Water Quality

Water Quality Issues in the Upper Gila Watershed

Portions of the San Francisco and Blue Rivers have been listed as impaired waterways by the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality due to unsafe levels of a bacteria called Escherichia coli, or E. coli. E. coli is used to measure water quality of the river because high levels of it can indicate the presence of other pathogens that may pose a serious health risk to humans.

The map below shows the stretch of the San Francisco River that is currently impaired due to high levels of E. coli contamination.

How Does Poor Water Quality Affect You?

E. coli, along with other bacteria, viruses, and parasites, known as pathogens, can be carried in human and animal waste. Humans get sick when they ingest fluids or other material contaminated with human or animal waste infected with pathogens. Sicknesses can range from intestinal upset to serious illness that requires hospitalization. This is especially true for the very young, the very old, and others with weak immune systems.

Microscopic image of E.coli bacteria

What is GWP doing to help?

Gila Watershed Partnership is working with partners through funding from ADEQ to reduce E. coli levels in the San Francisco and Blue Rivers. To accomplish this, we have installed three public restrooms along the San Francisco River Road with educational signage at high recreation sites. We continue to engage and educate our community through river cleanups and outreach events.

What can you do to help? 

  1. Educate yourself about proper disposal of waste when recreating along any waterway at treadlightly.org.
    • Use available restroom facilities.
    • If restrooms are unavailable, bury human and pet waste at least 200 yards from the water.
    • If the following are not possible, pack it out.
  2. Join or organize a cleanup. Find out about upcoming cleanups by visiting our upcoming events page.
  3. Volunteer to help. Contact GWP at www.gwpaz.org/volunteer or visit ADEQ Water Watch website at azdeq.gov/programs/azww.