Arizona and water issues for the future are an interesting issue as the Governor and her Drought task force move into a long-term workable plan. Such a compromise is necessary is AZ is to continue growth without devastating its food processing, farming and distribution and transportation industry in trade for housing and construction.
This issue is on everyone's mind in AZ as the Bark Beetles is eating up the forests near Prescott, Fires have burned down thousands of acres in Show Lo and outside Tucson. As Yuma explodes in Population, as CA desert farmers use an abundance of water, housing continues to grow in San Diego's North East County, Eastern side along the 8 and in Riverside and San Bernardino Counties. Coupled with the intense growth of Las Vegas in suburbs of Green Valley, Summerlin, Centennial, Seven Hills, North Las Vegas and Anthem. In Tucson seeing housing housing growth on the West side and also heavy growth in and around the Oro Valley area.
In Phoenix much like Las Vegas the growth is staggering, unbelievable really. More golf courses using up to 10% of the water including Trillium in Queen Creek, Cave Creek Area, Another Anthem, Sun City Expansion, Glendale, Goodyear and surround areas and Awautukee Hills. Growth also in cities bordering the tri-sate area places like Lake Have a Brew, Bullhead City, Laughlin and all the way down river to around Parker, AZ. What do all these areas have in common? They all draw from the Colorado River, which is seeing pressures in it's availability to supply the growing demand. So what is AZ to do? Well they have the SRP – Salt Water River Project. Which is really a river that is thousands of years old, unpredictable during certain periods of the year. That was until around 300 BC yes three hundred BC, looks like Columbus did not discover anything except a whole bunch of people who were already Natives. In AZ Cortez could have come about 2500 BC and found all civilizations roaming what are now the western United States.
The ancient Hohokam Indians were skilled farmers by that time of 300 BC and they over the years had built a series of gravity fed canals all the way from Flagstaff to Tucson if you can imagine that. And why not, Look at the Egyptians, Chinese and Roman and Greeks. They too were well adapted to building canals and aquaducts. All this during the European Feudal system, the tribunals continued to modify and adapt their water flow to meet seasonal demand and flow rates needed for farming. The Hohokam like the Indians of the Four Corners regions who lived around 1200-1350 AD, also left their lands in 1400s. Why? No one knows except maybe the Mountainous Indians may have come down for food and water after warring taxes taxed their infrastructure and they over populated their resources.
Mankind has always tried to manage his resources as the Earth is a hostile planet for any species living in the desert or anywhere on the surface of this little blue Planet. There are flows and cycles and logical needs which must be met as Maslow would agree in his view of what is needed to reach such a pinnacle of society to find your self and your people self actualized.
The Hohokam had developed such an intricate system of water delivery in canals, dams, reservoirs, it rival Mullhollands project in CA, including the Fillmore dam, which has its own story: http://www.scvhistory.com/scvhistory/lat021603. htm .
The Chandlers, must have seen this and used these techniques along with Mullholland to assist in the California Acquaduct. The Hohokam had more than 200 miles of irrigation ditches on top of the river system. After they left, a drfter named Jack Swilling revitalized the canal system. Named the dam thing the Swilling Irrigation Canal Company, but folks in the region simply called it the Swilling Ditch. And a ditch it was as it bought water through AZ, some 1500 years after the Hohokam had mysteriously vanished. The Company was located in what is now and industrial section of Phoenix, but was once the main downtown area. 1868-1870 the ditch did very well, but Swilling died in a Yuma jail in 1870. The community kept adding canals and miles to the system and it was actually 42 miles long, which was no real feat compared to the Tribal and ancient Indians.
Water is gold. Look at Saudi Arabia, Kuwait even Baghdad for that matter. Without water you have nothing. Water is gold. I recently talked with the Mayor of San Marcos TX who told me that the oil of this century in Texas was water. He is not alone in his predictions as Billionaires have been buying up water rights in TX as fast as they can. Enron was trading water futures and why not. The Rio Grande does not have water flow the Gulf of Mexico anymore and TX, NM, NV, CO, MT, AZ all seed the clouds not. Sure beats the ancient ones and their rain dances, which we all bought to learn, after all it worked for them. The Hohokam left the area, why? Were they in periods of long droughts also and being farmers could not do without periods with no water? Without food to grow and animals to hunt on the open desert plain, what could they harvest or trade to live? William Bradford and Edward Winslow found ways to trade with the Indians to get the things they needed for the pilgrims.
Indians in such civilization had big trading needs and were able to get things to make their lives easier than other tribes and cultures. In 1902 many western leaders went to Washington DC to lobby for funds to build the infrastructure and in that year Roosevelt signed the National Reclamation Act. The Valley in PHX immediately worked to secure a loan to take advantage of that legislation and built the first of many larger dams and later reservoirs, the first of which was a huge dam in the Tonto Basin and the locals formed the Salt River Valley Water Users Association. The reason for this was due to the inconsistent problems such as the Flood destroying parts of the canal in 1891.
Then the draft of 1897-1904 bought even more havoc to the region, that is my view for believing that these droughts are basically the 100 year droughts cycles, the Indians without the huge dams and giant reservoirs were wonderful in normal years, but lacking in the Drought Periods. Coupled with fires from Lightening in Monsoon seasons across the PHX plain. Having water flow like the Colorado River Rapids in the beginning of the year and then dry in the late summers would not support year round life in a desert. About 12 people died building the dam and Apache Indians helped too, but were segregated in tents. This is why the Boeing named the Apache Attack Helicopter since they were the same Indians living in that region previously with ancientors still there today, some running casinos and making much money.
Typhoid swept through the work camp during the years it took to build the dam. The damn dam was completed in 1911 and thus Phoenix was free to grow big. The dam named Roosevelt dam was the first of several reservoirs. Mormon Flats, Horse Mesa, Stewart Mountain all dams and were used to generate electric power, some 53,000 kilowatts. After Tesla proved he could power up the world with water and deliver it via power lines until which time he could figure out a way to deliver it wireless.
During the Depression AZ had found it difficult to make payments on these ambitious projects. AZ at one time developed more power than all the other reclamation projects combined. SRP, kept growing and delivering, it was formed as a restructuring move to catch up on payments. By generating electricity the desert has been able to keep water prices lower for the valley to have expotential growth. SRP is the third largest utility in the country. We will discuss some of the others in future studies including, Hoover Dam, nigara Falls, Bonneville Power and the Nuclear Gerators of our country and all the coal driven generation and the power and politics struggle between oil, natural gas, as well as the Tennessee River Valley Authority. SMUD and so many others in our upcoming study. In the case of SRP years of water rights taxes continued and was finally settled with 35 original water rights owners claiming some 500 billion gallons which included Indians, farmers, municipalities, families all in Central AZ. SRP has other huge holding such as the Navajo Generating Plant which is coal fired in Four Corners Region.
SRP also has in place a 336 canal system hooking the PHX and Tucson areas to the Colorado River, which is now a large part of the water supply this was only put in recently in the 1980s, but has allowed the growth to continue and become even more strong, so Maricopa and Pima Counties together rival that of Las Vegas Area growth, and folks that is friggin huge let me tell you, WOW. Today SRP has a 17% stake in Palo Verde, which is operated by APS and has contractors such as Betchel leading the charge in upgrades to make Palo Verde, which was once the largest Nuclear Generator in the Free World, the largest generator by a factor of 2. On Valentines day in 1980 the Roosevelt dam had its spillways running at 180,000 cubic feet PER SECOND, as the area was hit by ten inches of rain in three storms in five days, the level of water was averaging four inches from overflowing for 24 hours. SRP to the rescue. WOW. If that dam overflowed it would have created a waterfall 284 feet high, about twice that of Niagara Falls. No kidding. After that 400 million was spent to renovate and SRP has always been there for Phoenix residents. For information on this project and SRP after they celebrated their 100 year anniversary in Feb. 2003 click here;
Today SRP serves over 800,000 plus customers within a 2900 square mile radius. About 5000 people work for SRP, this is not a little project, this is a big deal for AZ and this is why they have been able to sustain the growth they have over the last many decades. Many issues are critical now with water levels down in the reservoirs ion NV feeding the lower Colorado River and the levels in the Roosevelt dam area, namely fish are more concentrated and less water means higher temperatures and many will die. But the problem is not as bad as many Salmon habitat rivers which are low or the minnows in NM.
The Rio Grande another story in itself. With the cut-throat and Apache trout populations. Mother nature has a way of balancing things out, but with mannish's need for water and appetite for green lawns in deserts, golf courses and washing cars, it appears we are still going to need San Diego and Los Angeles to De-salinate like Tampa Bay . Jeb Bush and his team were really looking ahead as the drained everglades were threatening eco-system, farming industry and development on the world's largest sand bar with no mountains, you might call it FL
It is really amazing. I hope you can appreciate all this great nation has to offer and understand that infrastructure can not be taken for granted and that it does not grow on trees. Be thankful America, of everything you take for granted. I am thankful of SRP for allowing such a wonderful market to come into existence so we can live well and wash cars. Without water and power you would have no city, no people, no roads and need no cars to drive on then, washing is irrelevant. Thanks SRP and all those who came before me and made it so. Any one care to comment on the importance of water infrastructure projects, please post below, water is life, without the flow of water, we can not sustain civilization.