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

Riparian Restoration
Over the past 27 years, Gila Watershed Partnership has implemented over 30 projects to improve the riparian resources and wildlife habitat. These include off-riparian livestock watering facilities, livestock fencing, and river crossing improvements; and riparian habitat restoration.
Currently, Gila Watershed Partnership is restoring 200 acres of Southwest Willow Flycatcher habitat along the Gila River by removing tamarisk and installing native plants to create small “habitat islands”. The tamarisk leaf beetle is expected to arrive in the Upper Gila Watershed in the next 5 years, and these habitat islands will serve as refugia for SWFL and other wildlife, as well as serving as propagule islands to passively re-seed adjoining areas.
Water Quality
The Upper Gila Watershed has eight 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 being developed to reduce the sediment load in the Gila River. Early data analysis shows a strong downward trend in E.coli  in response to the installation of restrooms and increased public educational efforts. 
Promoting Native Plants & Pollinators
GWP co-manages the Gila Native Plant Nursery with Eastern Arizona College Discover Park, and is currently growing 23,000 plants of over 100 species to support restoration, help reduce water consumption by promoting native and low water use plants, and create pollinator habitat. A 1.3-acre pollinator garden adjacent to the Plant Nursery serves as an outdoor classroom for local students and provides much needed habitat for monarch butterflies and other pollinators.
Promoting native plants also means reducing invasive plant presence in the Upper Gila Watershed. Invasive plants of local concern include tamarisk, Russian knapweed, sweet resinbush, yellow star thistle, and Malta star thistle. GWP has identified 16 high-priority invasive plants the correct seasons and methods for treating these plants.
Water Availability
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, and a growing population, has made this historically agriculturally-based community question its long-term survival.  
GWP has coordinated a watershed-wide water appraisal study with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, and additional studies were 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. GWP currently provides outreach and education to local schools and community groups to help reduce water consumption in Graham and Greenlee Counties.
Sustainable Recreation
People will protect natural resources when they have a personal connection with them. GWP is working with landowners, municipalities, and the public to develop a linear river park along the Gila River that will bring residents and tourists alike to the river.


To engage the community in improving the water quality and ecosystem condition of the Upper Gila Watershed through education and economic opportunity.


  • Conserve natural resources
  • Enhance the environment for all users
  • Improve the local economy
  • Increase recreational opportunities
  • Increase water quantity
  • Improve water quality
  • Plan and act to avoid and minimize damage from large storms, floods, and other natural disasters


AZ Dept. of Agriculture  
AZ Dept. of Environmental Quality
AZ Dept. of Forestry & Fire Management
AZ Dept. of Transportation 
AZ Game and Fish Department 
AZ State Land Department 
Boulder Creek Construction
Bowman Consulting
City of Safford 
Creative Flow Studios
Eastern Arizona College
Farm Bureau
Freeport-McMoRan Inc. 
Gila Valley Irrigation District 
Gila Valley NRCD 
Graham County 
Graham County Chamber of Commerce
Greenlee County
Greenlee County Cattle Growers
Natural Resource Conservation Service
RiversEdge West
Safford Woman's Club
San Carlos Apache Tribe Natural Resource Department
Southwest Decision Resources
Sorensen Financial
Tierra Antigua Realty - Anneta Smith
Town of Clifton
Town of Duncan
Town of Pima
Town of Thatcher
City of Safford
United Way of Graham & Greenlee County
U.S. Bureau of Land Management
U.S. Bureau of Reclamation
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service
U of A Cooperative Extension
U of A Water Resource Research Center
Walton Family Foundation
And many Community Members

Watershed Assessment Plan

The Upper Gila Watershed Assessment 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. 

Sources of Funding

  • Arizona Department of Agriculture
  • Arizona Department of Environmental Quality
  • Arizona Department of Forestry & Fire Management
  • Arizona Department of Water Resources
  • Arizona Water Protection Fund
  • Bat Conservation International
  • Bureau of Land Management
  • Bureau of Reclamation
  • Freeport-McMoRan Copper & Gold, Inc.
  • National Fish & Wildlife Foundation
  • Southwest Monarch Study
  • United Way of Graham & Greenlee Counties
  • Walton Family Foundation
  • William & Flora Hewlett Foundation

Website, Newsletters, Meetings & Contact Info

More information about the Gila Watershed Partnership, including links to newsletters, can be found on their website
Quarterly Meetings:
The Gila Watershed Partnership meets on a quarterly basis and presents various topics based on the current needs of the community. For more information on meetings and events go to their Upcoming Events page. 
For additional information, please contact the following representatives:
Bethany Drahota: Habitat Restoration Manager, Gila Watershed Partnership, (928) 424-3886
Melanie Tluczek: Executive Director, Gila Watershed Partnership
Mark Briggs: Arizona Restoration Coordinator, RiversEdge West


RiversEdge West's

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