Feb 15 2021Share

Appreciating Arizona's Unique Landscape While Embracing the Challenges

By AMWUA Staff

Arizona celebrated its 109th birthday on Valentine's Day, which created the perfect opportunity to appreciate where we live, and embrace our State's diversity in landscape and weather.

While a large portion of the State sits at an elevation of at least 4,000 feet above sea level and possesses the world's largest Ponderosa Pine forest, Arizona is well-known for its vast desert and arid climate. About one-tenth of Arizona is forested, one-fourth is woodland, one-fourth is grassland, and the rest is desert, which seems appropriate because Arizona is the only State that includes a part of the four deserts found in North America - Sonoran Desert (the largest), Mohave, Great Basin, and the Chihuahuan Desert.

Even though a desert State, Arizona has more shoreline than you would expect. Within our borders are manmade lakes (from dams), including Roosevelt Lake, Canyon Lake, Saguaro Lake, Apache Lake, Horseshoe Reservoir, Bartlett Reservoir, Lake Havasu, and the two largest manmade lakes in the U.S. - Lake Powell and Lake Mead. Arizona also has many creeks and rivers, including the San Pedro River, Gila River, Verde River, Salt River, and the Colorado River is our State's western border.

All of these characteristics highlight our State's diversity and showcase the challenges that could come from living in Arizona's varied climate and geography that can yield both the highest and lowest temperatures in the country within the same day. Precipitation levels also vary from border to border, but in the desert portions like here in the Valley, rain averages can be as low as five to eight inches annually.

So it's quite amazing to think we can thrive in the predominantly arid parts of Arizona, which would not be possible without access to reliable water supplies. More importantly, the effective management of those water resources and efficient water use has enabled us to prosper here in the Valley.

Managing our water responsibly has increased our resiliency, and wise water use has been a vital part of our long-term planning in the desert. Most people aren't aware that Arizona has had the most proactive groundwater management structure in the country, including mandated conservation in the State's most populated areas for more than 40 years. That strong water conservation ethic makes a difference because it allows us to enjoy our life in the desert and safeguards our water now and for future generations.

Taking the time to reflect on everything our State has to offer should also remind us that maintaining our quality of life in a challenging environment comes with a responsibility. After all, we live in the desert, and water is precious, so we must all do our part.

To learn more:

AZ Water Facts

Arizona Water Blueprint

The Story of AMWUA

For over 50 years, the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association has helped protect our member cities' ability to provide assured, safe, and sustainable water supplies to their communities. For more information, visit

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