CLIFTON — Last week, the Gila Watershed Partnership asked people, “Have you heard what’s happening at the river?”

The GWP invited the public last Tuesday to a presentation by Science & Outreach Manager Kara Barron to bring the state of the river to the people.

Held at the Clifton Library, the presentation was well attended by the public. GWP Director Melanie Tluczek stated that feedback from the public has led the organization to believe it was talking above the heads of the general public when it came to watershed issues, and this presentation was one of the steps it’s taking to correct that and get the public connected to the watershed.

Barron started with basics, describing exactly what is a watershed to the public and the mission of the GWP.

“Your watershed is the Upper Gila, and that’s this group’s focus,” Barron said.

She asked them what they thought they’d find on the San Francisco River. Trash was one of the replies, and Barron agreed. That’s why the GWP has been monitoring the condition of the river, thanks to a grant from the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality.

In the past, they have been significant levels of E-coli found in the waters of the river, half human waste and half cattle, according to Barron. However, the condition seems to be improving, thanks to the efforts of the GWP that conducts regular river cleanups and has constructed two public restrooms along the river with a third on the way.

“I’ve been out there six times this year, and so far the levels (of E-coli) haven’t gone above safe,” Barron said.

So far, the group has removed tons of waste, thanks to its river cleanups, so much so that there’s been less to gather with successive cleanups overall. Greenlee County Engineer Phil Ronnerud is very familiar with the river conditions and said he credited the education campaigns, like the library presentation, in reducing the human pollution on the San Francisco.

The rest of the presentation covered the different aspects of the river and proper procedure in securing refuse and waste when staying on the watershed. The GWP hopes that in time these efforts will rejuvenate the river, which the EPA currently lists as impaired.

“It might be difficult, but it’s not impossible,” Tluczek said.

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