Granite Reef Diversion Dam (Photo: SRP)
Salt River Project began releasing water from two reservoirs on the Verde River in recent days, sending water flowing into the normally dry Salt River bed in the Phoenix area.
The releases are occurring at the Granite Reef Diversion Dam to make room in the Bartlett Lake and Horseshoe lake reservoirs for additional melting snow into the Verde and Salt rivers watersheds, the result of the heavy snows that occurred late last month, SRP officials said.
Verde River water flows into the Salt River bed as it continues into Phoenix. The Salt River normally is dry through the Valley, with the exception of Tempe Town Lake, where dams hold water in place on the river bed. The downstream dam is designed to allow water to flow through when needed.
The water flow could be seen in areas of the river bed stretching to the Interstate 10 bridge in Phoenix Monday afternoon.
The flow forced the closure of McKellips Road between Alma School Road and Loop 202 freeway north of Mesa, and a portion of Gilbert Road between State Route 87 and Thomas Road.
Further crossings downstream could be impacted in coming days, SRP said.
According to a statement from SPR, Bartlett Lake and Horseshoe lakes will soon be reaching near capacity from snow melt, with only about 35,000 acre-feet of available space between the two lakes as of last Friday.
The total Verde River storage system was at 86 percent of capacity, up from 31 percent in mid-December. Horseshoe Lake was at 91 percent of capacity and Bartlett Lake 83 percent full.
Storage capacity along the Salt River was 59 percent full as of late last week. Roosevelt Lake, which holds about two-thirds of the water SRP stores, was at 51 percent – up from 40 percent on Jan. 1 and an increase of more than 150,000 acre-feet.
Salt River water storage reservoirs also form Apache, Canyon and Saguaro lakes downstream from Roosevelt Lake.