Last week, the Salt River Project (SRP) opened the spigots on the East Verde River, sending 30 cubic feet per second sluicing down a Rim Country lifeline that had dwindled to a trickle.
The rush of water offered Salt River Project engineers a chance to test the repairs and new pumps and control panel for the system that brings water from the distant Blue Ridge Reservoir to the East Verde.
The $5-million repair job on the system is a first step in constructing a $30-million pipeline to bring about 3 million acre-feet annually to Payson, providing enough drinking water for the town to grow to a projected population of 38,000.
However, boosters of the East Verde hope that the project will also make the fickle East Verde a more stable stream, to the delight of swimmers, divers, fishermen -- and Rim Country tourism promoters.
The high flows could resume periodically for the next two or three weeks as SRP continues to test the modifications made over the summer to the existing pipeline and control system running from the reservoir to the East Verde.