The Central Arizona Project: A Vision of Water Security and Stability

In the early 20th century, the Phoenix and Tucson areas were much smaller and heavily reliant on groundwater. State leaders knew that Arizona's future depended on a diverse water supply that included surface water, specifically water from the Colorado River that flowed into central and southern Arizona. To meet this need, the Central Arizona Project (CAP) was born. This ambitious project was designed to bring water from the Colorado River to the Phoenix and Tucson areas, providing a reliable source of water for the state's population.The CAP is an aqueduct system that stretches 336 miles from Lake Havasu to Tucson.

The average size of the aqueduct at its beginning is 80 feet at the top and 24 feet at the bottom and the water is 16.5 feet deep. The oversized section of the canal, which acts as an internal reservoir system, measures 160 feet at the top and 80 feet at the bottom. Thanks to its design, constant supply system, and efficient operating methods, the average annual evaporative loss of CAP during a normal, non-scarce year is approximately 4.5 percent, or 16,000 acre-feet from the aqueduct and 50,000 acre-feet from Lake Pleasant. Filtration losses are 0.6 percent, or 9,000 acre-feet per year.The security of the CAP must be maintained in accordance with all federal regulations.

To ensure this, the entire length of the channel is fenced and a security force patrols it by land and air. There are alarms in all key structures, pumping plants, outlets, and control structures. Periodic water quality tests would also alert us to contamination.Before any element of the canal was built, a massive environmental impact study was conducted to determine the potential impact on wildlife or the environment at that location. Reclamation hired environmental teams from the University of Arizona and the Arizona Department of Game and Fish to conduct wildlife studies and determine their migration patterns.

The study resulted in the placement of wildlife bridges in strategic locations to ensure that wildlife could cross the channel safely and without interfering with their natural migration patterns. There are also fences, watering holes, and escape ramps in the distribution channels as well as a rough concrete finish that allows smaller animals to enter and exit the canal. In some cases, such as a 2,157-acre parcel near Tucson, CAP purchased property to fully protect and preserve the natural habitats of animal and plant life.The CAP supplies water to nearly 6 million people in Maricopa, Pinal, and Pima counties - more than 80% of Arizona's population. To use up its full allotment and prevent California from keeping unused water, Arizona basically gave water away to farmers at a price slightly higher than cost.

This has allowed cities like Phoenix and Tucson to grow exponentially over time. Cold lovers spray shoppers on the sidewalks of Scottsdale - the luxurious enclave east of Phoenix - while kayakers paddle across a placid lake in front of Sun Devil Stadium on Arizona State University's campus. These are just two examples of how Phoenix and Tucson have benefited from CAP's vision of water security and stability.CAP acts as a collaborative partner and innovative leader in sustainable management and reliable supply of water for central Arizona. The security of CAP must be maintained in accordance with all federal regulations.

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