Winter in Arizona has brought much-needed relief to the state’s waterways in the form of rainfall and snowfall. The Salt River Project (SRP), which manages the water supply for the Phoenix metropolitan area, has reported that it has been the best winter for Arizona’s waterways in nearly 30 years.
Due to the large amount of precipitation, some reservoirs in the area are now full, which has led to flooding in parts of the Valley. To manage the excess water, SRP has been releasing small amounts of water through the dams, which then flow down the Verde and Salt Rivers until they reach Tempe Town Lake, eventually overflowing into some low crossings.
“We’ve been releasing water from the Verde River, Reservoirs, Horseshoe, and Bartlett to deal with the capture of the high inflows from the snowmelts,” said Bo Svoma, a meteorologist with SRP. He added that these releases are expected to continue, and that “If we get a rain event, the releases could go to a high volume in a given hour there might be a lot coming down the river based on the flood.”
The National Weather Service in Phoenix has predicted more moisture this week, which they say will accelerate the snowmelt. “On Wednesday we’re expecting probably about a quarter inch in the Valley and higher terrain locations, maybe a half-inch. So that that will result in extra water. Even local runoff will be entering the different river and wash systems,” said Michael Schaffer, a National Weather Service Hydrologist.
As a result of the increased precipitation, SRP says that the flooding could expand depending on the amount of rain. “If the storm comes in stronger than expected, even a little bit, we may have to elevate the amount we’re releasing from Bartlett reservoir,” said Svoma.
Despite the flooding, experts say that the increased precipitation is good news for a state that has been experiencing drought conditions for several years. “That’s really incredible to be able to refill our entire system in one wet winter,” Svoma said. “Right now our storage is higher than it was in the beginning of the drought, and it’s the worst drought we can think of in the past 600 to 700 years.”
The increased precipitation has brought much-needed relief to the state’s waterways, which have been suffering from the effects of the drought. According to the Arizona Department of Water Resources, the state has been in a drought since 1999, and the past two decades have seen some of the driest years on record.
The drought has led to a variety of challenges for the state, including decreased water availability, increased risk of wildfires, and damage to crops and livestock. However, the increased precipitation this winter has helped to alleviate some of these challenges.
While the flooding may cause some short-term disruptions in the Valley, experts say that the long-term benefits of the increased precipitation will be significant. “This winter has been a godsend for our water supply,” said Svoma. “It’s going to take a lot more than one wet winter to fully alleviate the effects of the drought, but this is a great start.”
As the National Weather Service predicts more moisture in the coming weeks, it remains to be seen how much more relief the state’s waterways will receive. However, for now, Arizona residents can take comfort in the fact that this winter has been one of the best in decades for the state’s water supply.