This blog explores the history of Phoenix, Arizona and a little bit of Los Angeles and San Francisco, California. This blog is not supported by advertising, it's supported by the generosity of my patrons on Patreon. Thank you!

The difference between the canals of Phoenix, and the aqueducts of Los Angeles


Everyone knows that Phoenix, Arizona is in the desert. There's precious little water there, and in order for things to grow, and for people to live there, water has to be brought in. But most people have no idea that Los Angeles does exactly the same thing. It just looks different.

The canals of Phoenix are right out there, and have been since the first ones were dug by the Phoenix pioneers in the 1860s. The water comes from the Salt River, which flows from the northeast, starting as snowmelt in the mountains, is held back in dams, and then distributed all over the valley in canals. Yes, that's where your drinking water, and the water you use to water your plants, and everything else, comes from if you live in the Phoenix area. A tiny percentage comes from the Colorado River, too, and it also travels along in canals.

The water in and around Los Angeles isn't so visible. Instead of open canals, it runs through pipes, from aqueducts coming from the Owens Valley, and the Colorado River. The Owens River water arrived in 1913, and the Colorado River water started arriving after Hoover Dam was completed, in 1933.

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I've lived in both Los Angeles and in Phoenix, and have been interested in their history for a long time. And yes, it's all about the water. Without water, those cities wouldn't exist. And it took some amazing engineering, and some "unreasonable optimism" to make it happen. It's been so successful that most people never give it a thought. And that's how it should be.



I've always loved the canals of Phoenix. I've ridden my bike along them, and walked my dog, more times that I can count. The banks of the canals have been open for public use since the first canals were built, and they still are. And remember that this is water that's coming IN, not water that's going out. The canals are not storm drains, or sewers. That's water from the Salt River there, and yes, there are fish in there. Don't worry, they clean it up before you brush your teeth with it!

I really can't show you the water coming into Los Angeles, it's as hidden away as the sewers. But it's there, and there is a constant battle to keep the reservoirs filled, and the water flowing, just like in Phoenix.


Image at the top of this post: the Arizona Canal in 2014, Phoenix, Arizona, with my wiener dog, Macintosh