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Making the most of every drop: How SRP is protecting the desert’s water supply

Our city’s water supply is a very precious resource, especially because we live in a desert. At SRP, our goal is to manage your water supplies to make sure you have enough now and for future generations. 

See how we’re managing SRP’s water supply system to take on its biggest threats: 

  • Loss of system storage capacity
  • Drought
  • A changing climate

Where does Phoenix get its water from? For more than 100 years, SRP has managed the Salt and Verde river water, bringing in more than half of the Valley’s water supply.

Our water supply is ready to weather climate change

According to a recent U.S. Bureau of Reclamation study, the Salt and Verde rivers’ water supply is less likely to be impacted by climate change than the Colorado River system. 

“The current state of research suggests that the Salt River system, unlike the Colorado River system, is expected to be impacted by climate change differently,” said Dave Roberts, Associate General Manager and Chief Water Resources Executive at SRP.

Why is that? The Salt and Verde rivers are less sensitive to climate change because of two main factors:

  • Location
  • Timing of snowmelt

What does snow melting have to do with our water supply?

Typically, Arizona only gets 7 or 8 inches of rain a year. We depend on snowmelt runoff from the forested watershed up north to feed our water supply.

A watershed is an area of land that channels rainfall and snowmelt to creeks, streams and rivers to be stored in the state’s water reservoir systems. 

Before it really heats up in Arizona, the Salt and Verde river systems are fed by snow that melts in March and early April. Because of the cooler temperature that time of year, less water evaporates. As a result, more water makes its way into SRP’s reservoirs, or lakes.

Comparatively, the Colorado River system is fed by snowmelt in the warmer months of May and June. Since it’s hotter during those months, less water feeds the river because it evaporates.

Our water supply is in good shape and we plan to keep it that way

To create a water supply that’s large enough to meet the Valley’s needs, we need a robust system of storage locations and water sources. This is what we call our water infrastructure system. 

In addition to the reservoirs, SRP’s water system infrastructure enhances the reliability of our water supply. The system includes:

  • Underground water storage facilities.
  • A groundwater well system that sustainably withdraws water from the SRP aquifers.  
  • Connection to the CAP Canal and Colorado River water supplies. 

Did you know? In addition to storing water below the ground, underground water storage facilities help to protect aquifers and allow us to grow how much we can store. 

Even though it’s enough water for now, we are always preparing for an uncertain future. 

“As we have done for more than 100 years, SRP will continue to plan and execute strategies for building resilience in the Salt River and Verde River water supplies we manage for the Phoenix area – even in the face of a changing climate,” Roberts said.

Climate change may bring more droughts and floods, but SRP is prepared  

While we hope for the best each year, we plan for the worst. Because rain and snowfall are unpredictable, we manage our water resources every year as if we’re heading into a drought. 

In fact, SRP reservoirs, or lakes, have more than 1 trillion gallons of storage capacity. Maintaining storage capacity is vital in the case of droughts and floods.

To better understand the Salt and Verde water system’s sensitivity to climate change, we’re continuing our research work with a few universities and partners.

This includes Arizona State University, the University of Arizona. Plus, we utilize the SRP infrastructure to improve the water situation in the region by helping others on an ongoing basis.

You can help protect our water supply

In fact, you already have! Our research shows that SRP’s reservoirs are in good shape partly because the Valley has been conserving more water.  

The Valley cities, including Phoenix as the fifth-largest city in the nation, are using less water. This is credited to the cities’ dedication to water conservation programs and education. 

See how you can become part of our culture of conservation. Every drop we save today is one more we can store for tomorrow.  

Ready to soak up more knowledge?

Learn more about where your water comes from, how we’re protecting the state’s water supply and our plan for tackling the challenges of tomorrow.

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