Despite rainy October, Arizona lake water levels still low

Posted at 6:52 PM, Oct 18, 2018
and last updated 2018-10-18 22:26:38-04

Even with the record rain for Phoenix so far this month, many of the state’s reservoirs are still playing catch-up.
The Valley of the Sun hasn’t been living up it to its name this month, October 2018 will go down as at least the fourth wettest month on record for Phoenix.
We've certainly come a long way from where the year started when wells were running dry, and drought conditions were peaking.
According to State Climatologist, Nancy Selover, a wet monsoon and an even wetter fall have our drought numbers improving across the board.
“We were able to cut back a lot of our drought,” said Selover. “Extreme drought and exceptional drought were cut back.”
Even with the incredible October rain, our lake levels are still playing catch-up, the SRP reservoir system, which includes Roosevelt, Apache and Canyon Lakes is still less than 50- percent full.
According to SRP Meteorologist, Bo Svoma, a lot of this early season rain just acts as a primer for the winter snow to come.
“A lot of it gets lost in the river channels, in the higher elevations and it doesn’t make it down to the low deserts, and it gets lost in the soil,” said Svoma.
Coming off of the worst winter run-off on record for the Salt River Watershed, Svoma says the rain so far is good, but a snowy winter would go further to filling the reservoirs.
“The best thing about a snowpack is that it melts slowly into the late spring and extends the runoff season,” said Svoma.
The future of the SRP watershed is a lot brighter than Colorado River Watershed where things are more convoluted.
Lake Mead sits about three feet above where mandatory cut-offs would begin, as it sits, Arizona would take the brunt the of those cuts.
“When the CAP was built, part of the agreement was Arizona became the junior right, meaning we were the first to take a cut,” said Selover.
According to the Bureau of Reclamation, there is a 57-percent chance of a shortfall on Lake Mead by 2020 which has seven southwest states working on a Drought Contingency Plan. The premise is simple: take less water now, avoid bigger issues in the future.
“With a lot of discussion with some of the other states, some of them have agreed that they will take some of the cuts,” said Selover.
The Drought Contingency Plan is not set in stone but will in part work to create new incentives for farmers and cities to conserve water.
Meanwhile, there is about a 75-percent chance for an El Nino winter which could lead to more rain and snow than normal in the months ahead. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are calling for a chance of above average precipitation this winter for the southern tier of the United States, including Arizona.