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Going with the flow using SRP Flowtography™

An SRP Flowtography camera captures the flow of water at a site in northern Arizona. Use the slider to compare the site from dry to flowing.

Going with the flow is a carefree state of being that most of us aspire to achieve. But at SRP, going with the flow (of water) is serious business. As a provider of water to over half of the Valley, we carefully move, measure, monitor and test the water supply we bring in. And at the beginning of it all is something called SRP Flowtography.

Developed in 2013, SRP Flowtography is a proprietary technology created to monitor the flow of water and perform research. While Flowtography measures the flow of water, SnowtographyTM helps us measure snow depth.

Read more about its sister technology, SRP Snowtography.

But why is measuring snow critical to us in Phoenix? The water we receive down in the Valley starts as snow in Arizona’s high country and makes quite a journey to get here. Measuring the flow of water is critical to the management of the Valley’s water supplies.

Before and after a snowfall, water flows through a snowy Flowtography site.

How does SRP Flowtography work?

SRP Flowtography is a solar-powered camera, located either in a tree or on a pole. That camera records time-lapse images of a marker located within a stream channel. The camera takes an image every 15 minutes of the marker: 24 hours a day, seven days a week.

Within each image, a pole with markings every six inches is visible so that our water experts can calculate the depth and flow of water. Sometimes there’s no water flowing in these locations.

But when water is flowing, its depth and flow are continually monitored and recorded. This allows us to better predict how much water will make its way to lakes, canals and, eventually, to Valley homes and businesses.

Having cameras set up for both Snowtography and Flowtography has an additional benefit – the ability to monitor the impacts of the snow and water on wildlife. Caring for the health of the forests means caring about the creatures that inhabit them as well.

An SRP camera captures a bobcat going for a drink of water.

Calculating the flow of water

Water flow calculations are complex. Engineers and analysts take the characteristics and measurements of each water channel into consideration to develop site-specific ratings based on water depth. These calculations differ from site to site, helping predict how much water will flow through the Salt and Verde river systems.

As we mentioned before, most of the water supply starts as melted snow in northern Arizona and trickles down forested land via streams and rivers. That’s why we care so much about the health of our forests. The health of our forests directly impacts our water supply.

Every year, we are partnering on new forest restoration projects that help us protect our water supplies and ensure the forests can handle droughts and wildfires. For instance, we have partnered with Arizona State University on developing a forest-water model to help us understand how forest restoration will improve water resilience in our forests.

Help keep our forests healthy

We know many of you also care about the health of Arizona’s forests. You can sign up for the SRP Healthy Forest Initiativeand make a monthly or one-time donation toward restoration projects that help us keep our forests and water supply healthy.

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