Did You Know: Wetlands Exist In Arizona

July 26, 2013

There are two wetlands in Arizona. These are homes to wildlife and unique species of birds and mammals.

fitration system Tres Rios is a filtration system. (Photo by Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez-KJZZ)

Did You Know, some wetlands are man-made? At a place 15 minutes from downtown Phoenix, a wetland restoration effort has been in the works for more than a decade. 

When you think of wetlands you think of the Florida Everglades and Louisiana Delta. But the Sonoran Desert? Did you know the largest constructed wetlands in the Southwest are located in the Valley?

"Tres Rios, this is where the three main rivers of the Phoenix metropolitan area come together. You have the Salt River, the Agua Fria and Gila." said Ron Elkins, leader of the Tres Rios Wetlands project.

Ron Elkins Ron Elkins supervises the Tres Rios Wetlands. (Photo by Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez-KJZZ)

For more than 15 years, the city of Phoenix has been restoring a Phoenix area near 91st Avenue and Southern Avenue back to what it once was, wetlands. Tres Rios has become a multi functional gem for ecologists.

"It recycles water, reclaims it. It does water quality," Elkins said. "It is habitat restoration, a flood protection element."

The area functions much like a recycling facility. There are several patches of wetlands on 480 acres of land. About 150 million gallons of treated waste water a day is pumped into the wetlands. They act like a filtration system in stages where one after another screens and stabilizes the water. It ultimately flows into the river bottom where it becomes a wildlife paradise for hundreds of species that live on, under and around the wetlands.

"If we were talking about different species of plants and animals and stuff, you would be probably talking about over 1000 different species," Elkins said.

Currently, the city of Phoenix allows limited access. A large portion of the project will be open to the public by the spring of next year.

flowing into river Tres Rios Wetlands flows into three rivers. (Photo by Nadine Arroyo Rodriguez-KJZZ)

"If you wanted to see a bird that was really strange, come on out and see a bald eagle. Come on out and see a 15 inch largemouth bass in the water," Elkins said. "If you wanted to see an unusual mammal come on out and see a beaver."

This project will help people learn what happens after they turn on their spigot…

"And where that water goes and what we do to treat it, and then how important it is to each individual every drop of water," Elkins said.

The city operates the facility, and residents play a part in the project as well. You could be one of 2.5 million people who contribute to the waste water collection system. By the way, the other wetlands in the state are the Sweetwater Wetlands near Tucson.