Provo river doubling in volume this week
May 23, 2023, 5:20 PM | Updated: 6:54 pm
UTAH COUNTY, Utah — The Provo River is rising in Utah County and will continue to pick up volume in the days ahead. Water managers have increased the flows out of Deer Creek Dam as they continue to push the limits of the flood control capacity of the system.
Several days ago, the river was running at 700 cubic feet per second below the Deer Creek Dam. Today, it’s already up to 1000 CFS. They opened the spill gate this morning, and the water will continue to rise this week.
Right now, Deer Creek Reservoir is only 6 feet from full, an amazing outcome from the runoff, considering it was half full last fall. Water managers will let the level rise three more feet, and keep it there, using storage space in the Jordanelle Reservoir to regulate the level in Deer Creek.
“We have to balance what’s coming into the reservoir during the snow melt with what can go downstream safely and still end up with a full reservoir to deliver water as they’re designed to do,” Jeff Budge, general manager of the Provo River Water Users Association said.
The Provo River will rise about 100 CFS each day. By the end of the week, water managers expect the volume to reach 1500 CFS. That’s twice what it was a week ago, but still below bank level. Next week, they want to get the discharges up to 1800 CFS.
“That’s where we’d like to hold it, as best we can do the rest of the runoff,” Budge said. “That’s what we call bank-full condition.”
It’s the responsibility of the Provo River Water Users Association to have full reservoirs when the runoff stops. That’s challenging this year due to the high volume of water they need to pass through the dam to mitigate flooding.
“Rivers are not safe when they are running this high, no matter what we do,” the general manager said. “So, that’s a caution that I would give to people that recreate around the rivers: they are very powerful, very dangerous when they’re flowing this high, even when they’re within their banks.“
The high flows should continue another three to four weeks, he said. There’s still about 20 inches of snow water equivalent at the headwaters of the Provo River in the High Uintas.
“There’s a lot of snow up there that still has to come down,” Budge said.
People who live and play along the Provo River will see the river rise each day. It will continue to attract a lot of attention and water managers urge everybody to be extremely cautious.