Green Fatigue

Amount of Water Lost in Town Lake Draining is Just Fraction of Run-off This Year

This is a desert. Nobody likes to see a billion gallons of water flushed down a hole in the middle of summer, which is what happened July 20 after one Tempe Town Lake's inflatable dams popped.

But let's keep this in perspective, folks -- something today's Arizona Republic article about refilling the Town Lake does not do.

Nowhere in the article is it acknowledged that our nice, wet winter this year delivered waaaaay too much water for our manmade reservoirs to hold. The overabundance meant SRP, which controls the reservoirs (the main one being Roosevelt lake), had to release megatons of water over the dams.

From mid-January to late May, more than 668,000 acre-feet of water was released, says the utility. An acre-foot contains 325,851 gallons.

Doing the math, we find that more than 217 Town Lakes worth of water spilled down the Salt River bed in those few months.

True, if no more serious runoff comes down the pipe by Novermber, when Tempe wants the lake refilled, the city intends to use the stored water in the reservoirs.

That means our reservoirs will be down by that billion gallons of water -- about one percent of the total, according to the Republic article.

Will the Phoenix metro area die of thirst if it doesn't get that last 1 percent? Maybe -- but only if it never rains or snows again.

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Ray Stern has worked as a newspaper reporter in Arizona for more than two decades. He's won numerous awards for his reporting, including the Arizona Press Club's Don Bolles Award for Investigative Journalism.