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From watershed to showerhead: Where does the Greater Phoenix water supply come from?

As the Valley quickly grows, so does the need to protect our watershed and the Greater Phoenix water supply. With SRP’s careful planning, our water supply is in good shape and in good hands.

Managing the Greater Phoenix water supply starting at the watershed

SRP has been bringing water to the Phoenix metropolitan area since 1903. This was before Arizona was even a state. But what exactly does it mean to bring water to the Valley?

By the time it reaches the Valley via canals, Phoenix water has come more than 150 miles from its source. Starting high in the mountains, it flows through forests, down rivers, into lakes and through canals and beyond — and SRP is there at every turn.

Snowmelt is a major source to our water supply, check out SRP Snowtography®.

We take our job as stewards of the Phoenix water supply very seriously. At any given time, we have an 11-year water supply stored in lakes and underground water storage sites.

Learn more about where Phoenix water comes from

We created the image below to show you our water’s journey from the watershed to your showerhead.

Phoenix water begins as snow high in the mountains. As the snow melts, it runs down the mountains, through forests and into rivers. Rivers flow into lakes, where the water can be stored. Water is released through dams. Dams are used to control the flow of water. They can also be used to make hydroelectric power. SRP delivers water across the Valley using a system of canals. The canals carry water to treatment plants and irrigation customers. Cities deliver treated water to homes and businesses.SRP manages 131 miles of canals and delivers 260 billion gallons of water each year.

The neat thing is, we even generate electricity with the flow of water during this journey.

At the end of the day, healthy forests have everything to do with keeping the water flow to the Valley in good shape. Here’s why.

Water resiliency starts with protecting our watershed

Having a resilient water supply means that we are ready to meet the Valley’s water needs even if there are changes in climate or conditions.

Thankfully, Arizona had a really exciting water runoff last winter. In order to maximize the water supply to the Valley, we have to protect the watershed.

Water runoff refers to the water that is produced from rain and snowmelt.

What is a watershed?

A watershed is an area of land where rainfall and snowmelt all drain to the same place. SRP monitors three watersheds that feed the Salt and Verde rivers.

Made up of 8.3 million acres of forest, these lands are the source of the water we use every day.

Forest restoration in the name of water resiliency

Right now, it’s likely that 80% of Arizona’s forests are too dense. Heavy brush and overcrowded trees can lead to catastrophic wildfires. These wildfires can upset forest ecosystems and pollute our water supply with ash and debris.

To deal with this challenge, SRP partners with cities, federal and state agencies, and “green” organizations on efforts to protect Arizona’s water supply.

Over the next 20 years, these partnerships will restore 1.1 million acres of overgrown Arizona forests.  Along the way, we’re investing in critical research and educating the public on forest health.

Partnering for healthy forests

Together, SRP, the U.S. Forest Service and other groups have created the Four Forest Restoration Initiative (4FRI). Together, we will clean up unhealthy forests in northern Arizona by purposefully thinning small trees and thick brush.

In fact, you can help us with this effort through the Healthy Forest Initiative.

Tidying up our forests help:

  • Avoid tragic wildfires
  • Guard the Valley’s water supply
  • Restore Arizona’s ponderosa pines

Stay afloat on the watershed

If you’re planning a trip to Arizona’s great outdoors or just want to keep an eye on the state of water in Arizona, you can visit

There you can check lake levels, river flow data, interactive maps and daily water reports for lakes in the Salt and Verde river systems. The site also has more information on SRP watershed projects from Phoenix to Payson, Prescott and beyond. We’re committed to communities near and far.

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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