Today, Central Arizona Project (CAP) is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the first fill of Lake Pleasant following the construction of New Waddell Dam. In addition to being a scenic recreational facility, Lake Pleasant plays a key role in delivering water to more than five million Arizona residents. The lake is actually a 15-square-mile reservoir that holds water from two sources: the Colorado River and the Agua Fria River.
Construction of the original Lake Pleasant dam was completed in 1927. This multiple-arch concrete dam stored Agua Fria River for the Maricopa Water District (MWD). It was named Waddell Dam in 1964 to honor Donald Waddell, a partner in the investment firm that helped MWD to finance the dam.
In 1973, CAP began building an aqueduct that would divert Colorado River water to the lake and eventually converted Lake Pleasant into a reservoir. The New Waddell Dam was completed in 1992 and the initial fill of the larger reservoir was finished by 1994, quadrupling the surface area of the lake and submerging the old dam beneath its waters. While the Agua Fria River still feeds the lake, the CAP aqueduct's Colorado River water is its primary source.
Today, Lake Pleasant is CAP's regulatory storage reservoir. From approximately October to March, when water demand is reduced, CAP stores Colorado River water in Lake Pleasant, raising the lake level. Then, from about March through September, CAP releases water from the lake to supplement the higher summer demands of the cities, farmers and Native American communities rather than pumping that water all the way from Lake Havasu. Better yet, CAP generates hydroelectricity when releasing water from the lake, enough to supply power to 25,000 homes.
Lake Pleasant Regional Park, located on the western side of the lake, is one of the most scenic water recreation areas in the region and offers visitors the chance to participate in activities such as camping, boating, fishing, swimming, hiking, picnicking and wildlife viewing. Arizonans can be thankful, not only for the recreational amenities, but for the role Lake Pleasant plays in supplying the state with precious water!