Part 1: What is Riparian Habitat?

In Pima County, there are areas that are designated as Regulated Riparian Habitat (RRH). RRH has development limitations in an effort to preserve, protect, and enhance these areas. Why is this important? And what exactly is riparian habitat?
Riparian habitat is the community of plants found along washes and floodplains. Riparian habitat can range from a narrow band of grasses and shrubs along an ephemeral (intermittent water flow) desert wash to a closed canopy of large mature trees along a perennial stream. Riparian habitat provides multiple benefits including groundwater recharge, erosion control, improved water quality, and ensures the long-term survival of wildlife and floodplain function.

Groundwater Recharge

Riparian vegetation slows stormwater flow which can increase groundwater recharge. The rainwater generated from a storm can create flooding and erosion. When the vegetation within riparian habitat is protected and preserved in place, the vegetation acts as an obstruction to the stormwater, thereby slowing the stormwater flow and allowing for infiltration to take place which, in turn, recharges the groundwater.

Erosion Control

The riparian vegetation also stabilizes the banks of washes, watercourses, and floodplains. The root system from the trees and shrubs provides structure to the soil. When stormwater flows over the desert to the washes and through the watercourses, the soil remains in place, thereby providing erosion protection.

Improved Water Quality

Riparian vegetation can act as a filter for washes and watercourses by removing pollutants collected from the adjacent streets and parking areas. As the stormwater runs over these polluted paved areas, the stormwater collects the pollutants. This process can be harmful to groundwater. When stormwater flows through riparian vegetation prior to infiltrating into the groundwater, the vegetation pulls the harmful pollutants out of the stormwater.

Wildlife and Floodplain Function

Riparian habitat is of particular importance to wildlife. At least 80% of all animals in the Southwest use riparian habitat at some stage of their lives and more than 50% of these species require riparian habitat during their life cycle. Riparian habitat provides food, nesting habitat, protective cover, and migration/movement corridors. Theses corridors are found within riparian habitat areas and located adjacent to desert washes and larger watercourses throughout Pima County. The riparian corridors support higher biological diversity by providing places for wildlife to live, forage, and connectivity to other areas that both plants and animals need to maintain viable populations and genetic species diversity.

When riparian habitat is preserved, public expenditures on flood control projects for the protection of buildings and property is decreased. When the riparian vegetation is not disturbed by development, the need for costly drainage infrastructure – such as bank stabilization – is decreased. In essence, riparian habitat provides a natural flood protection for adjacent properties. In addition to reducing public expenditures by preserving the riparian vegetation, opportunities for passive recreation within the protected open space offers an aesthetically pleasing place to live which can result in higher property values.

Stay tuned for how to permit construction on property that is located within Pima County regulated riparian habitat.

This article was written by Patricia Gilbert, a Principal Hydrologist in Pima County, Arizona.

Land & Lot Reports


1926 Circle of Excellence for 2020 2017 2019 land report 2020 economic projections 2020 economy 3 Benefits of Planting Native Vegetation aerial allure of land Apache Junction architect area Arizona arizona activities arizona eating Arizona economy arizona events Arizona home owners arizona land report Arizona living arizona real estate arizona realty arizona restaurants arizona summer activities arizona summer events backyard benefits of planting native vegetation best golf courses best golf courses in Arizona best golf courses in Tucson best hikes in tucson best hiking best hiking trail of Tucson best hiking trails best home decor best home details best housing markets best lights best night lights best night time lights best of Tucson best real estate best real estate market best takeout in Tucson Bisbee blueprint blueprints breweries breweries in Tucson Arizona buildable builder building building a home building house built-in desks built-in details built-in shelves burger buying homes buying land buying land in Tucson buying real estate buying real estate in tucson buying Tucson lots carpet change order cinema room classic car construction construction loan construction permit construction plan construction plans cooling coronado forest cost country custom home building custom homes deed restrictions desert garden desert gardening design design guidelines design guidelines for a Subdivision Development diy home improvement dream home dream kitchen easements eatery eating eating in tuscon economic outlook economic projections economics elevation energy efficient events film festivals film festivals in Tucson fireplace flood flood insurance floodplain Flooring food food tours foreclosure geologic language golf courses golf courses in Arizona golf courses in Tucson gps habitat health heated floors heating hidden room hikes hiking historical hobby room holiday events home home blueprint home blueprints home builder Home building home decor home decorations home details home improvement home owners home plan home size house house blueprints house details houseplants housing markets how to buy how to buy land how to make your neighborhood safer hvac industrial style interior design internet internet in Tucson internet providers in Tucson laminate land land parcel land report land use land use in Tucson land zoning living in Tucson loan program lot lots man cave march land report measurement mexican minimalist modern mortgage movie bluff movie room moving mudroom national park native vegetation neighborhood new home new year night lights non-invasive plants Old West organization packing permit permit needed permits preventing erosion property property in Arizona property in Tucson property listings property report purchasing residential land real estate real estate in Arizona real estate market real estate report realtor tucson recessed light remote work remote work in Arizona remote work in Tucson remote working residential land resolution restaurant riperian riperian habitat rooms run rural Tucson safe neighborhood salad sales salt lamp Scottsdale selling real estate slope spa spa room specialty rooms steak stone style subdivisions Summer summer activities summer events sun exposure takeout Technology theatre things to do in arizona things to do in tucson things to do in tuscon topography travel traveling Tucson Tucson 2020 economy tucson activities Tucson Arizona tucson christmas Tucson economy tucson events Tucson home owners Tucson housing market tucson land tucson land for sale tucson land loans tucson land report Tucson lifestyle Tucson living tucson lot loans tucson lots tucson mountains Tucson national parks tucson real estate Tucson real estate market tucson realty tucson summer tucson summer events Tucson vegetation tuscon land report unusable land Upgrades upgrading your home upgrading your interior useable land vacant land vacant land design guidelines vacant land guidelines vacant land tucson vacant Tucson lots vacation vegetation views vintage walk warranty Wash what to do in Tucson where to eat where to eat in Arizona working in Tucson working remote in Tucson working remotely zip codes zones zoning

Sign Up for News

Sign Up

Featured Listing