The Central Arizona Project (CAP) is a 336-mile system that transports water from the Colorado River to central and southern Arizona, providing the state's largest renewable water supply and serving 80% of its population. Established in 1971, the Central Arizona Water Conservation District (CAWCD) was created to manage the infrastructure and oversee reimbursement to the federal government. Construction began in 1973, and the system was completed in 1993. The primary purpose of the CAP is to provide water to nearly one million acres of irrigated indigenous and non-indigenous farmland in Maricopa, Pinal and Pima counties, as well as municipal water for several communities in Arizona, including the Phoenix and Tucson metropolitan areas. This essential water supply has enabled Arizona to nearly double its population since its completion. The CAP pumps water from the Colorado River, nearly 3,000 feet from Lake Havasu, which ultimately ends up in 14 water pumping plants before it reaches homes.
This water is used for a variety of purposes, such as running businesses, irrigating crops and maintaining homes - all of which are critical to the quality of life in Arizona. The concept for the CAP was first developed by Arizona promoters long before the state signed the Colorado River Pact in 1944. The 1947 plan called for “1.2 million acre-feet to be imported to central Arizona and used on existing agricultural land”. In 1964, the Supreme Court sided with Arizona and issued a decree under which Arizona and other “lower basin states” have the right to appropriate and use tax flows before they merge with the Colorado River. The CAP is managed by nearly 500 professionals who are responsible for system maintenance and operations, reimbursement obligations, public outreach, and participation in water resource management programs for Arizona. It is an essential part of life in the state, enabling its continued growth and prosperity.