Photo credit: City of Phoenix

Useful Resources / FAQ

The local chapter of the national trade organization of architechts recently completed two years of an annual design and ideas competition for sites along the Salt/Gila river corridor. The support, interest and engagement of our local design community is a critical component of project success.
The Arizona Water Blueprint is a data-rich, interactive map of Arizona’s water resources and infrastructure. Offering data visualizations and in-depth multimedia content on important water-related topics, the Water Blueprint is a tool for holistic thinking to inform policy decisions and good water stewardship.
The newest community gathering center at Tempe Town Lake will be adjacent to the SRP Marina and will provide event space, boating storage and a visitors center on recreational opportunities.
Arizona’s State Department of Water Resources has compiled a clear and concise data source on water resources for our State. Check out the “Water Your Facts” section of the site for easy-to-understand facts about this precious resource.
The Network is a vehicle for communities to share knowledge and coordinate efforts to understand and solve sustainability problems. Network members include a broad range of professional disciplines from Arizona cities, towns, counties and Native American communities implementing sustainable practices and working towards a more sustainable region.
  • Water and Birds in the Arid West: Habits in Decline
    Audubon has released a fascinating and educational new report on creating a sustainable water future for birds and people in the American West.
  • Lower Salt and Gila Riparian Ecosystem
    From the Arctic Slope in Alaska to the Mississippi Delta, and from the Northeast’s Long Island Sound to the wetlands of the Everglades, the power of Important Bird Areas (IBAs) cannot be overstated. Audubon is leading the way to protect these iconic places and the birds that depend on them, and mobilizing their network of Chapters to act as stewards. Check out this interesting webpage on the ‘Important Bird Area’ (IBA) of the Lower Salt and Gila River Ecosystem.
  • Western Rivers Action Network
    Audubon Arizona has created an informative fact sheet on the economic valuation of river ecosystems to the State of Arizona. Check out ‘River Economics’ and then join their network!
Convened by Desert Botanical Garden, the Central Arizona Conservation Alliance (CAZCA) aligns and unifies the efforts of more than sixty partner and collaborating organizations to conserve, restore, and raise awareness for open space in Central Arizona. Through community engagement, collaboration, and strategic regional coordination, CAZCA works to ensure a sustainable regional open space system that supports healthy ecosystems and healthy communities.

Through the collaborative development of the Regional Open Space Strategy for Maricopa County, CAZCA is working to address critical open space challenges across Maricopa County.
Three rivers in the West Valley, Avondale/Goodyear/Buckeye, have worked together with Maricopa County Flood Control District on design standards and planning guidelines for a 17-mile stretch of the Salt/Gila river corridor. The plan is still in early stages and focuses on ecological and habitat restoration within the West Valley flood plain.
Corazón Latino is a national non-profit organization that seeks to generate social, environmental, and conservation initiatives that foster natural resource stewardship.
The Babbitt Center for Land and Water Policy, a center of the Lincoln Institute of Land Policy, is pleased to launch "The Hardest Working River in the West" an ArcGIS StoryMap focused on the key water sustainability issues in the Colorado River Basin. Through data visualizations and stories, the web-based StoryMap highlights the places, people, and policies that have historically shaped and will continue to shape water and land management surrounding the 1,450-mile Colorado River.
This website captures the history of the Rio Salado Project from its conception in the Arizona State University College of Architecture in 1966 to the dedication of the completed Tempe Town Lake in 1999. It provides a historical overview and timeline, documents, and past leadership who conceived, designed and constructed the Tempe Town Lake and its associated amenities.
In June 2020, Rio Reimagined and its partners River Network and the Ball Corporation, coordinated a two-week litter clean-up campaign. Using the Litterati app, over 6,100 pieces of trash were collected in the Valley during a challenging time of COVID and summer heat. Check out Litterati for more information about virtual clean-ups.
Arizona’s outdoor recreation economy is significant and will be impacted by future recreation along the Rio. Click through to educate yourself on the Association, and this two page fact sheet on the critical value of outdoor industries to our state.
In January 2016, with significant human and financial resources from the Nina Mason Pulliam Charitable Trust and partner organizations, the Central Arizona Conservation Alliance convened a multi-scale, stakeholder-driven, strategic planning process in an effort to reconcile our region’s values for economic growth and conservation of our natural and cultural heritage. Through hundreds of collaborative workshops and meetings, and with copious research and outreach, that process has resulted in this Regional Open Space Strategy for Maricopa County (ROSS). The goals, objectives, and actions comprising the ROSS set the course for sustaining the region’s most valuable assets - the natural environment and open space.
A national non-profit organization of dedicated water resource champions, working to ensure safe, adequate supplies of water and to create a network of advocates protecting our nation’s rivers.
A non-profit organization, founded in 1999, to advance the restoration of riparian forest and floodplain health in the American West through education, collaboration, and technical assistance. RiversEdge West has been engaged in Rio Reimagined through the impacts of invasive riparian plants in the Salt/Gila river corridor.
The Salt River Project, a community-based water and energy company, has a website full of useful facts on the Valley’s water supply and issues of drought. SRP has provided water and power to the Valley for more than a century and is a wealth of information, both historic and current.
TNC’s work has helped to protect more than 1.5 million acres in Arizona. Through strategic alliances and innovative tools, The Nature Conservancy assists local communities to achieve and healthy environment and economy. Their “Nature’s Cooling Systems” project in Phoenix has served as a model for a Rio heat mitigation project in West Mesa.
The state convener of dialogue on critical urban planning and responsible development issues is engaged with Rio Reimagined through the organization of Technical Assistance Panels (TAP) on select river sites over the next three years. TAPs provide strategic, practical solutions by cultivating a multi-disciplinary team of local experts who, together, collaborate to address a community challenge.
The WRRC at the University of Arizona is a robust center for research, engagement, outreach and education in water resource management. As the state’s water resources institute, WRRC plays a leadership role in critical water policy and decision making in Arizona.
The water supply of Earth is a required element for life to exist and thrive. The water cycle is a continuous cycle that keeps water moving on and around Earth in different forms. The different stages of the water cycle include evaporation, condensation, precipitation, and collection. Each stage of the cycle leads to the next stage, and each stage is an important part of a process that helps to water plants, fill cisterns, dry up puddles, and remove floodwaters.
WHC services and initiatives empower companies to advance biodiversity, sustainability, employee engagement and community relations goals.

Frequently Asked Questions


What communities are involved in the Rio Reimagined project?
The Rio Salado Project is a partnership of diverse public, private, non-profit and community stakeholders along the Salt and Gila river corridor. In March 2018, elected leadership of 8 municipal, county and tribal communities signed a ‘Statement of Intent’ to “establish and form a working group to fuel the project and aide in the overall planning, review and approval process for the project." As this multi-decade initiative enters its third year, community engagement in existing and potential projects continues to expand and enrich the planning process.
What is the current project planning structure in this early stage?
A Project Working Group (PWG) was formed in late 2017 with representation from municipalities, tribes, SRP, State and Federal agencies to collaborate on early planning initiatives. Presentations and ‘best practices’ discussion with leadership of precedent projects (Trinity River Authority, San Antonio River Authority, Los Angeles River, etc.) were provided, along with updates on local/regional priorities for the corridor. The PWG evolved into a larger public ‘Rio Reimagined Partnership’ that meets every two months and includes representation from private sector, non-profits and community at large.
What is Arizona State University’s (ASU) role?
In Spring 2017, the late U.S. Senator John McCain asked his friend and colleague Dr. Michael Crow, President of Arizona State University, to bring ASU’s research expertise, organizational resources and experience with large-scale urban planning projects to the Rio Reimagined project. ASU’s University City Exchange office, under the leadership of Wellington "Duke" Reiter, has worked with public, private and non-profit organizations to convene community leadership, research valuable precedents, organize federal agency resources and guide river communities in the formation of a non-profit organization. The Rio Reimagined project belongs to the river communities that will determine the scope, deliverables and promise of our environmental future.


What are the Project boundaries?
Initial project boundaries extend approximately 55+ miles of the river corridor and encompasses 78,000+ acres extending from SR-85 to Granite Reef Dam. At this time, the study area is defined as one mile from both banks of the river, which creates a substantive and diverse planning and programming scope for stakeholders. While this is a regional initiative with opportunity for leveraged outcomes, each river community maintains its jurisdiction, control and self-determination in their respective reach of the river corridor.
Why is the Salt River dry?
The Salt River is the largest tributary of the Gila River and is a perennial river from its headwaters in northern Arizona to the eastern edge of the metro Phoenix area where the Granite Reef Diversion Dam diverts any water in the river into two major canals, the Arizona and Southern, which deliver drinking and irrigation water to much of the Valley’s urban area. The Diversion dam and canals are part of the Salt River Project, a federal reclamation project that manages much of the Valley’s surface and ground water supplies. Downstream of the diversion dam, the river is mostly dry, except for rain, storm or agricultural runoff or releases from the dam. The Salt River joins the Gila on the southwestern edge of the Valley.
What exists in the river today?
Over the past four decades, Valley communities, with many local, state, and federal government agencies and nongovernmental organizations, have engaged in efforts to revitalize the Rio Salado and its watershed. The cities of Phoenix, Tempe and Mesa have invested in parks, bike paths, bridges, river improvements, and other projects. Previous planning and revitalization efforts include six U.S. Army Corps of Engineers projects focused on flood control, ecological restoration and recreation: the El Rio Watercourse Master Plan, Tres Rios Habitat Restoration and Wetlands, Rio Salado Oeste, Rio Salado Phoenix, Rio Salado Tempe and Rio Salado Mesa. Some of these projects have been successfully funded and implemented, while others are still in a planning phase.

The most notable of the projects implemented to date is the Tempe Town Lake which has contributed new or enhanced recreation and cultural amenities, public art, riparian habitat, economic development, tourism, employment and housing to the Valley. Another significant environmental asset is the Tres Rios Environmental Habitat Restoration project which has rehabilitated nearly 700 acres in and around the Salt River, restoring 52 acres of vital wetlands. It is the fourth largest constructed wetland in the U.S., and has created significant riparian habitat that results in increased, ecotourism from global markets. The Tres Rios project created a unique mutually-beneficial relationship between the wetlands and a nearby wastewater treatment plant supporting several growing cities in the metro region. Check out the website MAP which includes links to a number of projects in the river corridor.


What are the primary objectives of a project plan for the river corridor?
A project plan for the river corridor will integrate multiple and diverse objectives such as public open space, environmental and water quality, housing, transportation, economic development, workforce development, community sustainability and resilience as well as others. Revitalization could include a vibrant program determined through a strategic and comprehensive public outreach and stakeholder engagement process. The project is a landmark opportunity to coalesce a grand, comprehensive vision for the corridor that embodies the future economic, social and environmental vitality of our communities as well as cultivates a progressive identity for our River and its watershed. The following principles are general working guidelines that will evolve with the initiative:
  • Establish a Multi-Jurisdictional Vision for the Future
  • Reconnect the Community to the River & its Origin
  • Restore the Value of the River & Adjacent Sites
  • Feature Impactful & Instructive Sustainable Elements
  • Build an Unprecedented Regional Destination
  • Be a Catalyst for Economic Growth and Inclusion
  • Establish the Highest Design Expectations


What are the primary challenges of a project plan for the river corridor?
There are many challenges, some known and many unknown at this time. Challenges (and opportunities) are invested in four main areas of the project: Water, Funding, Community and Economic Development. The availability and role of water in corridor projects will be carefully evaluated by communities as a valuable and increasingly limited resource. The intent is for the initiative to contribute positively to long-term sustainable resource management principles that balance the Valley and State’s resources and growth. With respect to funding, it is safe to say that big government, sole-source project funding is unlikely. Funding sources (government, philanthropic, corporate and institutional) will be varied and will require entrepreneurial approaches and strategic exploration. The planning process must also include an accurate representation of our diverse community. Participation of stakeholders from all communities affected by the revitalization of the river corridor is critical to the social equity and inclusivity that will ensure project success.
Can water be obtained to create public water amenities similar to Tempe Town Lake?
Theoretically, it is feasible for cities and tribal nations to establish bodies of water in various configurations within the river corridor, however any water strategy will need to be balanced within existing State Legislation, existing and future demands, population growth projections, CAP and SRP policies and climate changes. In addition, they would need to address major water sources - potable and non-potable, which involve complex social, political, technical and economic challenges and constraints. Consideration for an approach to the resulting increase in water demand from adjacent new/proposed development would also affect domestic demand which would need to be balanced through CAP allocations.

What's Next?

What are the next steps?
Since the Launch of the Project in 2018, this long-term urban planning effort has received tremendous support and enthusiasm from the community. Project stakeholders are carrying on the challenging and time-consuming work of a comprehensive visioning framework process that will define a master plan for the Rio Reimagined.

Participation in the Environmental Protection Agency’s Urban Waters Partnership, as the 20th national river revitalization project, will result in an expansive network of resources that will assist our community with planning, funding, research and outreach. Stay involved and informed…join our mailing list on our project website. We look forward to your input and engagement in your Rio Reimagined. If you have additional questions, please do not hesitate to contact our office at 480-965-0363.

Together we can create our environmental future.

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Photo credit: Bill Timmerman