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World Water Day: Citizen scientists provide valuable information on intermittent rivers

On World Water Day and throughout the year, citizen scientists are providing valuable data on intermittently dry rivers in the Southwest United States. Trained citizen scientists are mapping three such rivers in Arizona: San Pedro River, Cienega Creek and Agua Fria River. The information is allowing researchers to determine how best to manage water resources in a changing climate. In the study, groups of citizen scientists measured the three waterways section by section, from where the rivers begin to where they end. The data show drying patterns and how they vary over time, allowing scientists to better understand factors such as temperature, precipitation, stream flow levels and drought. Data from these surveys are being used to generate maps showing long-term trends. Two rivers, Cienega Creek and Agua Fria River, showed significant water level declines. The San Pedro is the only river of the three in which water levels did not decline, possibly a result of a groundwater management plan there, according to the researchers. The U.S. Southwest has experienced extensive droughts over the past several decades, and river drying may continue as a result of climate change.

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