Water community cooperates to address wildfire’s grungy aftermath

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SRP Water Delivery

Usually, water fights a fire during the inferno.

This time, it’s helping deal with a wildfire’s grungy aftermath.

Monsoon storms and ensuing run-off from lands damaged by wildfire in the Tonto National Forest recently carried ash and other debris that negatively impact water quality in streams that feed the Salt River Project (SRP) water system. So Valley water providers, including Central Arizona Project, SRP and Valley municipalities, have been working together to mitigate the impacts of these spikes of extremely degraded water quality to assist communities that are dependent on these supplies.

This year, CAP is temporarily providing Colorado River water to SRP to blend that water with Salt and Verde River water impacted by the ash and debris from the fire damage caused by the 2020 Bush Fire in the Tonto National Forest that charred nearly 200,000 acres and was the fifth-largest fire in Arizona history.

The solution is made possible by infrastructure that interconnects the SRP and CAP water systems and collaboration among the Valley’s water community as part of a commitment to Arizonans to reliably deliver water now and in the future.

The CAP-SRP Interconnect Facility

Where the CAP and SRP systems intersect is a junction along the Salt River called the CAP-SRP Interconnect Facility, which allows CAP to deliver Colorado River water into SRP’s water system near SRP’s Granite Reef Diversion Dam.

This water exchange between CAP and SRP enhances both agencies’ water supplies. CAP delivers CAP water supply to the SRP system through the CAP-SRP interconnect and SRP delivers that water to cities and other water users in the SRP system. The water CAP provides to SRP for blending is then credited back to CAP at a later date. 

Bush Fire severity: areas of concern

There are three smaller SRP watersheds of concern that are especially vulnerable to the ash and debris-laden runoff that originates from the 193,455 acres of Bush Fire burn area:

  • Sycamore Creek that is a tributary to the Verde River below Bartlett Dam. Most of the washes and creeks that feed into the SRP canal system enter the system upstream of the Lower Salt and Verde River dams that attenuate large debris flows, and high concentrations of soot and ash, from continuing downstream unabated. Sycamore Creek, however, enters the Verde River below these dams.
  • Cottonwood Creek feeds directly into Saguaro Lake.
  • Slate Creek, which is tributary to Tonto Creek, which feeds into Roosevelt Lake.

Collaborating for a common goal

Even though CAP delivers water from the Colorado River and SRP delivers water from the Salt and Verde Rivers, the collaboration between the two organizations is in support of ensuring a reliable water supply to Arizona communities remains a priority.

This collaboration is a testament to the cooperation and commitment Arizona water providers demonstrate to continue supplying reliable water to our desert communities.