ARIZONA NEWS

Salt River winter runoff release coming to end in Phoenix area

Mar 29, 2019, 9:30 AM | Updated: 9:47 am
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PHOENIX – After weeks of water flowing freely through the Phoenix area’s normally dry Salt River, the winter runoff release that created it will come to an end this weekend.

Public utility Salt River Project said with less snow melting up north it was a good time to end the runoffs from Bartlett and Horsehoe lakes on the Verde River.

“Releases have decreased significantly over the last week,” SRP senior hydrologist Stephen Flora told KTAR News 92.3 FM on Thursday.

The Valley streets that have been closed because of flooding “will start drying out,” he said.

Verde River storage system was at 99 percent of capacity by late this week while the Salt River’s larger storage system was at 74 percent.

The utility began releasing water Feb. 28. Within a couple of days, water that had rushed through Granite Reef Diversion Dam in upper Mesa had spilled into river-bottom streets around the Valley.

Cities began closing streets, but some drivers still tried to roll across pools of water. And they got stuck.

In Tempe, water rushed through the town lake, drawing plenty of raging river watchers.

It has been a marked contrast from last year.

“Last year was very little snowpack,” Flora said, “probably some of the lowest numbers that we’ve seen — only a few minor storms.

“This year was a very different story.”

A huge storm in Flagstaff buried the city under nearly 36 inches of snow Feb. 28. By the time it had piled up to 31.5 inches, it had broken the single-day record.

Snow wasn’t the only contributor to the reservoirs. The Valley recorded 2.39 inches in February.

Rainfall all of last year measured 8.24 inches, the majority — 3.82 — collected in October.

Snowmelt was still making it way down the Salt River and into Roosevelt Lake, 80 miles north of Phoenix. The lake is about 70 percent full.

“We expect some inflow to continue through April,” Flora said.

Snow was melting fairly quickly in the White Mountains near the New Mexico border, he said.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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Salt River winter runoff release coming to end in Phoenix area