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Dry snow runoff season means Valley will have to go to water reserves

PHOENIX — It has been Arizona’s eighth-driest snow-melt season in 116 years, which means the greater Phoenix area will be going to its reserves for water.

“Our reservoirs are 51 percent full, which isn’t bad for being in a drought for the last 20 years,” said Charles Ester, manager of water resource operations for Salt River Project.

SRP is metro Phoenix’s largest water supplier, boasting six main water storage services on the Salt and the Verde rivers, he said. Those normally store about three years of average snow-melt runoff, he added.

“So how that works is … you tend to store water in wet years, and then release in those years, like this year, that did not provide adequate water to fill the system back up,” Ester said.

In addition to taking water from reserves to make up the difference, Ester said SRP will be pumping quite a bit of groundwater from wells in the Valley.

However, there is some good news for this winter, hopefully.

“The Pacific Ocean is trending toward an El Niño pattern, which we haven’t seen for quite a while,” he said. “And El Niño winters are typically wet in Arizona.”