Historical beautification: The history and benefits of SRP irrigation

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.

It’s a familiar sight in the Phoenix metropolitan area — some yards and fields flooded with irrigation water. A flood-irrigated landscape may be hard to appreciate, but it’s really a remarkable thing. The water bubbling out of valves in the ground traveled over 150 miles through mountains, rivers, streams, dams and canals to get there, and it’s done so for a long time. 

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

History and purpose of the Salt River Valley Water Users’ Association

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 water future 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. 

To secure government funds to build and maintain the dams and canals we know today, 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 are split up, 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 in 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 started Irrigation Water Delivery Districts (IWDDs). These districts consist of adjacent landowners who enter into a cooperative relationship to handle the operation and maintenance of the 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 roughly 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? 

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
  • Reliable flood irrigation on a schedule
  • An opportunity to work together with your neighbors

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.

Learn more

Watch this video series to learn more about SRP irrigation.

About The Author

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.

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