The Friends of the Rio de Flag is a 501(c)(3) non-profit organization whose goal is to protect, restore, clean up and improve the Rio de Flag and its tributaries to maximize their beauty, educational, recreational, and natural resource values, including the riparian habitats they provide.

Where is the Rio de Flag anyway? Click here to see a 3D image of the Rio watershed.

Rio Awareness Wrap Up

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Chelsea points out watershed features during Earth Day 2017 at Heritage Square. Photo courteous of Anya Nova Metcalfe.

Dear friends and family,

I am overjoyed to announce that last week we met and surpassed our fundraising goal to support my second service term with the Friends of the Rio de Flag! I am very grateful for all of your support and can’t wait to spend another year giving back to this amazing community.

If you have not already, I invite you to join us for a public meeting on the first Thursdays of the month at 6pm at the Montoya Community Center (245 N Thorpe Rd). Every month we invite a different speaker to share information about ongoing projects in our watershed and other watersheds throughout Arizona. In addition, we host volunteer events during the year that we post to our website ( and our Facebook page.

I can’t thank you enough for your support for this project, and I look forward to sharing my progress over the course of the next year as I seek to provide outdoor, place-based experiences for youth in the community. And hopefully one day we’ll see these youth pursuing local careers that act to both strengthen our community and protect and restore our local watershed.

During our last week of the Rio Awareness, we introduced citizen science and its importance in protecting and restoring habitat for the benefit of wildlife and people alike. Stay in touch as we develop our own citizen science projects to collect data along the Rio de Flag! We will be rolling out these projects over the summer so that you can contribute your scientific observations about the Rio de Flag to our watershed planning efforts.

See you next time along the Rio!



Week 4 Rio Awareness

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Chelsea explains her progress over the last eight months on building the Adopt the Rio program during a membership meeting in early April, 2017.

With less than a week left of our fundraising campaign we’ve raised over 80% of our goal to support another year for our VISTA member, Chelsea. Please help us meet this goal before April 22nd by visiting our GoFundMe page, “Discovering Science along the Rio“. Thank you to all the friends and family who have helped us support Chelsea and her work!

Last week during our Rio Awareness campaign we focused on the importance of groundwater to our community and the Southwest in general. Groundwater provides environmental flows for creeks and gives of people the ability to inhabit arid regions of the nation.

We spent the first three weeks of our campaign focused on sources of water including springs, lakes, groundwater, and reclaimed water. This week and the coming week we focus on water users and their importance to the watershed.

People, wildlife, and plants make up the users of our watershed. While wildlife and plants use the watershed, people make decisions that affect the state of the watershed and, for that matter, the states of wildlife and plant life.

In order to sustainably manage our watershed, we must first understand its current state. For this reason, the Friends of the Rio de Flag is promoting youth education through the Adopt-the-Rio de Flag Stewardship program. Youth and community members alike will be better adapted to address pressing environmental issues if they understand their place and responsibility in the complex system that is a watershed.

Follow us on Facebook during our fundraising campaign to discover something new about the Rio every day!

Week 3 Rio Awareness

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Groundwater pumping directly affects rivers like the Verde River, Arizona’s last remaining perennial river. Click the image above to watch the Viva La Verde trailer produced by a group of partners in the Verde Valley.

We have reached Week 3 of our Rio Awareness campaign and this week’s theme is “Groundwater: the hidden, critical resource of the Southwest.”

Groundwater plays a vital role in supporting riparian habitats in Arizona including places like Oak Creek and the Verde River. We also rely upon groundwater for our water supply.

In Arizona, about 43% of drinking water originates from groundwater. Similarly, in Flagstaff about 40% of drinking water is drawn from the Lake Mary, Woody Mountain, Inner Basin, and local “in-city” wells. This precious resource is pumped from the C aquifer thousands of feet below the Earth’s surface. The C aquifer overlies the Redwall-Muav aquifer and these two aquifers, along with perched water-bearing zones, comprise groundwater storage on the Coconino Plateau.

Recharge to the C aquifer usually only occurs when snow is melting and running off, and only 2 to 4 percent of all annual precipitation contributes to this recharge (Guest Column to the AZ Daily Sun, March 2016). While snowmelt and rainfall provide some recharge to the aquifer, groundwater pumping has and will continue to affect the environments supported by groundwater. As we plan for the future it will be especially important to consider these tradeoffs as our community grows and the climate changes.

We have just over two weeks left of our fundraising campaign and so far we’ve raised over 40% of our $4,500 goal to support another year for our VISTA member, Chelsea. Please help us meet this goal before April 22nd by visiting our GoFundMe page, “Discovering Science along the Rio“.

Follow us on Facebook during our fundraising campaign to discover something new about the Rio every day!


Week 2 Rio Awareness Campaign

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Visitors at Upper Lake Mary get their feet wet as water spills over the dam for the first time since 2010. March 17, 2017

Springs and lakes in the Flagstaff area 

During Week One of our campaign, we focused on the importance and challenges of wastewater use in Flagstaff and the Southwest. Read our guest column on the topic published last week in the AZ Daily Sun.

This week we focus on springs and lakes in the Flagstaff area. Both provide critical habitat for wildlife as well as unique recreational opportunities for residents and visitors. Consider visiting some of the springs of the Rio de Flag watershed on your own (see this list of springs with directions) or during Jack Welch’s “Where’s the Water?” walk series in April and May (here’s the schedule).

Springs and lakes supply an important source of drinking water for the Flagstaff community. Today, Upper Lake Mary is at 100% capacity meaning that a greater percentage of our drinking water will originate from the lake over the course of this year.

Follow us on Facebook during our fundraising campaign to discover something new about the Rio every day!

April 6th @ 6pm: Update from the Board

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Free Public Meeting:
“Update from the Board”
Board of Directors, Friends of the Rio de Flag
Thursday, April 6th at 6pm
Montoya Community Center

Board members of the Friends of the Rio de Flag with Mayor Coral Evans at the Rio de Flag in front of City Hall prior to their meeting to discuss the future of flood control for this section of the Rio. March 10, 2017

The Board of the Friends of the Rio de Flag has been busy at work on a number of projects and initiatives! As such, we would like to dedicate the April 6th membership meeting to an update from the Board and discussion with membership. The following will be covered:

  • Master Rio Plan – partnerships and draft components of the plan
  • Flood Control Project – discussions with Mayor Evans and City Manager Josh Copley
  • Low Impact Development – suggestions for Water Commission
  • Community Outreach – stakeholder meeting and community survey
  • Adopt-the-Rio – classroom presentations and field trips
  • Stream Team – data collection in the county
  • Volunteer Opportunities

Join us at 6pm on Thursday, April 6th at the Montoya Community Center for a fruitful discussion with the Board!


A Message from Chelsea: Discovering Science Along the Rio

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Chelsea explains how to fill out a plant data collection sheet during a BioBlitz at Frances Short Pond, September 2016.

What an exciting year I’ve had as an AmeriCorps STEM VISTA member with Friends of the Rio de Flag working with Flagstaff schoolchildren and teachers. Our local stream, the Rio de Flag, is the biological heart of our community and flows through most neighborhoods. The Rio is a great outdoor classroom for the sevens schools that I worked with when they joined our new Adopt-the-Rio de Flag Stewardship program.

I’d love your support to continue for another year as a STEM VISTA member, building on the success of the Adopt-the-Rio program and developing a new program for citizen science, which will ask for community volunteers to monitor and collect environmental data along the Rio. My goal is to inspire a lifelong stewardship of the Rio’s remarkable educational, recreational, and biological resources.

The Friends of the Rio de Flag needs to raise $3,500 in matching funds so we can again be a Project Host Site for my position, and we’d like to raise an additional $1,000 for materials to be used in these projects for a total of $4,500.

Please help reach our goal of $4,500 by Earth Day on April 22nd! Donate today and make sure to “Share” our GoFundMe project on your Facebook!

Follow us on Facebook during our fundraising campaign to discover something new about the Rio and our watershed every day!

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