Water Resources Research Act Program

Details for Project ID 2019AZ018B

A Citizen Science Approach to Monitoring Water Resources in a Vulnerable Aquifer

Institute: Arizona
Year Established: 2019 Start Date: 2019-06-01 End Date: 2020-05-31
Total Federal Funds: $5,125 Total Non-Federal Funds: $28,058

Principal Investigators: Jennifer McIntosh

Abstract: In the winter of 2014, the Town Manager of Patagonia in southeastern Arizona issued a “water alert†due to the declining groundwater table (Reibslager, 2014). The decreasing groundwater levels, coupled with changing recharge conditions due to climate change and increasing demands on groundwater from planned mining activity have local residents concerned about future groundwater and surface water flow conditions. Protecting groundwater resources in the Sonoita Creek Basin is integral to the work of over 30 stakeholder groups in the area. The Town of Patagonia’s water supply and the perennial flow of Sonoita Creek are dependent upon groundwater flow. In an effort to better understand and monitor groundwater within the basin, first a better understanding of the complicated hydrology of the Patagonia Mountains must be developed. Through analysis of Tritium, Oxygen-18 and Carbon-14 isotopes, groundwater age will be determined. Knowing the age of groundwater will help conceptualize water movement within the aquifer and vulnerable wells and springs will be identified for additional sampling. The long-term goal of the proposed work is to develop a monitoring plan that is within a local citizen science group’s resources, capabilities and level of enthusiasm, and to lead the group towards understanding the hydrology of their region. The plan will guide residents within the Sonoita Creek Basin to strategically monitor the behavior of the aquifer around Harshaw Creek, a tributary of Sonoita Creek with its headwaters in the Patagonia Mountains, and other vulnerable tributaries. The data collected by the group will inform future hydrologic studies within the basin and aid in making management decisions around water use by the Town Council. In addition, the project will empower stakeholders and well owners to be vigilant about monitoring their water supply through documenting and monitoring the effects of varying precipitation and groundwater use on spring flow and the groundwater table.