Gila Watershed Partnership

The Gila Watershed Partnership (GWP) was founded in 1992 to improve the Upper Gila Watershed of Arizona. The Partnership is a 501(c)3 not-for-profit Arizona Corporation that is made up of community members and representatives from businesses, organizations, and local, state and federal agencies who live and work in Graham and Greenlee counties.
Our members come from many different backgrounds and are spread across a wide geographical region, but are united by the determination to protect and improve the quality and quantity of our water, and improve the condition of the Upper Gila Watershed of Arizona.

Watershed Concerns

Water Quality
The Upper Gila Watershed has eight impaired stream reaches classified as impaired by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality. These impairments include E.coli, in the Blue and San Francisco Rivers in Greenlee County, E.coli and suspended sediment in the Gila River and selenium in Cave Creek, both located in Graham County. Numerous projects have been implemented to reduce the E.coli exceedances in the San Francisco and Blue Rivers, and projects are in the planning process to reduce the sediment load in the Gila River. The source of the selenium impairment in Cave Creek has not yet been identified.
Water Quantity
Water in the Upper Gila Watershed is a matter of great concern. Declining aquifer levels, the adjudication of water rights settlements, a long-term drought, as well as a growing population, has made this historically agriculturally-based community question its long-term survival.  
The partnership has water conservation programs for homes, businesses and municipal water providers in place and is coordinating a watershed-wide water appraisal study with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation. Additional studies are conducted in cooperation with the University of Arizona Water Resources Research Center to assess baseline watershed conditions including human and environmental water needs, potential impacts of climate change, and to develop support tools to address the impacts of future watershed management decisions.
Riparian Restoration
Many past projects have been implemented to improve the riparian resources and improve wildlife habitat, including off-riparian livestock watering facilities, livestock fencing, and river crossing improvements; and riparian habitat restoration.
Invasive Species
There are many invasive species that are of concern in the watershed, including tamarisk, Russian knapweed, sweet resinbush, yellow star thistle, and Malta star thistle. Although the watershed supports abundant native plant communities, tamarisk, which has now infested the majority of the riparian areas, is of greatest concern. The Gila Watershed Partnership is currently implementing a project designed to control tamarisk on the Upper Gila River.


  • To conserve natural resources
  • To enhance the environment for all users
  • To maintain or improve the local economy
  • To increase recreational opportunities
  • To increase water quantity
  • To improve water quality
  • To plan and act in order to avoid and minimize damage from large storms, floods, and other natural disasters


  • Arizona Department of Agriculture
  • Arizona Department of Environmental Quality
  • Arizona Department of Transportation
  • Arizona Game and Fish Department
  • Arizona Geological Survey
  • Arizona State Land Department
  • Chamber of Commerce
  • City of Safford
  • Coronado Resource Conservation and Development
  • Eastern Arizona College
  • Farm Bureau
  • Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold, Inc.
  • Gila Valley Irrigation District
  • Gila Valley NRCS
  • Graham County
  • Graham County Cooperative Extension
  • Greenlee County
  • Greenlee County Cattle Growers
  • Private citizens/Community members
  • Town of Clifton
  • Town of Duncan
  • Town of Pima
  • Town of Thatcher
  • U.S. Bureau of Land Management
  • U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
  • U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
  • U.S. Forest Service: Coronado NF and Apache Sitgreaves NF
  • University of Arizona Cooperative Extension
  • University of Arizona NEMO Project
  • University of Arizona Water Resources Research Center  
  • USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service
  • Verde Watershed Restoration Coalition
  • Walton Family Foundation

Watershed Plan

The Upper Gila Watershed of Arizona Watershed Plan is a part of the GWP’s on-going collaborative process to identify threats to our watershed health and strategically implement projects and programs to improve watershed conditions.

Description of Work to be Accomplished

  • Outreach - We engage our community in identifying threats to watershed health. 
  • Engagement - We engage our community, our stakeholders, and our partners to seek solutions to watershed issues, and prioritize our work.
  • Education - We educate our community in watershed issues and ways we can have a healthier, more vibrant watershed, for today and future generations.
  • Projects - We implement projects and programs to address watershed issues identified by our members.

Sources of Funding

  • Arizona Department of Agriculture
  • Arizona Department of Environmental Quality
  • Arizona Department of Water Resources
  • Arizona Water Protection Fund
  • Bureau of Land Management
  • Bureau of Reclamation
  • Freeport McMoRan Copper & Gold, Inc.
  • National Fish & Wildlife Foundation
  • RiverNetwork/MillerCoors
  • US Fish & Wildlife Service, Partners for Fish and Wildlife
  • Walton Family Foundation

Website, Newsletters, Meetings & Contact Info

More information about the Gila Watershed Partnership, including links to newsletters, can be found on their website
Monthly Meetings:
The Partnership meets every month on the second Wednesday of the month at 7 p.m. in the Graham County General Services Building, 921 Thatcher Blvd., Safford, Arizona 85546.
For additional information, please contact the following representatives:
Shawn Stone, Restoration Specialist,
Melissa McMaster: Arizona Restoration Coordinator, RiversEdge West
(928) 814-6373;


RiversEdge West's

mission is to advance the restoration of riparian lands through collaboration, education, and technical assistance.