MESA, AZ (3TV/CBS 5) - The Salt River Project is storing water underground to help out with the drought. SRP's Granite Reef Underground Storage Project holds the equivalent of 17 Saguaro Lakes and just came back into operation this month after floodwaters damaged it more than a year ago.
"It plays an important role in how we plan for future droughts," said Christa McJunkin, a Salt River Project principal water planning analyst. The Granite Reef Underground Storage Project is one of more than a dozen water-banking facilities in the Valley, though it is one of the largest.
Water from the Salt River, Central Arizona Project and treated wastewater from the City of Mesa flows into fields a mile or so north of the Loop 202 Red Mountain Freeway, where it then soaks into the soil. "So all of the air spaces in between the pieces of soil are being filled up by water," McJunkin said.
The water becomes part of a large aquifer and can be found as deep as a thousand feet down, all the way to bedrock. "That does go very, very deep. But it also does spread out. So it influences an area much wider than the basins themselves," McJunkin said.
Around 270 wells pump out of the aquifer, and it's used in Chandler, Gilbert, Mesa, Phoenix, Scottsdale and Tempe. The big advantage the aquifer has over a reservoir is that the water doesn't evaporate out.
"We tend to think of our reservoirs on the watershed, our lakes. They're kind of our checking account. We put water in and take water out on a much more frequent basis," McJunkin said. "These underground storage faculties these are our savings accounts. We put the water in here and it's going to stay here for a while because we're planning for that long-term future."