New SRP Technology

New SRP technology helps to track water in Big Chino

As clouds swept across the horizon on New Years Eve 2014, the remote Big Chino Wash was blanketed in snow.

Just six months earlier - in the midst of the summer 2014 monsoon season - the same spot in the wash was inundated with runoff water, completely obscuring the stream gauge.

Scientists with the Phoenix-area Salt River Project (SRP) can confirm these details - along with many more - thanks to a new "Flowtography" technology that is now in place in the Paulden-area Big Chino Sub-basin.

Dubbed as capturing "almost every drop," Flowtography is a part of the extensive groundwater monitoring that SRP is doing in partnership with the City of Prescott and the Town of Chino Valley.

The new technology - a brainchild of Lee Ester, manager of water measurement for SRP - goes well beyond conventional water-measurement gauges by taking thousands of images of the streams and washes that flow through the Big Chino Sub-basin.

Ester pointed out that the technology records as many as 35,000 images a year.

SRP has installed the time-lapse cameras and in-stream visual staff gauges along nine ephemeral (short-term and intermittent) reaches of streams and creek sections in the Verde River Watershed.

The goal: To more accurately determine the amount of water being recharged into the Big Chino aquifer.

That point is important to SRP and local governments because of long-term plans by Prescott and Prescott Valley to pump water from the Big Chino Sub-basin, and pipe it to the tri-city area.

In February 2010, the three entities entered a settlement agreement, effectively halting the litigation that had been going on for years over water rights in the Big Chino.

SRP, Prescott, and Prescott Valley then followed up with a September 2012 groundwater monitoring and modeling agreement to expand and enhance the information available on the Big Chino Sub-basin.

Then, in August 2013, the Prescott City Council approved a contract with SRP for implementation of the enhanced surface-water monitoring system in the Big Chino.

Ester said this week that the Flowtography cameras have now been in place for months, and have already produced thousands of images.

Even so, he emphasized that the process is just in the beginning stages. "We're in it for the long haul," Ester said on Feb. 11. "We're trying to build a baseline."

A news release from SRP notes that Ester's group is tasked with, among other things, the job of measuring river and stream flows across SRP's watershed before the rain and melting snow is captured and stored in reservoirs along the Salt and Verde Rivers.

"Those drops eventually wind up behind the seven dams operated and managed by SRP, the largest provider of water to the greater Phoenix metropolitan area," the SRP news release added.

Flowtography aims to provide a better understanding of the behavior of a stream, snow accumulation and overall watershed conditions, according to information from SPR.

Leslie Graser, water resource manager for the City of Prescott, agreed that the new Flowtography technology would offer valuable information.

"We're pleased with the technology that has been deployed in the Big Chino to assist in data collection," Graser said on Feb. 13, adding that the technology is intended to help in the understanding of groundwater recharge. "It really shows the event building up and hitting the max," she said.

Source: The Daily Courier

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