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Low inflows prompt early water swapping on Salt River

Salt River Project will begin its annual river swap earlier this year due to low storage levels in the Verde River reservoir.

MESA, Ariz. — Low water inflows and drier weather conditions are prompting the Salt River Project to begin increasing water releases from the Stewart Mountain Dam earlier than normal. 

SRP annually alternates the amount of water that's released between the Bartlett and Stewart Mountain dams.  

The spring season traditionally brings more releases from Stewart Mountain and less from Bartlett in order to balance out storage levels on the Salt and Verde rivers. 

SRP said it will start the switch earlier this season due to lower water inflows and smaller storage levels in the Verde River reservoir.   

SRP will typically switch river system diversions based on hydrologic conditions, water demand, maintenance requirements, and other factors.

By switching the water releases, residents using the Salt River for recreational purposes may notice increased water flows throughout this week. The swap should be completed by April 1.

Charlie Ester, SRP’s manager of watershed management, said Arizona's ongoing drought issues shouldn't prevent SRP from delivering water to its many customers in the Valley.

"Despite the fact that we’ve experienced drier than normal conditions these last two winters, SRP has effectively stored water during the wet years resulting in the SRP reservoir system to be at about 71 percent full," Ester said.

RELATED: Which trees can survive Arizona's megadrought? 

RELATED: Lake Powell's levels projected to drop below critical threshold

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How big is Maricopa County? 

Maricopa County is the United States’ 4th largest county in terms of population with 4,485,414 people, according to the 2020 Census. 

The county contains around 63% of Arizona’s population and is 9,224 square miles. That makes the county larger than seven U.S. states (Rhode Island, Delaware, Connecticut, Hawaii, New Jersey, Massachusetts and New Hampshire). 

One of the largest park systems in the nation is also located in Maricopa County. The county has an estimated 120,000 acres of open space parks that includes hundreds of miles of trails, nature centers and campgrounds. 

The county’s seat is located in Phoenix, which is also the state capital and the census-designated 5th most populous city in the United States. 

The county was named after the Maricopa, or Piipaash, Native American Tribe.  

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