Animals need to hydrate, too: State doubles water delivery to wildlife, asks public for help

A trail camera captures a squirrel leaning over for a drink at one of 3,000 catchments throughout the state maintained by Arizona Game and Fish Department. Due to extreme drought, the department has upped its water delivery to these catchments. [Submitted photo]

By Philip Haldiman
Independent Newsmedia

Staying hydrated is of the utmost importance, especially since the dog days of summer are in full effect.

But what about the other members of this ecosystem?

Water is just as precious to the desert wildlife living at the edges of the city, and with Arizona in a drought, those animals are in need of water more than ever before.

Joseph Currie, Arizona Game and Fish Department Habitat Planning program manager, said because of the lingering severe drought, the department has had a large increase in its water hauling to catchments throughout the state.

At last check, AZGFD had hauled about 800,000 gallons since January, and Mr. Currie anticipates having to haul more than 1.5 million gallons of water by the end of the year. The department typically hauls less than 400,000 gallons from April to October.

That haul includes Peoria’s backyard — there are currently 12 water catchments spaced a minimum of three miles apart in the Lake Pleasant area that provide water for animals like javelina, quail and even bees, which use water to make honey.

A catchment is essentially an area where water is collected by the natural landscape. There are thousands of man-made catchments throughout the state that provide water for thirsty wildlife.

Mr. Currie said that while Lake Pleasant and other bodies of water are important sources of water for many wildlife, for others it is too far to travel for a drink.

To assist wildlife, and to minimize the potential for severe die-offs, AZGFD utilizes the catchments to stabilize wildlife populations during periods of severe drought,” he said.

“Water catchments don’t discriminate — they’re used by all wildlife from big game to some of the smallest squirrels, lizards, birds, bats and even bees,” he said. “Our crews typically stop hauling water in August after monsoon rains refill much of our water catchments. However, due to this extreme drought, we haven’t stopped.”

And for the first time AZGFD is asking for help.

To help defray rising costs of providing life-sustaining water for Arizona’s wildlife, the department recently began its Water for Wildlife donation campaign. Members of the public can support the campaign by texting SENDWATER (one word) to 41444 from any smartphone. After doing so, a link with the department’s logo will be sent to the phone to complete the donation.

Mr. Currie said funding raised ensures the department can still deliver water to remote regions of the state and help mitigate population fluctuations caused by severe lingering droughts.

“Historic drought periods such as this one were typically followed by massive die-offs of wildlife,” Mr. Currie said. “By hauling water, we are able to stabilize those populations, keeping them alive and out of urban areas in search of water,” he said.

The program has a $190,000 operating budget, but it is difficult to provide an easy accounting of how much is actually spent on the program, Mr. Currie said.

While AZGFD partners with many wildlife groups, the department bears much of the costs to haul water to and maintain about 1,000 of its own catchments statewide, with drastic travel time between many catchments and some that must be filled with water flown in by helicopter when the catchment is inaccessible by road, he said.

The department also maintains an additional 1,000 Bureau of Land Management and 1,000 U.S. Forest Service water catchments.

“No water haul costs the same, as some catchments are closer to the water source than others and must be trucked different distances or airlifted in by helicopter. Each one of those items have different costs associated with them that can’t be quickly calculated,” he said.


To help defray rising costs of providing life-sustaining water for the state’s wildlife, Arizona Game and Fish Department recently began its Water for Wildlife donation campaign. Citizens may donate by texting SENDWATER (one word) to 41444 from any Smartphone. After doing so, a link with the department’s logo will be sent to the phone to complete the donation. For more information about how Arizona Game and Fish Department conserves and protects the state’s wildlife or to make a donation to the Water for Wildlife campaign, visit



You are encouraged to leave relevant comments but engaging in personal attacks, threats, online bullying or commercial spam will not be allowed. All comments should remain within the bounds of fair play and civility. (You can disagree with others courteously, without being disagreeable.) Feel free to express yourself but keep an open mind toward finding value in what others say. To report abuse or spam, click the X in the upper right corner of the comment box.