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Water for Arizona's Wildlife Program



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Throughout the American West, thousands of waters have been built to benefit wildlife populations with around 850 built in Arizona (Rosenstock et al. 1999). Many of these were built decades ago and are need of repair and are lacking sufficient capacity to hold water during extended dry periods. Due to the importance of wildlife waters to the managing the diverse wildlife populations in Arizona, the Arizona Game and Fish Department implemented a team to review and report on recommendations needed to improve the wildlife water program in Arizona (AZGFD 2003). Two of the recommendations of this team are key to the development of the AES Wildlife Water Program.



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  • Water is life.WFW Logo
  • All wildlife depends on water.
  • Water during the birthing season keep the mothers healthy and helps the mothers produce better quality milk and more of it for the newborns.
  • Water helps distribute the Elk herds and other wildlife for better utilization of the available forage. Not enough water distribution congregates wildlife and forces them to over utilize the habitat, degrading the habitat and running out of food.
  • There are many areas with great habitat for wildlife but no water to sustain them. If we could increase water in areas of quality wildlife habitat and forage we can sustain more wildlife. Higher herd numbers equals more tags for hunters.


The Four Phases of the Water for Arizona's Wildlife Program


pic 2Phase 1. One of the easiest phases of the AES water-hauling program is to haul water to key waters that are dry and are identified by the Department or other natural resource management agency as being priority sites. In general, these will be man-made trick tanks, but any type of water source for wildlife that is a priority can be serviced with water hauling.

Phase 2. Implementing a program of routine maintenance and inspections on key waters identified by the natural resource agencies as being priorities or found by AES volunteers during routine water hauling or inspection visits. In this portion of our project, this is intended to cover minor maintenance on fences, waterlines, or other development features that are needed and are minor in nature. Examples are: replacing a broken strand or repairing as needed a down section of a perimeter fence, replacing a defective valve, or refastening of aprons that have become loose. In addition, if we get a call from a concerned citizen that a drinker doesn’t have water, we will inspect the drinker and assess actions needed to make the drinker serviceable. We will advise the appropriate resource management agency of what we found on our site inspection.

Phase 3. Although many of the maintenance needs are minor, there are water developments that are in a near complete state of disrepair. This level of maintenance will require substantial effort and materials to conduct the repair. The AES, while coordinating with other wildlife conservation organizations to expand the role of WCOs in the Arizona by undertaking this type of project repair. This can be done via the use of AES contractors or volunteer labor as is currently being done with remote water developments for wild sheep in Arizona and elsewhere. In addition to what are often referred to as trick tanks, we will seek to help in redevelopment of earthen tanks where this is feasible and in the best interest of wildlife.

Phase 4. Seek grant funding, Program Sponsors and Donors to assist in the maintenance, redevelopment, and water hauling components of the Department’s and federal land management agencies wildlife water program. The AES has completed projects using grants from the AZGFD Habitat Partnership Committee, National Forest Foundation to rehabilitate earthen tanks on the Buck Springs Allotment in Northern Arizona, and other Wildlife Conservation Organizations. These are examples of where funds from a WCO were used to match grant opportunities to benefit a wide variety of wildlife species.

Water for Arizona's Wildlife Project Results

In 2014 the Arizona Elk Society with funding from monies raised at our Banquets, funding from the Arizona Game and Fish Habitat Partnership Committee (money raised by the sale of the Commissioners Statewide Elk Tag) and thousands of volunteers hours:


    • Hauled 850,000 Gallons of water in 2020.
    • Rebuilt 45 non-functioning Forest Service water catchments.
    • Maintained 45 AZGFD and Forest Service water catchments.
    • Removed silt from 5 dirt tanks in Unit 7, adding 4 million gallons of capacity.

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In 2015 the Arizona Elk Society in coordination with the Arizona Game and Fish Department and the Tonto National Forest has identified 72 drinkers that are in need of rebuilding and maintenance to return to functioning wildlife water catchments. This project has started and will run for 1-2 years. At the same time the AES will coordinate with the AZGFD for hauling water to important catchments in northern Arizona, continue to clean silt out of important dirt tanks in Unit 7 and continue maintaining existing drinkers.

We hope that you, too, will donate to an organization that has shown a Commitment to Caring for wildlife and help ensure that the Arizona Elk Society will remain strong and ready to serve the conservation and wildlife needs of Arizona. And for those sponsors who have been generous donors in the past, we will be very grateful for your continued support today. Your gift will be tax deductible to the full extent of the law.