Irrigation 101

A look at the history and origins of SRP flood irrigation in Phoenix

Image of a male and female neighbors discussing irrigation as water is delivered from a back yard valve in Tempe, Ariz.

One key element to successful irrigation is talking with your neighbors.

If you’re new to Phoenix, you might have driven by a yard full of water and wondered why so many homes have flooded yards. You may even have heard your co-workers talk about “taking water at 2 a.m.” and thought they were chatting about a midnight snack situation.

It might surprise you to know that flood irrigation in Phoenix started more than 100 years ago when early settlers designed the irrigation canal and lateral system to carry water from the newly built Roosevelt Dam to their land in the Valley.

So how does SRP irrigation work and where does the water come from? We’re here to demystify flood irrigation in Phoenix and help you get the most out of SRP irrigation.

Where does SRP water come from?

For a full history of SRP’s water and power business, download our e-book.

At the highest elevations in northeastern Arizona, water travels through the SRP watershed made up of forests and valleys. As the water travels, it replenishes our forests and takes on essential nutrients before flowing into SRP’s seven reservoirs. The water flows down the Salt and Verde rivers, powering SRP’s Salt River hydroelectric pumps with sustainable energy and finally ending up in SRP’s canal system. Once in the canal system, the water is used for multiple applications, including:

  1. City water treatment facilities, where the raw water is treated for homes and businesses
  2. Mixing with Central Arizona Project water to meet Valley needs
  3. Recharging Valley aquifers by water banking into the New River-Agua Fria River Underground Storage Project and the Granite Reef Underground Storage Project
  4. Flood irrigation in Phoenix for SRP’s agricultural, commercial and residential customers
SRP water travels approximately 150 miles from the watershed to customers in the Valley.

SRP water travels approximately 150 miles from the watershed to customers in the Valley.

How does SRP irrigation get to customers?

SRP controls the delivery of more than 800,000 acre-feet of water a year through 131 miles of canals along with 1,000 miles of laterals and ditches. Zanjeros work the water through the Valley by operating SRP-controlled irrigation gates, eventually delivering water to the highest point of the quarter section in your neighborhood. After that, private neighborhood irrigation systems take over and move water to individual properties. Each system varies in design, material and maintenance.

Zanjero Chris Crosland on the Consolidated Canal

Zanjero Chris Crosland on the Consolidated Canal

Did you know? Zanjero

Spanish for “ditch rider,” zanjeros have been critical to the success of irrigation and their communities since the late 1800s. Zanjeros carefully measure the flow and amount of water to ensure the correct water-right allocation is delivered to each SRP customer at the correct time. Last year, SRP zanjeros safely drove 1 million miles with zero traffic accidents as they crisscrossed the Valley opening gates and releasing water.

Does my house have SRP irrigation?

The easiest way to determine if your home has SRP irrigation is to contact SRP’s Water Contact Center at (602) 236-3333.  You can also request a walk-through of your irrigation system or an irrigation system education appointment with an experienced SRP Field Services Liaison. Liaisons can offer tips regarding the steps you may need to take to make your yard irrigation-ready. This could include installing berms and repairing your property’s pipes or yard valves. Liaisons can also help you understand the layout of your neighborhood’s private irrigation system, including what you and your neighbors are responsible for as irrigation owners.

SRP’s service territory

SRP’s irrigation service territory and canal routes

How do I irrigate in Phoenix?

You can learn how to order irrigation from SRP, request an irrigation system education appointment with an SRP Field Services Liaison and read an FAQ at srpnet.com/water.

Once you order water, SRP will provide a date and time for your delivery. On delivery day, an SRP zanjero will open the SRP delivery gate to release water into the neighborhood irrigation system. From there, water is delivered through the private irrigation system that is owned, operated, and maintained by you and your neighbors.


See flood irrigation in action and learn more about how irrigation works

SRP irrigation

SRP has a long history of irrigation in the Valley, and it shows. Irrigated neighborhoods contain large trees and lush green landscapes, which instills a sense of pride in the property owners. Irrigation is successful because neighbors work together to keep their private systems maintained year after year. Learn more about SRP irrigation, visit srpnet.com/irrigation.

Are you an SRP irrigation customer? Share your helpful tips for irrigation in Phoenix in the comments below or on any of our social media pages.

Did you know? ‘Highest point of the quarter section’ 

As an SRP irrigation customer, you may become familiar with some unusual terms and phrases. One of those is the “highest point of the quarter section,” which refers to the highest elevation in a quarter of a square mile. SRP installed irrigation gates at these highest points to efficiently deliver to private neighborhood irrigation systems. Typically, these irrigation gates are raised concrete boxes on the corner of intersections across the Valley.

Tiffany Bolton

Tiffany Bolton

Tiffany is a lifelong learner, water nerd and mom. An Arizona transplant, she loves calling the Valley home, even though she kills a garden full of plants each year. When not writing about SRP, she enjoys reading one book each week and driving her minivan.

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