Storms Prompt SRP to Increase Water Releases through Valley
The latest in a series of warm, late-winter storms has prompted Salt River Project to increase the current water releases today from its two reservoirs on the Verde River to create available storage capacity and ensure dam and public safety.
Because of this week’s warm storms, the snow on the watershed is continuing to melt and make its way into the Verde reservoirs, which are already 83 percent full. SRP began low-level releases of water on March 2 and, starting today, will increase the releases to 16,000 cubic feet per second (cfs), which is about 120,000 gallons per second. Projections indicate that releases as great as 30,000 cfs may be necessary later in the week.
Recent SRP snow surveys have determined that snowpack on the 13,000-square-mile watershed that replenishes the Verde River reservoirs is the deepest it’s been in 30 years. There are more than 500,000-acre feet of water in the snowpack on the Verde River watershed. Water releases from the Verde River are expected to continue at least through April.
Throughout the year, SRP strategically releases water from the dams on the Salt and Verde rivers into a series of canals to meet the water needs of the Valley. In particularly wet winters when the reservoirs are nearing capacity, releases outside of the canal system are required to make room in the reservoirs for additional expected runoff.
“SRP will continue to monitor the watershed and reservoir system to make sure we have adequate storage space available to manage the snowmelt from the watershed,” said Charlie Ester, Manager of SRP Water Management. “While we are grateful for the water that will allow us to store for future years, we also have to ensure there is enough available storage to safely manage all this snow and rain. We also want to remind everyone to be safe around flooded roadways and be aware of the hazards of recreating on or near the rivers.”
Several roads located in the East and West Valley that were built in the normally dry Salt River riverbed will be closed. Updated road information can be found at AZ 511. Please observe any signage on road closures. SRP works with local government entities, emergency managers and other agencies to provide information and ensure public safety at all levels of a water release.
Unlike the Colorado River System, which is facing severe shortages due to the drought and a structural deficit where annual demand exceeds annual runoff, the Salt and Verde reservoir systems are nearly in balance where annual demand is close to the annual supply. During wet years like this, inflows frequently exceed the reservoir storage capacity on the Salt and Verde rivers necessitating releases into the Salt River bed.
SRP is working on increasing the storage capacity for the Verde River reservoir system over the next decade to capture and put to use more flood water in wet periods like we are experiencing this year. A group of 23 partners, including tribal, agricultural, and municipal organizations have committed to support the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation feasibility study of options to modify Bartlett Dam in order to increase storage to improve management of water resources provided by the Verde River.
In addition, SRP is working with the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers to evaluate options that would allow SRP and partners to extend the release period for water in the Roosevelt Dam flood control space. This would allow SRP and its partners more time during the runoff season to put the water to beneficial use or to store it underground for later use, rather than releasing it into the Salt River bed.
SRP will provide this water to the cities and irrigation districts that take deliveries from its system so it can be put to beneficial use.
The current releases being made are to ensure that the reservoir system can safely manage large volumes of runoff expected to enter the reservoirs in the coming days and weeks. Additionally, the water SRP is releasing will flow downstream in the Salt River and ultimately help recharge the aquifer, which helps Valley cities and water providers.
SRP reminds Valley residents to continue to use water wisely in this arid environment.