Arizona has highest lake water levels in years

Climatologists weigh in on whether multiple storms have helped Arizona’s water supply.

PHOENIX - Multiple storms have swept through Arizona so far this winter and the big question that remains is: How is all of this water helping our water supply here in Phoenix?

When looking at the lakes controlled by Salt River Project, “Total storage has actually gone from 44 percent on Dec. 15 to 62 percent as of this morning,” said Charlie Ester, the water operations manager at Salt River Project.

This is great news when looking at historic lake levels.

“We have to go all the way back to 2010 the last time we filled the reservoirs. In the seven years since then, we have progressively lowered the reservoirs to the current conditions,” said Ester.

So just how much water has flowed into the lakes?

“The 44 percent to 62 percent represents 400,000 acre-feet of water. That’s roughly half of what the Salt River Project delivers to its customers on an annual basis,” said Ester.

Currently, the snowpack in the Salt and Verde watersheds is at 100 to 175 percent of normal. These watersheds are the land area that fill our reservoirs just north and northeast of the Valley.

Significant amounts of snow sitting in the High Country acts as a storage location for water that can be used later in the year.

“Having snow up on the watershed is the best way to manage the water supply. It will run into the reservoirs at a slower pace. It will be much cleaner. It comes at a time when we have more demand,” said Ester.

Arizona appears to be moving into a dry pattern; however, this dry pattern can be better than having warm winter storms with a high snow level move into the region.

“If we get really warm storms, that has the potential to drop rain on the snow we already have, which is significant in a lot of areas and that would melt it very quickly, and that would lead to some significant runoff,” said Nancy Selover, the Arizona State Climatologist.

No matter how much rain falls over the next month, there is still plenty of snow on the ground to continue filling our reservoirs. And the best news of all:

“Right now our reservoirs are about 8 percent more full than last year,” said Ester.

Even with these rising water levels, Ester has an important reminder.

“It is really important to stress to all of customers that water is so precious that we need to use every drop with respect and not waste any of it," he said.

© 2017 KPNX-TV


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