While the early forecast of an El Nino season never materialized, the 2013 runoff season nevertheless produced just enough snowmelt to refill the reservoirs to near the previous year’s level on the Salt and Verde rivers going into the heaviest-use period of the calendar year.
And, after two of the driest La Nina winters on record, water managers at Salt River Project aren’t complaining with the 444,788 acre-feet of stream flow accumulated in the first five months of 2013, the January-through-May period that amounts to the year’s runoff season.
“We’re thrilled that the runoff we got this year put us back to where we were a year ago,” said Charlie Ester, SRP’s manager of Water Resource Operations. “That may not sound like a lot, compared to years such as 2010 when we filled our reservoirs, but essentially we have regained all of the water that we used the previous year.”
Thanks to another boost from a better-than-average monsoon season, the reservoirs on the Salt and Verde rivers today stand at 55 percent full with 1.28 million acre-feet stored – exactly the same percentage as one year ago following the 23rd and 16th driest runoff seasons among the 115-year-old records kept by SRP.
Theodore Roosevelt Lake, which holds about two-thirds of the combined water stored on the Salt and Verde rivers, today stands at 45 percent full. Current storage on the Salt River system is 54 percent; the two reservoirs on the Verde River are a combined 62 percent of capacity.
This year’s runoff season, while still below the 30-year median runoff of 534,336 acre-feet, was the most productive since 1,418,960 acre-feet of water was accumulated during the 2010 runoff season — the 20th most productive year on record. The snowmelt runoff in 2012 amounted to only about 196,064 acre-feet, which followed the 2011 runoff total of 222,907 acre-feet.
SRP is the largest raw water supplier in the Phoenix metropolitan area, normally delivering about 1 million acre-feet annually.