While some Utah and Wyoming rivers are overflowing their banks, flows in many Arizona rivers are hovering well below normal.
From the San Pedro and Santa Cruz rivers in Southern Arizona to the Salt and Verde rivers north of Phoenix, flows are diminishing as they often do in the June dry season’s peak. In Upper Sabino Creek on Mount Lemmon, flows look more like they do at the end of June than in early June, three or four inches of water are still running there.
But authorities aren’t worried about short-term impacts to drinking water supplies. That’s in part because many rivers had above-average runoff during the winter and early spring. But the region’s ongoing, continuing long-term drought continues to have water officials watching the weather carefully.
Some examples of the state’s diminished flows:
- On Upper Sabino, “flows are starting to drop off real fast,” said Michael Stanley, manager of the Mount Lemmon Water District, a government agency that delivers water to Summerhaven and vicinity. “We’re right at the edge. If we’re don’t get rain at our normal monsoon times, we could get low flows. But I’m not going to cry wolf, because there’s still water in Carter Canyon and Sabino Creek.”
- Sabino Creek near Tucson, meanwhile, is running normal for this time of year -- dry.
- On the Upper San Pedro River near Sierra Vista, the Charleston gauge was running at 1.07 cubic feet per second Monday, compared to a long-term median flow of 3 cfs. On the Upper Santa Cruz near Tubac, Monday’s flow was .58 cfs, compared to a normal 2.2 cfs.
- Cienega Creek near Sonoita and Pantano Wash near Vail were running above normal -- Cienega very slightly so, and Pantano more than double the normal median flow.
- On the Upper Gila River and its tributaries including the San Francisco River, flows were below or well below normal near Clifton, Glenwood, New Mexico, and near Solomon at the head of the Safford Valley. They were above normal near Redrock and Virden, New Mexico, and near Morenci and Calva.
- Flows on the Salt River near Roosevelt Dam east of Phoenix were at 84 cfs Monday compared to a norm of 256 cfs. On the Verde River above Horseshoe Dam north of Phoenix, flows were 62 cfs compared to a norm of 95 cfs.
“I wish they were higher of course, but we’re not too worried about it,” said Charlie Ester, water resources manager for the non-profit Salt River Project utility in Phoenix. “We got all of our runoff in January, February and early March, way above normal.”
From January 1 through May 31, the river system got a total of a million acre-feet of water, compared to a normal 600,000 acre feet, he said.
- On Lake Powell at the Utah border, total inflow into the reservoir this year is running about 114 percent of normal. Rivers feeding the lake were running 124 percent above normal on Monday.