Arizona Wet Winter
Wet Winter Will Benefit Arizona Waters This Year
April 1, 2023
A succession of winter storms has provided much-needed moisture to Arizona's waters and landscapes over the last several months. Salt River Project (SRP) said this winter has been one of the best for the Verde and Salt River water systems in the last three decades, and SRP's reservoirs (Roosevelt, Apache, Canyon and Saguaro on the Salt, and Horseshoe and Bartlett on the Verde) are projected to fill or be close to capacity.
While the rain and snow is welcome in terms of helping to mitigate dry conditions in much of the state, it has also brought some negative impacts in the form of flooding. This past week's storm caused severe flooding in Oak Creek, Wet Beaver Creek, parts of the Verde River, the Agua Fria River near Black Canyon City, and other rivers and streams in areas of the state.
SRP recently began releasing water from Bartlett Dam on the Verde River to create additional storage capacity for water from snowmelt and recent rains. The water is flowing through the normally dry Salt River. Valley residents should pay attention to traffic updates since the Salt River goes right through metro Phoenix. Most major roads have a bridged crossing over the river but some have been forced to close due to flooding (most notably, McKellips Road in Mesa and 67th Ave. in the West Valley).
Lakes such as Roosevelt, which was 101% full as of 3/23, will benefit from high water levels as the submerged vegetation will provide nutrients, offer cover for bass and crappie fry using the brush as protection, and make for good spawning beds.
The streams in the Rim Country and White Mountains will have increased water flow due to the above-normal snowpack, which should enhance recreational angling later this year. Some of the lakes such as Big Lake, Luna, Lee Valley, Carnero, Sunrise and Willow Springs suffered from extremely low lake levels last year and hopefully will be on the rebound this summer.
C.C. Cragin (Blue Ridge) Reservoir, about 20 miles northeast of Payson, has an excellent snowpack in the canyons feeding the reservoir. The reservoir has filled (103% as of 3/23), and there will be an overflow into East Clear Creek, improving stream fishing for those willing to hike.
Although the Rocky Mountains snowpack that feeds the Colorado River is currently above average, it will likely be months before it becomes clear how much water will reach Lake Powell and Lake Mead this summer. The Colorado will likely need multiple seasons of above average precipitation for meaningful recovery.