In Arizona, water is vital to sustaining its growing population, and its prosperous agricultural industry. A large portion of the state is a Mid-latitude desert, with minimal natural water resources, and limited precipitation. Two-thirds of Arizona, including the entirety of the Phoenix metropolitan area, receive less than 16 inches average annual precipitation. Arizona’s inherent “dryness”, and its need to overcome water limitations led to the development of elaborate aqueduct canals and dam and reservoir lake water systems to ensure that population and industry have their water requirements met.
Central Arizona Project
Tapping the Colorado River for its share, Arizona utilizes a 336 mile long canal system, known as the Central Arizona Project (CAP) to transport water through the state. The largest aquaduct system in the United States, the Central Arizona Project diverts water from the Colorado River near Lake Havasu in northwestern Arizona, across Central Arizona (Phoenix metro) and ending just outside of Tucson, Arizona. Central Arizona Project provides nearly half of Tucson’s, and more than one-third of Phoenix’s water supply.
Salt River Project
A public utility corporation, Salt River Project (SRP), supplies more than half of the Phoenix metropolitan area’s drinking and irrigation water usage through a system of four man-made reservoirs on the Salt River. Through mountain range drainage and perenniel springs, water flows into these four water storage reservoirs to create recreational lakes that offer fishing, boating, and camping.
As the confluence of the White and Black Rivers enter the Salt River, it winds through the Salt River Canyon Wilderness to the Theodore Roosevelt Dam, and forms Theodore Roosevelt Lake. Roosevelt Lake is the first and the oldest of the four Salt River Project reservoirs. Located in the Tonto National Forest, 80 miles northeast of Phoenix, Roosevelt Lake is the largest of the reservoir lakes at approximately 22,000 acres of water surface area. Five miles downstream from Roosevelt Lake, Apache Lake is formed by the Horse Mesa Dam. The 17 mile long, 2500 acre lake is the second oldest and second largest of the Salt River Project reservoirs. Apache Lake is located near the Apache Trail in the Tonto National Forest, 65 miles northeast of Phoenix. Downstream from Apache Lake, Canyon Lake is formed by the Morman Flat Dam. Canyon Lake is the third oldest lake in the Salt River Project reservoir system, and at 950 surface water acres it is the smallest. Located in the Superstition Wilderness area of Tonto National Forest, Canyon Lake is 50 miles east of Phoenix. The fourth lake in the Salt River Project system, Saguaro Lake, is located east of Fountain Hills, Arizona, and north of Mesa, Arizona., in the Tonto National Forest. The 1200 acre lake was formed by the construction of the Stewart Mountain Dam.
After completing the Salt River Project reservoir system along the Salt River, SRP replicated its successful system of dams and reservoirs on the Verde River. The Verde River runs more than 120 miles from its northwestern Arizona beginning point and across central Arizona until meeting the Salt River just east of Phoenix. The first of two reservoir lakes built on the Verde River, Bartlett Lake sits behind Bartlett Dam east of Carefree, Arizona. Located in the Tonto National Forest, Bartlett Lake is 12 miles long and averages over 2000 acres of water surface area. With the completion of the Horseshoe Dam 7 years after the Bartlett Dam, Horseshoe Lake was formed. The 800 water surface acre Horseshoe Lake, also in the Tonto National Forest, was built 10 miles upstream from Bartlett Lake, northeast of Carefree, Arizona.
Arizona Natural Lakes
Arizona is home to 120 lakes, of which all but two, Morman Lake and Stoneman Lake, are man made. Mormon Lake and Stoneman lake are located in the Coconino National Forest in northern Arizona south of Flagstaff, Arizona. These natural lakes depend on and are developed by rainfall and snowmelt and are considered seasonal lakes, often drying up in the summer months and during significant drought years. Mormon Lake is the larger of the two at approximately 600 water surface area acres at full capacity. Stoneman Lake, thought to be formed in a volcanic crater, covers 80 water surface acres and averages just 10 feet in depth when full.
Largest Arizona Lakes
Though shared with other states, Arizona boasts of the two largest man made reservoir lakes in the United States. Located southeast of Las Vegas, Nevada and in the northwest state border corner of Arizona, Lake Mead is the largest with a maximum water capacity of 28 million water surface acres (247 square miles) and over 550 miles of shoreline. Lake Mead is the result of the building of the hydroelectric power producing Hoover Dam on the Colorado River. Lake Powell, near Page, Arizona, is also a reservoir on the Colorado River, and sits mostly in Utah behind the Glen Canyon Dam. The second largest man made reservoir in the United States, Lake Powell covers over 24 million water surface acres and creates 1900 shoreline miles of flooded Glen Canyon fingerlings.