It may be September, but temperatures are still in the triple digits—at least for a few weeks. And, in the waning days of summer, the nearby lakes that ring the outer edges of the Valley beckon like a magnet, begging for the opportunity to simultaneously cool and entertain.
But, did you know that most Arizona lakes have a dual purpose? Lake Pleasant in Peoria, for example, plays a key role in delivering water to thousands of showerheads, hoses and faucets in Maricopa, Pinal and Pima counties. It's also an important link in the fluid transportation system that routes irrigation water to agricultural fields in those regions.
Though millions of people each year enjoy its recreational benefits, Lake Pleasant actually is a 15-square-mile reservoir that holds water from two sources: the Colorado River via the Lake Pleasant and the Agua Fria River. CAP stores water in the reservoir during low demand periods, like winter, and releases it to its 80 municipal and tribal customers during the summer, when demand is high.
Created by the Waddell Dam in 1927, the original lake was filled by the Agua Fria River and was about a quarter of the size it is today. In 1973, CAP began building an aqueduct that would divert Colorado River water to the lake and eventually converted Lake Pleasant into a reservoir for the project.
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 is its primary water source.
Most locals prize Lake Pleasant for its use as a major water sports recreation center. But, the next time you turn on the shower, perhaps you'll remember the lake's role in keeping Arizonans clean, hydrated and fed.