SRP, Valley cities studying ways to store more water amid problems with Verde River

The Colorado River is Arizona’s largest renewable water supply, but much of the Phoenix metro area is served by the Salt and Verde River reservoir system.

However, one component of that big source of water is shrinking, and Valley cities are now partnering with SRP, in a study to understand the options that are available.

"Every ounce of water that we can capture on the Verde is critical," said Ron Klawitter with the SRP.

The Salt and Verde Rivers make up about half of the water supply to the Phoenix area. Of that half, about 60% of the water comes from the Salt River, while 40% comes from the Verde River.

"We receive about the half majority of supplies within about a three-month period of the year, so we need to capture those supplies when they are available, and how we do that is our reservoir system," said Klawitter.

A shrinking storage capacity will cause problems king storage capacity, there is a problem. Klawitter says that's been the case recently at the Verde River.

"These reservoirs that are over 70 years old have been pretty good catches for that sediment. The river comes down fast from the high elevation of Northern Arizona, through the canyons of Camp Verde. The first opportunity where the river slows down is in Horseshoe Reservoir," said Klawitter. 

The issue lies at Horseshoe Lake, located upstream from the Verde. Sediments are accumulating in the reservoir, which directly offsets the ability to store water. The lake has already lost thousands of acres feet of storage capacity.

"We want to make sure we have enough capacity in our storage reservoirs to capture that runoff when it's coming down, so we can store it and deliver it down at the Valley to water treatment plants, to agricultural fields, to tribal lands, and to all of those in our community that need the water," said Klawitter.

Over the last year, SRP has partnered with the Bureau of Reclamation and Valley municipalities to study what options are available to restore and manage the water supply of the Verde River in the future. As a part of this study, they are looking to raise the Bartlett Dam to help mitigate the problem.

"By doing that, we'd not only be able to expand and restore the capacity lost to sedimentation, but improve the overall infrastructure of the system to be able to better pass sediments through the system," said Klawitter.

The study, which is in the very early stages, can take up to four years. At the end of that study period, they hope to have a much better understanding of all of the pros and cons of this process.

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