Arizona’s Aging Water Infrastructure Is About to Receive a Multi-Million Dollar Upgrade

YUMA, ARIZONA - MAY 16, 2022. Colorado River water churns through the weir of the Laguna Diversion Dam near Yuma. The dam was the first to be built on the Colorado River and ended boat travel on the river. It now primarily serves to regulate outflows of the Imperial Dam. (Luis Sinco / Los Angeles Times via Getty Images)

By Morgan Fischer

May 8, 2023

The state is set to receive nearly $30 million in federal funding to revitalize aging water infrastructure related to the Colorado River. 

Arizona is on track to receive nearly $30 million in federal funding to help maintain the state’s aging water infrastructure in Yuma and along the Colorado River.

Among the projects are efforts to increase canal capacity, provide water treatment for tribal lands, replace equipment for hydropower production, and provide necessary maintenance for aging project buildings. 

“This is not simply about drought resilience, but also about creating water security in the West and for the country,” Bureau of Reclamation Commissioner Camille Calimlim Touton said in a press call. “And it’s about the conservation of the very important Colorado River system.”

RELATED: Phoenix Residents Could See Water Bill Increases Coming Soon

This funding comes on the heels of a troubling revelation: The Biden Administration released a new environmental analysis that made it clear major cuts would be coming to either Arizona or California’s water supply. Both states have already been severely affected by droughts and decreasing water availability. 

“Most of the American West … is in the midst of a 23-year drought,” Deputy Secretary of the Interior Tommy Beaudreau said in a press call. “This has culminated in critically low reservoir basin conditions in the Colorado River Basin and across the West, putting strain on our people, farms or wildlife and their habitats and our very livelihoods.” 

The Colorado River infrastructure system, which extends about 700 miles from Lake Powell to Yuma, controls floors, improves navigation, and regulates the flow of the water in the Colorado River. 

RELATED: New Grants From Infrastructure Law To Help Arizona’s Water Problems

Arizona also received funding toward large projects connected to the Colorado River, known as the Yuma Project.

The Yuma Project is closely related to the Colorado River System and provides water to irrigate nearly 70,000 acres to the towns of Yuma, Somerton, and Gadsden in Arizona, and two other towns in California. 

It includes such features as the Laguna Dam, which will receive $4 million for dredging, and water pipes, such as the high-density polyethylene pipe, which is receiving $6.5 million for repairs and replacement. 

The $27 million investment will go towards repairing the following four infrastructure sites:

Brock Reservoir Forebay/Afterbay Inlet Gates Rehabilitation/Replacement 

Funding: $10.2 million

Construction: Testing still needs to be done to determine what specific rehabilitation actions will be taken, but two options are available: 

  1. All gates will be replaced.
  2. All dilapidated fixtures that cause water to leak, such as bronze seats, frames, and leafs, will be refurbished or replaced.

History: The Warren H. Brock Storage Reservoir is a facility located 25 miles west of Yuma, near the All-American Canal, according to the Imperial Irrigation District. The fairly new project, which began construction in October 2008 and finished in September 2010, provides water to Arizona. 

The initial budgeted cost of the reservoir was $172 million, with the Southern Nevada Water Authority, Metropolitan Water District of Southern California, and Central Arizona Project each contributing, according to the IID.

Water Saved: Annual water savings from the facility were anticipated to be about 70,000 acre-feet, according to the IID. One acre-foot of water is equivalent to a football field filled with water, one-foot deep. Additionally, one acre-foot serves three single-family households in Phoenix, according to the Arizona Department of Water Resources

Water for Arizona: Arizona is expected to receive a total of 100,000 acre-feet of Lake Mead water, which can be taken between the years of 2016 and 2036. California also receives the same amount, according to the IID. 

Arizona Palo Verde Division Bankline Road Repair 

Funding: $7.04 million

Construction: The funding will go toward rehabilitating about four miles of gravel road with a new base from the Cibola Oxbow Bridge to Farmers Bridge in La Paz County. 

Right now, the path is little more than a dirt road that follows parallel to the Colorado River. Residents of Cibola call it the levee road, La Paz Board of Supervisor Holly Irwin said. 

History: The Palo Verde Diversion Project, which includes a dam and canal, was constructed in 1957 to improve irrigation of the Palo Verde Irrigation District. 

In terms of the current dirt road, “the levee roads have been there ever since I’ve been there,” Irwin said, who is a 29-year resident of Cibola. 

Water Saved: While the project will not directly save any water or provide additional water to the state,, it will make the lives of farmers and residents who use the road often easier, Irwin said. 

High-Density Polyethylene Pipe Replacement for Yuma County Water Users Drainage System

Funding: $6.5 million

Construction: This project will replace the High-Density Polyethylene (HDPE) Advanced Drainage System pipe that was installed during the expansion of Highway 95 in the Yuma area in the mid-1990s. 

The pipe has had many problems as it has consistently failed, resulting in leaks which then cause unplanned outages in order to make repairs. 

Laguna Dam Settling Basin Dredging Reclamation Funding

Funding: $4 million

Construction: The work to the dam will include partial dredging, which is the removal of silt and other materials from the bottom of a body of water.

History: The Laguna Dam was built in 1905 for $2 million. It is an original feature of the Yuma Project, which provides water to irrigate nearly 70,000 acres to the towns of Yuma, Somerton, and Gadsen in Arizona and Bard and Winterhaven in California.

The original purpose of the dam was to deliver irrigated water from the Colorado River to farms. Now the Imperial Dam, located a couple of miles upstream, does that job, leaving the Laguna Dam to protect the Imperial Dam from river flows. 

Water Saved: The Laguna Dam contains 486,800 cubic yards of water, according to the Bureau of Reclamation. It is unclear how much water the dredging would save. 

Water for Arizona: Six million acre-feet of water is regulated through the Imperial Dam, making it so the water from the dredging project will be split between California, Mexico and Arizona, according to the Central Arizona Project

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