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SRP reservoirs expected to fare well despite climate change

Posted at 6:21 PM, Jun 01, 2022
and last updated 2022-06-27 16:12:00-04

PHOENIX — Taking to the skies Wednesday, officials with SRP gave ABC15 a bird's eye view at the health of their reservoir system from their helicopter. Research shows that compared to the ever-dwindling flow of the Colorado River, reservoirs on the Salt and Verde rivers could fare far better as record heat becomes the new normal.

“While climate change will have impacts, it’s not going to be as great here and it’s really because of the timing of when the water enters our reservoirs,” said SRP Hydrologist Tim Skarupa.

Skarupa says it all has to do with when the snow melts.

The Upper Colorado River runoff from the Rocky Mountains occurs during spring and early summer, a time of year when warmer days intensify the evaporation and deliver less water to the river. In comparison, the Salt and Verde watersheds receive much of their flow from rain and snow during winter months.

“It’s less impact because our supply has already entered our surface water system by the time those warmer temperatures start impacting snowpack,” said Skarupa.

That’s good news as SRP manages six critical reservoirs there, that provide water for more than 2 million people across the Valley. Climate modeling by Arizona State University and University of Arizona researchers shows that the SRP water system should remain sustainable despite the impacts of climate change.

“Considering the dry conditions we’ve had for several years, to be at 69% full here at Roosevelt lake means that we’re certainly being able to supply our customers reliably,” said Skarupa.

It also helps that over the past two decades the amount of water provided by the reservoirs has reduced significantly due to less demand, delivering about 20% less water than they did between 2000 and 2004. The reason, less farming and a greater emphasis on water conservation. Despite the positive outlook, he says it’s no time to be complacent.

“To not be concerned about how you use water is a mistake, I think that has to be at the forefront of your mind,” Skarupa.