Upper Lake Mary Watershed Monitoring Project

Climate Monitoring

The Utilities Division is interested in snowpack and summer precipitation patterns. This graph shows a shift from the historical annual rain-to-snow relationship. In the last 4 of 16 water years, our annual precipitation has gone from about 50%–70% rain to 80% rain, with only 20% of all precipitation falling as snow. Production staff have seen significant runoff into Upper Lake Mary when rain falls on snowpack. A warming climate is a concern for many Southwestern water providers that rely on winter snowpack to recharge their surface supplies. Utilities will incorporate this and other climate scenario planning into its next Water Resources Master Plan.

rain vs snow
annual rain vs snow averages table

Flowtography & "Watching Our Watershed"

In 2015, the Utilities Division partnered with the Salt River Project (SRP) to provide ongoing operations, maintenance, and data collection for six flowtography sites within the 4FRI (Four Forests Restoration Initiative) area of the Upper Lake Mary Watershed. Flowtography uses a game camera mounted in a tree to take one photo every 15 minutes of a graduated rebar stake in the center of a channel. The channel has been surveyed for slope, cross-sectional area, and roughness such that flow can be calculated using Manning’s equation. The height of water on the stream gage is recorded from photographs taken during flow events. The flow data will serve as a baseline for comparison with data collected after forest treatments. They will help us determine whether forest treatment and maintenance affect surface water runoff into Upper Lake Mary. Click here for a fact sheet on this project.
The six sites were installed in November 2014. Two additional sites were installed in April 2017 at the Newman Canyon USGS gage site and Upper Lake Mary to monitor water levels.

Watch how Flagstaff uses flowtography to preserve the water supply.

Read an Arizona Daily Sun article about flowtography.

Check out these time lapse videos of some of our monitoring sites:

LM-2 from December 1, 2016 - March 15, 2017
LM-3L from December 1, 2016 - April 3, 2017 
Newman Canyon from December 1, 2016 - February 15, 2017

LM-2L photo
LM-2L on March 2, 2015

LM-3L photo
LM-3L on March 2, 2015
LM-2L hydrograph
Hydrograph, February to March 2015
LM-3L hydrograph
Hydrograph, February to March 2015

Newman Canyon

The Utilities Division and two other groups — the Flagstaff Watershed Protection Plan Project and the Lake Mary Walnut Canyon Technical Advisory Committee — partnered with the U.S. Geological Survey to install a flow gage and sediment sampler in Newman Canyon in 2014. Newman Canyon is the largest single contributing tributary to Upper Lake Mary. The image on the right displays:
  • Sub-watersheds of the Walnut Creek Watershed
  • Watersheds that are part of the Upper Lake Mary Watershed Monitoring Project and NAU Paired Watershed Study
  • USGS Newman Canyon Gage and Sediment Sampler
The first full year of data is provided below.
View sediment data | View stream gage data
Newman hydrograph Newman hydrograph

Mouth of Newman Canyon
Mouth of Newman Canyon
Upper Lake Mary
Frozen water near stream gage
Water frozen at the site of the
stream gage
Aerial View of Newman Canyon
Aerial View of Newman Canyon

To request data from this project please contact:  Erin Young, R.G.
Water Resources Manager
City of Flagstaff Water Services Division
211 W. Aspen Ave. Flagstaff, AZ 86001 
(928) 213-2405