Goals and Objectives

This report card is a timely, transparent assessment of Verde River Watershed health as of December 2019. The Report Card is meant to be used as a tool for understanding problem areas in need of restoration or conservation effort, but it is also meant to serve as an outreach tool for use by managers and organizers to highlight particular issues of importance when communicating conservation and restoration with the public. This document was produced by the Nature Conservancy, Friends of the Verde River, and the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Science.

The report card was co-developed with stakeholders from around the Verde River Watershed. The selection of indicators reflects the values stakeholders have for the Verde with an emphasis on those values thought to be under threat. Some of the important threats identified were land-use changes, groundwater pumping, overuse of resources, climate change, and human pollution. To create a report card with these qualities that is relevant to the goals and objectives of the broad set of stakeholders in the basin, the project team held a series of workshops in the basin between November 2018 and April 2019. Workshop participants identified Water, Habitat, and Communities, as high-level values to consider for assessing watershed condition. Specific indicators were subsequently developed within each of these broad categories.

Development Process

The Nature Conservancy and Friends of the Verde River received funding from the U.S.D.A. Forest Service and the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust in Spring 2018 to engage the University of Maryland Center for Environmental Studies, global leaders in science communication, and formally develop the first ever Verde River Watershed Report Card. The Verde Valley cities of Sedona, Cottonwood, Camp Verde, and Clarkdale also funded the effort.

Stakeholder engagement is critical in any report card process, identifying values, selecting indicators, and setting thresholds. Stakeholders were engaged in three large workshops.

In the first workshop (November 13–14, 2018), stakeholders from around the watershed provided input on values and threats to the watershed and some of the most useful ways to indicate watershed condition. The high-level indicator categories were conceptualized and smaller working groups for each of these were established. Following the workshop, a series of conference calls were conducted to further define indicators and identify relevant data sources.

A second workshop was held March 4, 2019 with the purpose of engaging with down-stream water users in the Phoenix Metropolitan Area. These stakeholders were given the opportunity to express their own values and perceived threats to those values for the Verde River Watershed. Alignment between upstream and downstream user values and threats was discussed, as were data sources available from downstream users.

A final stakeholder workshop aimed at refining indicators and defining thresholds was held from April 4-5, 2019. Across the three workshops more than 16 entities from across the Verde River Watershed worked together to develop the indicators and categories used in the Verde River Watershed Report Card.

From October 28-30, 2019 draft scores were reported back to the community at the State of the Verde Watershed Conference. Held at Cliff Castle Casino Resort and Casino on the sovereign lands of the Yavapai-Apache Nation more than 180 conference attendees discussed report card results over a series of field trips, plenary talks, and break out discussions.

The first ever Verde River Watershed Report Card was released February 18, 2020 with tentative plans to update report card results every two to five years.