Blog Home » flood irrigation » Historical beautification: The history and benefits of SRP irrigation

Historical beautification: The history and benefits of SRP irrigation

SRP has been bringing water to the Valley since 1903. There are approximately 20,000 properties in the Phoenix metropolitan area today that receive water for flood irrigation. These are the yards bordered by a tiny wall of raised mounds of earth, also known as berms, that are occasionally filled a few inches deep with standing water.  

This practice of flood irrigating the soil helps the water penetrate deep into the ground, which requires less frequent watering.

But why do some yards have irrigation while others don’t? To understand the answer to that question, we must go back over a century to the early 1900s

The Salt River Valley Water Users’ Association 

Pictured here circa 1910s at 2nd Avenue and Van Buren in Downtown Phoenix, this building served as the Salt River Valley Water Users’ Association headquarters until 1957. Notice the canal running right in front of the building. Sadly, the building is no longer there.

In the Wild West days of the Valley, water resources were hard to come by for a booming population. Thanks to the National Reclamation Act of 1902, an opportunity to secure the Valley’s future water supply presented itself. Around that time, a diligent group of Valley residents formed the Salt River Valley Water Users’ Association (SRVWUA or Association) in 1903. 

The pledge of more than 200,000 acres of land allowed SRP to be one of the nation’s first five reclamation projects. 

Association members pledged their land as collateral to secure government loans to build dams and unify and expand the system of canals we know today. These early community-based investors helped move development forward on a grand scale in the Valley. In return, their land secured rights to shares of the desert’s most precious resource – water. 

Today, the parcels of land may have been split, but the rights to water shares remain with the land. If you live in a home with an irrigated yard, take a moment to marvel at the fact that your land was part of the historic effort to secure reliable water resources for future residents. 

For in-depth historical information about SRP’s beginnings and the SRVWUA, download the e-book ‘The Story of SRP: Water, Power and Community.’ 

Irrigation Water Delivery Districts

Throughout the Valley, many neighborhoods have formed Irrigation Water Delivery Districts (IWDDs). These districts consist of adjacent landowners who enter into a cooperative relationship to handle the operation and maintenance of their neighborhood water delivery system. Today, many of these districts include: 

  • Lakes
  • Schools
  • Urban farms
  • Recreation areas
  • Residential properties

Every year, SRP’s water storage and delivery system delivers nearly 800,000 acre-feet of water to the Salt River Valley. Many customers agree that having irrigation services is an asset. But what makes living in an IWDD so great?  

There are many advantages. You set the rules. You and your neighbors establish the bylaws based on the needs of your private irrigation system. You choose who leads. Trustees are elected by you and your neighbors and can have different roles based on your IWDD’s needs and bylaws.  

Your IWDD trustees not only collect funds, but they also coordinate maintenance and repairs to the private neighborhood system in a timely manner. This helps create an equitable way to share the cost to repair and maintain private irrigation systems and establish fair and transparent rules for how funds are spent. 

Benefits of flood irrigation

Flood irrigation retains the beauty and legacy of neighborhoods across the Valley. Reasons to love irrigation include: 

  • Cost-effectiveness
  • Ease of sustaining lush vegetation which can improve air quality and decrease greenhouse gas emissions while removing air pollutants
  • Reliable flood irrigation on a schedule
  • An opportunity to work together with your neighbors
  • Many urban farmers in the Valley use flood irrigation water to grow locally produced crops that make it to our tables

Sprinkler systems are simply no match for flood-irrigated yards. Irrigated land benefits from a deep soak that allows large trees and vegetation to thrive. 

Does your yard have flood irrigation? 

Learn more about irrigation services and best practices for working with neighbors and ways to maintain their systems.

2 thoughts on “Historical beautification: The history and benefits of SRP irrigation”

  1. Judith Lewis-Thome

    I enjoyed the section on the history of SRP irrigation. I live on a lot with flood irrigation and appreciate the benefits it brings. I am however disappointed that the section did not mention the fact that the Hohokam built the first irrigation system in the Valley 1,400 years ago.

    1. Hi Judith, thanks so much for reading and your comment. We do extensively cover that topic on many other webpages and blogs, whereas this blog was more about the origination of SRP irrigation water rights as we know them today. A great place to start is here: History of canals in Phoenix.

Leave a Comment

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Scroll to Top