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Two aquatic animals that impact Arizona water health

Delivering water to the Valley has some interesting aspects to it that you may not know about. For instance, two particular aquatic animals are always top of mind when it comes to keeping our waters healthy.

In this post, we’re introducing you to two aquatic animals — one friend and one foe.

White amur: These fish are our friends

Weeds and algae pose a constant challenge to the SRP canal system. Left to Mother Nature alone, weeds clog the canals and slow the flow of water.

That’s why SRP launched the White Amur Fish Program in 1989. In the beginning, only 1,800 fish were put into the canal.

About Arizona canal white amurs

To help keep canals clean and clear, SRP takes a surprising approach: stocking the canals with white amur. These hearty aquatic animals eat the weeds and algae that build up in the canals, consuming up to three-quarters of their body weight daily.

How do you know the fish are there even if you can’t see them? If the canals are clear of algae and weeds, the fish are in the water and hard at work.

You can read about the important practice of fish herding, which allows us to safely collect fish as we maintain the canals. Today, 44,000 fish keep Arizona’s canals healthy.

Herding the white amur

For most of the year, the canals are kept clean and clear by 44,000 weed-eating white amur fish. But when water levels are lowest during winter, SRP crews round up the fish and move them so that sections of the canal can be drained and maintained.

Transporting these fish is a big job, but it’s worth it. Thanks to the White Amur Fish Program, SRP doesn’t have to use any chemicals to keep the canals clear.

While the white amur are our friends, now we must introduce you to a not-so-pleasant aspect of keeping our water healthy.

Quagga mussels: Our foes

Native to Eurasia, quagga mussels have made their way to Arizona waters. These pesky aquatic animals wreak havoc on boats, fisheries, rivers and lakes.

Don’t move a mussel

Unfortunately, quagga mussels are resilient little things. They cling to nooks and crannies on boats and other watercraft and can even survive for days out of the water.

They only grow to about 2 inches long, but colonies of mussels can coat an entire lake or river floor.

As mussel populations rise, Arizona waters lose crucial food and nutrients that native species need to thrive. If colonies continue to grow, they could disrupt entire food webs…not to mention the cost of clogged pipes, boat motors and damaged recreational equipment.

Let’s out-flex these mussels

Quagga mussels are found in many Arizona lakes, including the Apache, Canyon and Saguaro along the Salt River.

They pose a threat to native plants and animals, rob waters of key nutrients and compromise entire food systems. Together we can keep mussel colonies at bay.

Before you launch into the water:

  • Be sure your boat, engine, livewells and other spaces are totally dry.
  • Power-wash the hull or flush the engine, livewells and bilge with 140° water.

Before you leave the water:

  • Drain all water from the boat, livewells and lower unit. Be sure to pull the plug.
  • Rid the whole boat of all plant and animal material. Don’t forget the anchor, hull and trailer.
  • Dry the boat and all its surfaces.

Attend SRP’s free virtual Water Expo

Hear from experts and learn more about the Valley’s water supply and how we manage it at SRP’s virtual Water Expo.

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