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Arizona’s water supply emerges as big winner from powerful winter storms

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PHOENIX — The biggest benefactor of several powerful winter storms that have hit Arizona recently is the state’s water supply, a Salt River Project spokesman said.

Charlie Ester, the manager of surface water collections for SRP, said the storms that dropped feet of snow in Flagstaff increased the snowpack in the Verde River system to 200 percent above normal, while the Salt River system is 120 percent above normal.

The reservoirs connected to each system were about 45 percent full last month. After the storms, they were at 58 percent.

“The runoff from recent storms has pumped millions of gallons into the reservoirs,” Ester said. “Since Dec. 15, that’s more than the combined storage capacity of Horseshoe and Bartlett lakes.”

Dino DeSimone with the Natural Resources Conservation Service said there is more good news for Arizona and other Western states

“Colorado snowpack is 150-200 percent above normal,” he said. “The watershed that flows into the Colorado River and eventually to Lake Mead and Lake Powell. If these conditions continue, we’re looking at removing the drought declaration for a big chunk of the Southwest.

“We’re in great shape for this point in the season and can only hope for more.”

However, Ester said Roosevelt Lake — which has not been completely full since 2010 — still has plenty of room. He expects it to be brimming by the spring.

“If this (weather) pattern continues, then there’s no doubt we’ll be able to fill Roosevelt,” he said. “Of course ,we don’t know what the future hold,s so things could easily shut off like last year.”

DeSimone said, even if Arizona sees average moisture levels through the end of May, his agency expects about 162 million gallons of runoff to reach the Salt River and, eventually, Roosevelt Lake.

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