Exploring the history of Phoenix, Arizona, just for fun. Advertising-free, supported by my patrons on Patreon. Thank you!

A desert city designed around plenty of water - Phoenix, Arizona

I visited friends in Los Angeles last week and believe me, you can really see the effects of the California drought there. And of course, just about everyone I talk to, including people in Arizona, think that the water in Phoenix comes from the Colorado River. You know, Hoover Dam. It doesn't. But since that's the lifeline for places like Las Vegas, and Los Angeles, it's critical for them, and it's natural to think that it's also for Phoenix.

Now don't get me wrong. Phoenix, Tucson, and other places in Arizona use CAP (Central Arizona Project) water, which is piped in for hundreds of miles from the Colorado River. But Phoenix, which was platted in 1870, has never relied on water from hundreds of miles away. It was built where there was plenty of water, and there still is, the Salt River.

Anyone who has lived in Phoenix for a few years knows about the tremendous amount of water that comes crashing through the valley every year. That's the water that starts as snow in the uplifted areas northeast of Phoenix. The biggest problem Phoenix has had was to control that flooding, and to catch that water. That's what the Salt River Project was all about. And it has been a successful project!

The Hohokams knew this. They didn't bring water into the valley from hundred of miles away in aqueducts. They built canals, and caught the water that flowed right through the valley in yearly floods. The Phoenix pioneers knew that, too. The canals that they built in the 1800s are still being used today. I like to ride my bike along them. I live near the Arizona Canal, which was built in 1885. For reference, that's more than fifty years before the dam on the Colorado River was built.

Now waitaminute, just because there's plenty of water doesn't mean that I'm not recommending conserving water. The water itself may flow for free, and there may be plenty of it, but it costs a lot to store it, and to deliver it. And besides, I'm an old Minnesotan, and we don't waste stuff. My landscaping at my house is all xeriscape, and it has been since I moved in here.

If you know your Arizona history, you know that Arizona never had any interest in building a dam on the Colorado River. Governor Hunt never signed off on it, but it was pushed through, anyway. And it is very important to Las Vegas, and Los Angeles. But Phoenix has the Salt River.

Image above: the watershed for the Salt River

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1 comment:

  1. What a difference the Salt River made for Phoenix compared to what the Gila River has done elsewhere.