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Canal dry-ups: Wait, where’d the water go?

If you’ve spent any time in Phoenix, you’ve likely seen a vast network of waterways and canals that make life possible for Valley residents. Perhaps more shocking than seeing this water in the desert is its seemingly sudden disappearance a few times a year. And if you’ve ever wondered how or why a canal dries up overnight, we’re going to tell you all about it. 

Do SRP canals ever dry out?

Canals are the central medium by which we move water in the Valley. How much, you ask? Roughly 800,000+ acre-feet annually according to our experts.

During the fall and winter months each year, select waterways are strategically drained and dried out. We call them canal dry-ups, and there are several benefits of conducting such a feat.

Why does SRP dry the canals?

Once a year, we drain canals for maintenance and new construction. Although it might not look like it from the surface, the flow of water is very strong. As you might imagine, canal updates and alterations are easier when there’s less water barreling toward equipment and teams. Upon draining a canal, our crews will:

  • Remove excess silt
  • Replace concrete linings along the water’s path
  • Repair water gates

Upkeep is a major component of the effort, but it’s not the only reason behind a dry-up. See, our waterways are as much the lifeblood of Arizona residents as they are for a select assortment of aquatic vegetation and species.

Quagga mussels be gone!

Dry-ups allow SRP crews to audit canals for pesky adult quagga mussels that affix themselves to hard surfaces. This shelled species breeds at a rapid pace and has a terrible reputation of:

  • Clogging pipes
  • Damaging water system equipment
  • Being an all-around nuisance to the local ecosystem

In draining a canal, our teams can monitor and respond to any quagga mussel infestations before a canal is overrun.

What about the fish?

Fans of our multipurpose canals might be wondering what happens to their favorite fish during such a project. Don’t worry. Through a process commonly known as “fish herding,” our teams carefully net and transport white amur and other fish that help keep canal vegetation at bay.

Once a dry-up is complete, it’ll be no time before the water and fish return.

Be safe around the canals

Whether you’re recreating near a full canal or live near any canal dry-ups, please be sure to always mind SRP crews and signage.

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