Over the last 20 years, we have watched large wildfires ravage the Salt and Verde river watersheds — many of them human-caused. The devastation proves one important fact that must be addressed now: Our forests are unhealthy and at high risk for wildfires.
SRP manages the water supply for much of the Valley, most of which comes from 8.3 million acres of forested land in northern Arizona. Snowfall and rain provide the water that travels through the watershed into SRP reservoirs. Ultimately, this water is delivered to homes and businesses via canals.
Arizona’s forested land is at risk of wildfires
Many forested lands that make up the northern Arizona watershed have thousands of trees per acre (which is a lot!). Overcrowded trees can fuel large, uncontrollable wildfires with catastrophic results. This year we have already seen seven fires on the Salt and Verde watersheds that have burned 2,370 acres. In 2020, 18 fires in and around the Salt and Verde river watersheds burned 377,803 acres.
SRP and the U.S. Forest Service are working together to speed up the removal of overcrowded small trees that provide fuel and can accelerate wildfires to catastrophic levels. This collaboration restores healthy, resilient watersheds and landscapes and also provides economic benefits to local communities.
Sadly, almost nine out of 10 wildfires are caused by humans at a national level. These preventable wildfires threaten lives, property and our natural resources.
Wildfires are also a threat to our water supply because they can degrade water quality and resiliency. After a wildfire, rainfall washes ash and debris into rivers and reservoirs. The large amount of material that washes into SRP’s reservoirs reduces our water storage capacity, damages water infrastructure and creates dangerous post-wildfire flooding events.
Know before you go: How to prevent human-caused wildfires
Whether you’re a first-time visitor to our forests or a national forest expert, you play a valuable role in preventing wildfires and protecting our watershed.
Here are a few tips on how you can prevent wildfires while traveling to your destination:
Before your trip, be sure to check and follow all forest and local government fire restrictions. You can also see an interactive map of closures and restrictions for national forests so you can plan ahead. If restrictions allow, here are three key tips to keeping your campfire safe:
- Build campfires in an open location away from vegetation.
- Put out campfires until they are cold.
- Don’t leave campfires unattended.
Most Arizona national forests have fire restrictions in place. For up-to-date information, follow these national forests on Facebook for the latest information on fire restrictions and active wildfires.
- Apache-Sitgreaves National Forest
- Coconino National Forest
- Kaibab National Forest
- Prescott National Forest
- Tonto National Forest
SRP is committed to reducing the wildfire risk on the watersheds through forest restoration partnerships, but we can’t do it alone. Restoring our forests to a healthy state requires government agencies, businesses, customers and forest visitors to do their part.