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By Silvana Burgos, Arizona Hydrological Association Herman Bouwer Intern

The Central Arizona Project (CAP) is essential to the livelihood of the state. More water is exported from the Colorado River basin than any other river basin in the world.

Central Arizona Project Intern Silvana Burgos

The system of aqueducts, pumping plants and pipelines not only delivers a basic human necessity but also prosperity and stability for current and future generations of Arizonans. As an Arizona Hydrological Society intern with CAP, Iwas exposed to an array of experiences that allowed me to comprehend the impact of the canal system to the state.

1) CAP is the largest and most expensive aqueduct system constructed in the country. The construction cost of the system was nearly $4 billion of which $1.8 billion must be repaid to the U.S Department of the Interior by the Central Arizona Water Conservation District (CAWCD)over a period of 50 years.

2) The canal system delivers approximately 1.5 million acre feet of water every year. Between the beginning of the system in Lake Havasu and the end of the system south of Tucson, the water from the Colorado River flows 336 miles and is lifted more than 2,900 vertical feet. The movement of the water is made possible by the 14 pumping stations that were strategically designed along sections of the canal.

3) The CAP canal is operated and controlled from its headquarters located in north Phoenix. The system is controlled using a supervisory control and data acquisition computer system that scans the entire 336-mile canal every 10 seconds to monitor real-time water levels, flow and system alarms. The operators in the main control room can regulate the pumping plants, gates, and the delivery of water to customers. The CAP control room manages nearly eight billion gallons of water at a given moment.

4) Due to Arizona’s growing population, it is essential to protect and preserve the water supply. CAP is committed to protect groundwater supplies through the operation of six recharge projects. These efforts allow for underground storage of water supply that can later be recovered and used during periods of limited water supply.

5) CAP is committed to minimize the effects of climate change on the Colorado River basin. Due to the severe drought in the basin states, the flow of the Colorado River has been in decline and consequently, so has the water level in Lake Mead. Models have indicated that the levels in Lake Mead could drop to a point that would impact water availability to basin states. CAP, along with the Colorado River basin states and federal governments of the United States and Mexico, is working to stabilize Lake Mead and mitigate the impact of shortage when it’s declared.

Ms. Burgo, a Grand Canyon University student, interned with CAP this summer as part of the Arizona Hydrological Society program. She will be recognized at the AHS annual symposium, Sept. 19-21.

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