What could happen next?
There are no anticipated reductions in SRP’s water supply for 2019. SRP reservoir levels on the Salt and Verde River have increased this winter, are at storage levels above reductions in delivery, and are at a low probability of experiencing shortages in future years.
SRP's water system also comprises of an extensive network of groundwater wells. Conjunctive management of the surface water and groundwater systems has resulted in an extremely reliable water supply during this extensive dry period over the past 23 years.
What you should know
It is precisely because of the redundancy in water supply from CAP and SRP, a commitment to water conservation by water customers, and advanced planning that Greater Phoenix is so well-positioned to weather extended dry periods and droughts.
Here's what you should know now:
Multi-decade (20- to 30-year) drought cycles are normal for our arid region
From tree ring studies that look back nearly 1,000 years, we know that these extended drought periods also include “spike years” such as 2017, when SRP’s total system capacity climbed from 44% to 76% in one winter.
The current drought cycle started in the mid-1990s and should play itself out over the next several years. After that, if history repeats itself, Arizona may enter the next wetter cycle.
Now is not the time to let our guard down, though.
We’ve seen this type of drier-than-normal condition before, and we will proactively manage through
SRP has been proactive in managing our surface water and groundwater supplies conjunctively, which has allowed us to ensure there is a reliable supply of water for the Valley through many dry years. Our water managers plan for an extended dry period every year with the goal of achieving water supply certainty and avoiding surprises.
When necessary, we can supplement our surface water from the Salt and Verde reservoirs with groundwater
pumped from SRP’s 270 wells in the Valley.
Combined, these wells can provide just under 50% of the water of the water delivered by SRP during a year.
In 2018, because of the severely dry conditions, SRP increased pumping from 150,000 acre-feet to 200,000 acre-feet. This decision was made not because of the need for the additional water in 2018 but as insurance should the winter of 2018-19 have remained in severe drought conditions.
SRP constitutes only one portion of the region’s water mix, along with those from the Valley’s municipalities and Central Arizona Project. SRP continues to work in conjunction with those entities and the Arizona Department of Water Resources to plan for the region’s future water needs.
In addition to the preparation measures taken by regional water agencies, there are steps you can take to help spread existing supplies further.