Less snowfall leads to little water run-off

June 19, 2012

This past winter may not have been the driest in Valley history but it was in the top twenty. Salt River Project says the La Niña weather pattern meant little snowfall in the mountains and light runoff for the lakes and rivers.

The La Niña weather pattern brings dry calm conditions across the Southwest. That means the Salt and Verde River watershed gets little snow between December and March. This is the second year in a row La Niña has delivered little precipitation. In fact, it was the 16th driest since SRP started keeping records 114 years ago.

SRP manages the dams and lakes that provide water for metro Phoenix.

"Fortunately 2010 was very wet and we filled our reservoir to capacity, so we've been using that stored water over the last couple of years to make up for the water we didn't get the last two winters," said Charlie Ester, who is a hydrologist with SRP.

Ester says the forecast for next year calls for a return of the El Niño pattern which usually means a wetter winter. While the short term forecast appears hopeful, Ester says the Southwest is still in a long term drought cycle. He says historically these kinds of cycles can last decades even though there may be a year or two with abundant rain and snowfall.