Part II: SRP “Water Shortage” 

By: Salt River Project

Salt River Project (SRP) has actively managed water supplies for desert living since its inception. Through the development of large storage reservoirs, high-capacity groundwater wells and innovative programs to promote the underground storage of water, SRP has demonstrated that drought preparedness is a core priority.

Working both independently and collaboratively, SRP, Valley municipalities, the Arizona Department of Water Resources and Central Arizona Project continue to strengthen the region against the impacts of drought and climate change and ensure that sufficient water is available for future needs.

For SRP, here’s how:

Constant planning for drought

Our hydrologists prepare operations models each year assuming we’re about to start the next 11-year drought of record.

Even two years ago, prior to the much-advertised “Godzilla El Niño” winter event, we planned for lower-quartile runoff and were proved correct over the conventional wisdom that expected drought-ending rains. And, as a result of our calculated modeling, SRP reservoirs were exactly on plan at the end of that poor 2016 El Niño runoff season.

In fact, even after a dismal 2018 winter, the amount of water stored in our reservoirs is greater than roughly two-thirds of the years since 1950.

Securing new water supplies

SRP is partnering with the Gila River Indian Community to make renewable water supplies available in central Arizona for new demands and in times of drought. Through the joint venture with Gila River Water Storage LLC, there are 30,000 acre-feet of CAP water available for 100-year leases and up to 2 million acre-feet of CAP water being stored to earn long-term storage credits. Together, these supplies equal 50,000 acre-feet per year of renewable water supplies for the next 100 years. To help in times of drought over the next 15 years, up to 100,000 acre-feet of additional CAP water is available during dry years to meet SRP’s water demands.

C.C. Cragin Reservoir, a 15,000-acre-foot reservoir located on East Clear Creek, was recently acquired by SRP as a water supply source for Payson, northern Gila County communities, Indian water settlements and SRP’s customers.

Improving the health of the watershed

SRP is partnering with environmental, corporate, government and academic interests to improve the health of the water supply through forest restoration, including a recent $400,000 pledge to the Nature Conservancy to assist with forest health projects near Flagstaff and Williams.

Northern Arizona forests are overgrown and highly susceptible to catastrophic fire. The majority of water that flows into SRP’s reservoirs originates from these high-elevation forested lands. By thinning these forests, the watersheds will be protected from damage that occurs following catastrophic wildfire.


SRP is investing in ways to understand how to develop new water supplies and stretch existing supplies further. These efforts include implementing new technologies, including automated devices, to better measure and control water deliveries; improving well drilling and aquifer management techniques; reducing outdoor water usage through the use of residential smart irrigation controller devices; and investigating desalinization opportunities.

Additional information is available on SRP’s water website.

Combined, these efforts have and will continue to ensure that SRP is prepared for the impacts of drought and potential water shortages on metropolitan Phoenix. SRP will also continue to investigate and seek other partnerships to grow available water supplies.