio in Oracle, after the images are downloaded I pick and choose, crop and print. Then I start to paint, usually working from 2 or 3 reference photographs for each painting and work on 3 or 4 paintings at the same time. I block in large shapes first and then add many layers gradually working into details.

I enjoy showing people interacting with water in various situations.

Jack and David Attempt to Capture the Beauty painting by Barbara Kemp Cowlin

Jack and David Attempt to Capture the Beauty, 36”x24”, acrylic on canvas. Located at Shinumo Creek along the Colorado River in the Grand Canyon, this painting illustrates my brother-in-law and nephew on a raft trip we took with them, as they madly shot photographs the entire 9 day trip. I never found out if they were happy with these photographs. I took the occasional photograph but spent most of my time looking. The results are a series of paintings using the photos for reference.

Next are images of water being controlled by man:

The Barrier, 36”x48”, acrylic on panel. This shows Glen Canyon Dam on the downriver side, where the Colorado resumes its’ flow. On the other side is Lake Powell, popular recreation area for people throughout Arizona and adjacent states. The Dam generates hydroelectric power to the tune of 4 billion kilowatt hours per year and provides water distribution to Colorado, Wyoming, most of New Mexico and Utah as well as to most Arizonans. It was and remains a controversial project because it filled Glen Canyon, a spot with stunning sandstone gorges, not to mention Ancestral Puebloan cliff dwellings destroying the environment of the area, but creating an entirely new place.

The Contradiction, 36”x48”, acrylic on panel, below, shows one of the many canals in Arizona. The Florence-Casa Grande Canal is part of the San Carlos Irrigation Project. This painting shows the canal just outside of Florence where you can see the otherworldly water tanks in the distance. The color of the water is just as I saw it, really!

Beauty Contained, 36”x48”, acrylic on panel, the view from inside the lobby at the Phoenix Art Museum looking out the window at the fountain. Not only does this fountain add beauty to the site, it also simulates the sound of running water. A lovely way to get into the right frame of mind to view the art treasures inside.

Barbara Kemp Cowlin has lived in Arizona for most of her adult life, in Flagstaff, Phoenix, Ajo and now, Oracle. She has a BFA and MA in art and has shown and been collected in Arizona and around the country. She paints daily in her 650 sq. foot studio steps away from her home in Oracle.

Water/Ways Sierra Vista Programs

Courtesy City of Sierra Vista and the Henry F. Hauser Museum

Explore Water Programs in Sierra Vista!

For more information and to confirm programs schedule, please call (520) 417-6980.

Saturday, January 12 – 1:00 PM

Sierra Vista Water/Ways – Changing Landscapes
A Smithsonian Water/Ways Local Companion Exhibit
Grand Opening
Saturday, January 12
1:00 PM Ribbon-cutting Ceremony
1:30-3:30 PM Exhibit Open to the Public

Tuesday, January 8 – 1:00 PM

Whose Fault is it? Revisiting the 1887 Sonoran Earthquake
Henry F. Hauser Museum
Ethel H. Berger Center
2950 East Tacoma Street

The 1887 shaking was a major earthquake causing damage in the southwest United States and Mexico. Just how close is the Pitaycachi Fault to Cochise County and how has this fault been studied recently to analyze its reactivation potential? Cartographer and geographer, Glenn Minuth, returns to examine pictures of the fault to discuss its geological significance; and finally reviews historic damage pictures along with the narrative accounts from those who recorded their thoughts at the time from some of the over 200 Arizona locations, in nearby states, and Mexico.

Friday, January 18 – 5:30-7:00 PM

Stacks After Dark – Water Panel Discussion
A Conversation About Water Resources, Use, and Management in the Upper San Pedro River Valley

Sierra Vista Public Library
Public Meeting Room
Join moderator, George Van Otten, Professor Emeritus of Geography and Public Planning, Northern Arizona, for a conversation about water resources, use, and management in the Upper San Pedro River Valley. Panel members include County Supervisor Pat Call, Friends of the San Pedro River member, Tricia Gerrodette; Community member and former vice president of Bella Vista Water/Ranches, Judy Gignac; and local rancher and board member of the Hereford Natural Resource Conservation District, Jim Lindsey.

Saturday, January 19 – 10:00-11:00 AM

Watercolor Magic Hoops for Kids
Ethel H. Berger Center
Cost: Free
Maximum Participants: 30
Registration is required. Space is limited. To reserve your space call 520-439-2307 or email
Children ages 7-13 will use their imaginations to create a water scene depicting an aspect of water found in the San Pedro Valley.
Using markers and colored pencils, participants will draw their water scene on fabric or choose from available templated prints. Magic happens when a watercolor solution is added. Each masterpiece is then framed in an embroidery hoop. Participants in the January class have the option to display their creation in the museum as part of our companion exhibit!
We thank the Hummingbird Stitchers Quilt Guild for sponsoring and conducting this class.

Saturday, January 26 – 9:00 –11:00 AM

San Pedro River Tour
San Pedro House
Hwy 90 East
Friends of the San Pedro River and hydrogeologist Victoria Hermosilla in partnership with the City of Sierra Vista’s Henry F. Hauser Museum are offering a free guided hike along the San Pedro River. The tour covers a range of educational topics such as riparian ecology, river hydrology, groundwater science, native and migratory birds, and water policy. Join us at the San Pedro House shortly before 9am for this discussion-focused hike, all while enjoying the scenic beauty of the San Pedro River corridor. Please wear sturdy shoes and bring water.

Saturday, January 26 – 1:00-2:00 pm

Hydrology and Water Resources 101

Ethel H. Berger Center

As we move into the 21st century, our water resources and management will need to become more adaptive under the pressures of population growth and less predictable weather patterns. This interactive and discussion-based presentation, with hydrogologist Victoria Hermosilla, covers the water cycle, surface water and groundwater basics with considerations of water usage as it relates water & energy and water & food. Victoria will also provide access to groundwater models and other informational displays.

Saturday, February 2 – 9:00 am -5:00 pm AND Sunday, February 3 – 10:00 am -3:00 pm

Quilt Show – A Sierra Vista Water/Ways Special Quilt Exhibit

Buena High School

Cost:  Free for Special Water/Ways Exhibit Hall, $7 for the “Quilts of the Huachucas” exhibit.

The Henry F. Hauser Museum has partnered with our local Hummingbird Stitchers Quilt Guild in bringing this special water inspired quilt exhibit to the public, as part of their annual Quilt Show and Sale. There is a small fee for entrance into their regular exhibit area, but the Water/Ways quilt exhibit space is free. Stop by and take a peek. We have some incredibly talented quilters right here in the greater Sierra Vista area!

Saturday, February 2

Slow the H2O – Rain Chains Workshop for Kids & Adults

10:00 AM -11:30 PM Adult Class (Maximum participants – 10)
1:00-2:30 PM Kids Class (Ages 10-17) (Maximum Participants – 20)

Ethel H. Berger Center
A parent or guardian is encouraged to participate.
Cost: Free
Help us create unique and artistic rain chains to channel water from the Ethel Berger Center roof into the vegetation. The adult class will construct one chain and the kids workshop will make two. We’ll be using various metal items such as spoons, forks, funnels, and bells, and we’ll add some beads for color! After each creation is made, we’ll do a short “Hanging Ceremony.” Once you’ve learned the basics, you can create your own at home from your own recycled “treasures”
Registration is required. Space is limited. To reserve your space call 520-439-2307 or email

Tuesday, February 5 – 1:00 PM

Water in Arizona: Past, Present, Future
Henry F. Hauser Museum
Ethel H. Berger Center
2950 East Tacoma Street

Water is Arizona’s most precious resource, yet few people know where their water comes from, who provides it, how its quality is assured, or how secure future water supplies are for the state’s 6 million residents. A billboard near Roosevelt Dam on the Salt River proclaimed in the 1960s: “Arizona Grows Where Water Flows.” However, growth and the control of water to support it have never been simple uncontested endeavors. There are the haves and have nots, conflicts between farmers, cities, and industry over who gets how much and who pays how much. Federal, tribal, state, and local governments are involved in developing and distributing water to serve diverse constituents with often competing interests. And what about nature? Who is looking out for Arizona’s native fish and amphibians, and the birds and insects that thrive in the cottonwood and willow forests along our most rare and valuable streamside ecosystems? We face very serious water supply sustainability challenges in the coming decades. Who makes decisions about our water future? ASU Professor of History and Sustainability Paul Hirt takes us on a bird’s eye view of the past, present, and future of water in Arizona.

February 5 through 7

Water Stories Storytime @ the Library
Tuesday, February 5 Baby Storytime
Wednesday, February 6 Preschool Storytime
Friday, February 8 Toddler Storytime
10:20-11:10 AM
Thursday, February 7 Pajama Storytime
6:30-7:15 PM
Sierra Vista Public Library
Public Meeting Room
Cost: Free
The Henry F. Hauser Museum has partnered with our city library in celebrating the many faces of water; from rivers and waterfalls to ice and steam. Join children’s librarian, Erica Merritt, for a fun and educational week. For more information call (520) 458-4225.

Saturday, February 16  – 11:00 AM -12:00 PM

Make and Take: Squirt Gun Art for Families and Teens
Ethel H. Berger Center
Dining Room
Cost: Free
Maximum Participants: Unlimited (Ages 5-17)

Stop by the museum, take a peek at the Smithsonian Exhibit and create a one of a kind design using squirt guns and paint!
No registration required. Simply show up!

Saturday, February 16 – Presentation:  1:00-2:00 pm      

A History and Overview of Water Treatment at the City’s Environmental Operations Park

Presentation and Tour

Ethel H. Berger Center

Wastewater treatment isn’t something most people like to think about, but it is vital to protect public health.  Did you know that buildings from the City’s first wastewater treatment facility are still standing in Sierra Vista’s historic West End?  Did you know that the City once used treated effluent to grow alfalfa?  What does the City do with its effluent today?  From the West End, to harvesting alfalfa, to the single-most important recharge project in our region, come hear about the history and future of wastewater treatment operations from the City’s Public Works Director, Sharon Flissar. Then meet her at the EOP for a tour following the presentation.

Saturday, February 23 – 10:00-11:00 AM

Watercolor Magic Hoops

Ethel H. Berger Center
Cost: Free
Maximum Participants: 30
Registration is required. Space is limited. To reserve your space call 520-439-2307 or email
Children ages 7-13 will use their imaginations to create a water scene depicting an aspect of water found in the San Pedro Valley.
Using markers and colored pencils, participants will draw their water scene on fabric or choose from available templated prints. Magic happens when a watercolor solution is added. Each masterpiece is then framed in an embroidery hoop.

Saturday, February 23 – 10:00 AM -3:00 PM

Sierra Vista Water/Ways Youth Arts Festival
Cochise College, Sierra Vista Campus
Cost: Free
The Henry F. Hauser Museum is pleased to partner with the annual Youth Arts Festival this year in celebrating the Smithsonian Water/Ways exhibit! This family-friendly event serves grades K-8 students through dynamic “make and take” activities and live performances centered around the theme of water. This collaboration between the Sierra Vista Arts & Humanities Commission and the Cochise College Art Department invites local artists and talents to run stations including Art, Craft, Writing, Theater, Music, Dance and more, where local youth can try new things and explore creative interests. For more information about attending or volunteering for this event, contact:

We thank the Hummingbird Stitchers Quilt Guild for sponsoring and conducting this class.

Tuesday, March 5 – 1:00 PM

Huachuca Water Company: an Engineering Success
Henry F. Hauser Museum
Ethel H. Berger Center
2950 East Tacoma Street

Join historian and professional researcher, Nancy Sosa, for an educational and entertaining look into a rather unique regional water story – The Tombstone Pipeline. The Huachuca Water Company was established in 1880 to bring water to Tombstone, Arizona. The investors of the Huachuca Water Company claimed and developed 23 springs in Miller and Carr Canyons of the Huachuca Mountains, and built an approximate 27-mile long iron pipeline to deliver the water. Once the longest gravity fed pipeline in America, this line is still in use today, bringing much-needed water to the citizens and visitors of Tombstone.

Experience “AZ H2O + Art” in Florence January 11th

A new water program has just been added in Florence!

Hoover Dam is an iconic marvel of American engineering. Created to manage the floodwaters of the Colorado River, the dam continues to affect Arizonans’ lives daily. But the Hoover dam is rarely thought of as a significant work of art. Since artists first visited our region, water has been a subject for their work, ranging from rivers and lakes to dams, agriculture and recreation. This program will explore works of art created over the past 150 years, and invite participants to discuss the various ways water is systemic to life in the Arizona deserts, mountains and the Colorado Plateau.

Friday, January 11
5:30 – 6:30 p.m.
Florence Library and Community Center – 778 N. Main St, Florence, AZ

Jim Ballinger is uniquely qualified to lead a conversation about the relationship between water and art, having served as the director of the Phoenix Art Museum for 33 years. During his tenure, the Phoenix Art Museum presented nearly 500 exhibits, 50 of which Ballinger personally organized. Ballinger has a keen interest in the intersection of art and water, and is a nationally respected arts advocate.

Educating teachers about water in rural Arizona

By Liz Marquez, Program Manager, Decision Center for a Desert City (DCDC), Arizona State University

Colorado River Basin from Basin Study by US Bureau of Reclamation

Primary Source of Water

Looking at the map of the Lower Colorado River Basin and the state of Arizona, it becomes clear that as the Colorado River flows south from Hoover Dam, the area around Lake Havasu City and Parker, are critical water management areas for Arizona and California. For Arizona, the Central Arizona Project Canal begins its 336-mile journey to bring one of the primary sources of water to central Arizona. Also, the Colorado River continues past Parker Dam, to bring the primary source of water to the fertile agricultural valley of Yuma county.  For California, the Colorado River Aqueduct begins its 242-mile water journey to the east side of the Santa Ana Mountains and provides one of the primary sources of drinking water for Southern California.

Lake Havasu City Teacher Training December 2018

Water Education Training comes to Lake Havasu City

To help teachers and students gain a better understanding of the importance of water management in this region, our team of researchers and educators from Decision Center for a Desert City at Arizona State University, Tempe campus,visited the ASU Lake Havasu campus in Lake Havasu City, Arizona on December 1,2018, to train 21 grade 7-12 teachers from Lake Havasu City, Bullhead City, and Kingman on tools to integrate water education in science and humanities classrooms.

courtesy Decision Center for a Desert City

Teachers learned about water in Arizona and used a water balance systems model developed by DCDC, called WaterSim Arizona. With this web-based tool, they compared different trade-offs associated with choosing different water policies and compared various water stakeholders.

WaterSim Arizona

Teachers also learned about WaterStories, a platform for students to engage in discussions about local water sustainability by expressing personal stories about water in their culture and communities. Using recording equipment available to loan to teachers who attend our workshop, teachers recorded their own water stories to get an idea of what recording stories is like for their students.

About the Project

For more information about the Rural Arizona Water Education project, visit:

This project is supported by grants from the National Science Foundation and from the Ellis Center for EducationalExcellence of the Arizona Community Foundation. Established in 1978, the Arizona Community Foundation is a statewide philanthropic entity supported by thousands of Arizonans. Last year, ACF and its affiliates awarded more than $40 million in grants and scholarships, funding projects of some 3,000nonprofit organizations, schools and government agencies. Visit  to learn more.

Celebrate Water/Ways in Florence November 17 through December 30

Florence has a long-term relationship with the Gila River and its water. The Gila riverbed goes directly through the town’s historic downtown core, which is designated a National Historic District. The town is one of the oldest municipalities in Arizona. It was founded in 1866 and serves as the seat of Pinal County. The first settlers in the area encountered the expertly engineered canals constructed by the Hohokam people centuries before, and wasted no time in resurrecting some of them to water their own crops.

McFarland State Historic Park will serve as the host for the Smithsonian Water/Ways exhibit. In addition, explore the companion exhibit Our Water-Past and Present at the Pinal County Historical Museum and attend programs and film screenings at the Florence Community Library.

Water/Ways Exhibition Special Preview “Our Water-Past and Present” 
Thursday, November 15
5:30 p.m.
Pinal County Historical Society Museum – 715 S. Main St., Florence, AZ

Water/Ways Grand Opening Celebration
Saturday, November 17
1:00 p.m.
McFarland State Historic Park – 24 W. Ruggles St., Florence, AZ

Forced to Abandon Our Fields: The 1914 Charles Southworth Gila River Pima Interviews with Dr. David DeJong, Project Director, Pima-Maricopa Irrigation Project
Friday, November 30
6:00 p.m.
Florence Library and Community Center – 778 N. Main St., Florence, AZ

Water/Ways Movie Series 
Saturday, December 1
1:00 p.m.
Florence Library and Community Center – 778 N. Main St, Florence, AZ

Read more about Florence and view all Water/Ways Florence programs.

Check out the Florence Water/Ways Program Schedule!

Make a date to see these fantastic programs while Water/Ways is in Florence!

Water/Ways Program Schedule

November 17

1:00 pm

Grand Opening of Water/Ways in Florence

McFarland State Historic Park, 24 W. Ruggles St.,

Downtown Florence

The public is welcome to attend the Grand Opening of Water/Ways in Florence! The event will include remarks by local dignitaries and light refreshments. After experiencing the Smithsonian Water/Ways exhibit, the public is invited to visit the Pinal County Historical Society Museum to view Florence’s local Water/Ways exhibit.


Except as noted, all programs will be held at the Florence Library and Community Center, 778 North Main Street, Florence, AZ, (520)868-8311

November 30

6:00 pm

Forced to Abandon Our Fields: The 1914 Charles Southworth Gila River Pima Interviews; Dr. David DeJong, Project Director, Pima-Maricopa Irrigation Project   

The program will cover the period of the latter 19th and early 20th century, a critical time during which the economy of the Gila River Indian Community was decimated by upstream diversions from the Gila River. In 1914, Charles Southworth interviewed Pima elders who described these changes caused by upstream diversions and its impact on the economy of the Community. The program includes a brief modern history of events and recent efforts to restore the agricultural economy of the Community as exemplified by the Pima-Maricopa Irrigation District.

December 1

1:00 pm

Water/Ways Movie Series

Tthe library will feature a movie from the Water/Ways movie list. Contact the library for specific titles.

December 5

3:00 pm

Water in the Southwest: Where have we been, and where are we going? Dr. Jennifer Richter, Arizona State University, School of Social Transformation and the School for the Future of Innovation in Society

It has been said that, “Whiskey is for drinking, water is for fighting.” This is especially true of water politics in the American Southwest, a region defined by its lack of water. The massive 20th century federal investments into dam systems controlled the great rivers of the West, allowing cities like Phoenix to “bloom like a rose” and grow exponentially. As we work for our future in the 21st century, many questions arise. Where does our water come from? Who benefited from changing water politics? How did moving water systems from one place to another affect different communities, and how have those effects been recognized through treaties and policies governing water? And perhaps most importantly, in the face of a changing climate; how sustainable are our present-day water policies and infrastructure? Join us for an interesting FRANK Talk on water in the Southwest.

December 8

1:00 pm

Water/Ways Movie Series

The library will feature a movie from the Water/Ways movie list. Contact the library for specific titles.

December 14

6:00 pm

Vision Realized: Ernest W. McFarland and the Central Arizona Project; Joanna Brace, Curator, Arizona State Parks and Trails

Known as “Mac,” Ernest McFarland had common sense and a common touch, but he was also a visionary. One of those visions was to bring water from the Colorado River to irrigate hundreds of thousands of acres in Central Arizona. It was a vision that had to overcome significant obstacles, but Mac had been preparing his entire life to lead the charge in the U.S. Senate. McFarland continued the fight as Arizona’s Governor in the 1950s until able to celebrate the passage of the Central Arizona Project bill in 1968. Today, water delivered by CAP impacts 80% of the state’s population, so remember to thank Mac the next time you turn on a tap.

December 15

1:00 pm

Water/Ways Movie Series

The library will feature a movie from the Water/Ways movie list. Contact the library for specific titles.

December 21

6:00 pm

Prehistoric Water Management Along the Gila River; Dr. Douglas Craig; President, Friends of Casa Grande Ruins

Visit Water/Ways in Miami-Globe through November 4

Water/Ways is officially open in Miami-Globe! The opening festivities included music and remarks from Vice President of Salt River Project John Hoopes and Congressman Ed Pastor. Be sure to also check out the companion exhibit of water photographs by local photographer Elizabeth Eaton.
September 22 – November 4
Thursdays-Saturdays: 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m.
Sundays: 12:00 – 3:00 p.m.
150 N. Plaza Circle
Miami, AZ

Water/Ways Opens in Miami-Globe Saturday, September 22

The Smithsonian exhibit Water/Ways wraps up in Fort Apache this Sunday September 9. It will travel next to Miami, and reopen Saturday,September 22 at the Bullion Plaza Cultural Center and Museum. Bullion Plaza is “dedicated to preserving and presenting the culturally diverse history, the human experience, as well as exploring the natural environment unique to the Globe-Miami region of Arizona.” The building was known as the Bullion Plaza School in Gila County and is on the National Register of Historic Places.
Miami is located in east central Arizona, and it is closely tied with the nearby City of Globe. The “twin” municipalities share a newspaper, a chamber of commerce, and a common cultural identity. Although the mining operations that support the economy depend on large amounts of water, there are no rivers or lakes in the area. The Gila River flows about 30 miles to the south through Winkelman. The Salt River and Roosevelt Lake, a large reservoir created by Roosevelt Dam, lie north of the communities. Miami and Globe rely for their own water supply on deep wells that tap into groundwater from the Cutter Basin. The Tonto National Forest surrounds the area on three sides. U.S. Highway 60 connects the towns, which are about four miles apart.


Dates: September 22 – November 4, 2018
Address: 150 N Plaza Circle, Miami, Arizona 85539-1629
Exhibit hours: Thursdays-Saturdays: 11:00 a.m. – 3:00 p.m., Sundays: 12:00 – 3:00 p.m.
Water/Ways is sponsored by the Salt River Project, Nestlé Waters North America, the American Slavic Association, and Chaos RX Optics. 

Water/Ways opens in Fort Apache!

The Smithsonian Museum on Main Street Water/Ways exhibit arrived in Fort Apache, its second Arizona destination, on July 28. At the grand opening, visitors were greeted by Gwendena Lee-Gatewood, the newly elected White Mountain Apache Tribal Chairwoman, and Karl Hoerig, Director of the White Mountain Apache Tribe’s Nohwike’ Bágowa Museum.

Fort Apache and Theodore Roosevelt School National Historic Landmark

Fort Apache and Theodore Roosevelt School National Historic Landmark

Before the grand opening

Fort Apache installation

Before the Water/Ways exhibit could be celebrated at Fort Apache, it had to travel almost 300 miles from the Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum. The exhibit consists of five large units that go together quite easily, but take up a lot of space—all of them are taller than a typical person, and the biggest unit is over thirteen feet long.

The Nohwike’ Bágowa Museum staff and volunteers had help from some experienced Water/Ways installers. Tom Foster, who was part of the Bisbee installation team and co-leads the Miami host site planning team, traveled to Fort Apache to help. Water/Ways State Scholar Paul Hirt was also on hand to lend his expertise.  His wife Linda Jakse and Jakse’s cousin Janez Fabijan, visiting Arizona from Slovenia, also helped with the installation.

“It was a pleasure and an honor to help install Water/Ways at Fort Apache. It was like piecing together a big puzzle, each piece fitting perfectly into the whole,” Hirt said. “Everything ran smoothly, just like water.”  He reported that the team “completely finished the set up by about 4:30 p.m. Even the electronics were on and working.” The electronic tablets integrated into the Water/Ways exhibit at Fort Apache support WaterSim Arizona, a simulation model that works like a game but teaches users about real water management dilemmas.

Tú hidaa diyinhi . . . Water is sacred

Fort Apache companion exhibit

Karl Hoerig demonstrates the watershed model at he grand opening

During the Fort Apache grand opening, community members strolled into the exhibit space, saw the tall, curving Water/Ways display, tried the interactive activities, and learned about water stories from the White Mountain Apache community. A companion exhibit detailing the area’s history and geography added a local perspective on the impact and importance of water.

Karl Hoerig demonstrated how these elements interact by making a simple watershed model. Visiting children learned how the local landscape affects water resources for people living not just in the immediate area, but in Arizona communities that are many miles away from Fort Apache.

Hoerig shared, “Water is a central focus of traditional Apache cultural understanding; it is recognized as being both sacred and alive, it plays key roles in stories of creation, and its availability was the defining factor in settlement, land use, and even social and political organization in pre-reservation times.”

Exploring the Water/Ways exhibit

The process to host Water/Ways brought the whole community together. Hoerig added, “When I learned of the opportunity to host Water/Ways, I knew that it would be relevant and timely for our audiences. So I consulted with our museum staff and advisors and the Tribe’s water resources folks to confirm that we wanted to host the exhibit. From there, we talked about what visitors needed to know about water from the Apache perspective. We recognized that we should present first some interpretation of the importance and meaning of water in Apache heritage, and we also wanted to provide additional information about what the water rights quantification agreement was all about. I then worked with the museum staff to develop text and choose images for the water heritage panels, and consulted with the water resources director and the Tribe’s water rights attorney on the text and images to be used to present the water rights agreement. I also consulted with and received approval from Tribal Chairwoman Gwendena Lee-Gatewood for the water rights quantification text. Ann Skidmore and Beverly Malone from the museum staff are our Ndee Biyati’i (Apache language) experts, and they provided all of the Ndee Biyati’i text.  I also worked with Lyndon Guy, UA GIS student and water resources staff member, to develop the maps. In doing research on all of the water issues, I began to find information about how significant the current drought is in historic terms, and that was the impetus for the “How dry is it?” panel that documents how the last year has been one of the driest ever recorded.”

Hoerig expects Water/Ways in Fort Apache to be a popular field trip destination for schools across a wide area. The exhibit is a fun way for kids to learn about the scientific and social meaning of water.

“We really want students who visit the exhibit to gain an awareness of the vital importance of water, and the reality of its scarcity in our region. We want local students, in particular, to know more about the Tribe’s water rights quantification agreement and to understand how important the agreement is to the Tribe’s ability to grow and thrive into the future,” added Hoerig.

Teachers can download free materials from the Smithsonian Museum on Main Street website to prepare their students for the Water/Ways experience, continue their water explorations in the classroom, or share their water projects with the world. Maybe a field trip to Fort Apache will inspire the next generation of water problem-solvers in Arizona!

Water/Ways at Fort Apache and Theodore Roosevelt National Historic Landmark

July 28 – September 9
Building 104 General Crook Street
Fort Apache, AZ 85926

For exhibit hours, contact the Fort Apache Heritage Foundation.

928-338-4625 or