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Rural Programs


Upper Bill Williams Watershed

The Kirkland Creek watershed encompasses 259,000 acres, or 405 square miles, and includes the communities of Yarnell, Peeples Valley, Hillside, Kirkland, Skull Valley, and Wilhoit. Of the total acreage, the ownership is approximately: 50% State Trust, 35% Private,and 15% Federal (Prescott National Forest and Bureau of Land Management). The major land use is grazing, and cattle ranches and farms occupy an estimated 95% of the watershed. The remaining 5% is rural residential and urban buildup. Today there are 1620 families living in the area. There are 1296 acres under irrigation from wells, and an additional 933 acres were historically irrigated.

Watershed Studies

Click here for the Upper Bill Williams Newsletter. (MS PowerPoint file) PowerPoint Icon


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The watershed is large, and the terrain is rough with many rock outcrops. Access is limited due to the rugged terrain of the Sierra Prieta, Weaver, Granite, Martin, Brushy, and Tonto mountain ranges. Nearly all riparian lands are privately owned. Vegetative communities include Semi-desert Grassland, Arizona Interior Chaparral, Sonoran Desert Scrub, Pinyon-Juniper, and Ponderosa Pine.


The watershed includes two major creeks: Kirkland Creek and Skull Valley Wash, its tributary. At its confluence with Sycamore Creek, Kirkland Creek transisitons to the Santa Maria River, which flows south and west to its confluence with the Big Sandy. At that confluence, the streams become the Bill Williams River. The primary source of groundwater is recent alluvium. Depths to water vary from just below the surface to several hundred feet. Residents report that groundwater levels have dropped, and there are cases where dry holes have been drilled. Water shortages have been reported in Yarnell and Wilhoit. Some wells have gone dry.


The 1940 Water Development Plan inventoried the surface flows from each valley and predicted safe yield (Elmendorf 1940). This data was revisited with acreage under irrigation calculated at 1296 acres using year 2000 aerial photos. NRCS Consumptive use data was used to determine the amount of irrigation water being pumped for each crop grown. The apparent total watershed safe yield is currently exceeded. None of the areas studied show an excess.


The Upper Bill Williams Partnership was formed in early 2001 with a mission to: 'Manage and protect our water resources, water quality, and water rights.'

Note: This information is adapted from 'Kirkland Creek Watershed Assessment' by Dave Smith, dated 4/30/2001. The Kirkland Creek Watershed boundaries are almost, but not exactly, the same as those defined for the Upper Bill Williams Watershed.


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