Celebrate Lake Pleasant 1994-2014


In April 2014, Central Arizona Project (CAP) is celebrating the 20th anniversary of the first fill of Lake Pleasant after the construction of New Waddell Dam. This event marked the beginning of what has continued to be a critical part of CAP’s operations.

Lake Pleasant has become one of CAP’s most important, prominent features, providing the storage necessary to allow CAP to operate with flexibility and reliability. Without Lake Pleasant, CAP would be limited to importing Colorado River water into the state only when there was demand for it.


Lake Pleasant is named after Carl Pleasant, the engineer who designed a dam on the Agua Fria River which was originally called Carl Pleasant Dam in 1926. When completed in 1927, it was the largest concrete, multiple-arch dam in the world and stored waters of the Agua Fria River to irrigate desert land in the Maricopa Water District’s (MWD) service area.

It was renamed Waddell Dam in 1964 after Donald Waddell, a partner in the investment firm which helped MWD manage the financing of the dam. Waddell Dam is still submerged in Lake Pleasant, though it’s beneath the lake’s surface most of the year.


During the construction of Central Arizona Project, a new dam was built to enlarge Lake Pleasant as part of a plan to provide regulatory storage for CAP. The plan called for the construction of New Waddell Dam on the Agua Fria River; construction started in 1985 and was completed in 1992. At maximum storage capacity, Lake Pleasant now holds approximately five times the amount of water it held before New Waddell Dam was constructed. The surface area is approximately 15.5 square miles.


CAP’s use of Lake Pleasant causes the water level in the reservoir to rise and fall. CAP pumps water into the lake during colder months when power costs to operate the pumping plants and water demands are lower, and releases water primarily during the hot summer months when water and power demand is high. With normal operation the lake level fluctuates approximately 65 feet per year.


When water is released from Lake Pleasant, the pump/generators in CAP’s Waddell Pump/Generating Plant produce hydroelectricity. The maximum power produced is 42 megawatts, enough electricity to provide energy to more than 25,000 residential homes. CAP uses electricity generated by the release of water through the pump/generators and sells the power it would otherwise need to pump water from Lake Havasu. Revenue generated by power sales is used to help repay the federal government the reimbursable costs of building CAP.

Recreational Benefits

The Maricopa County Parks and Recreation Department operates and manages Lake Pleasant Regional Park and the Desert Outdoor Center. Lake Pleasant Regional Park, located on the western side of the lake, is one of the most scenic water recreation areas in the region and offers visitors the chance to participate in activities such as camping, boating, fishing, swimming, hiking, picnicing and wildlife viewing. lake p

For more about Central Arizona Project visit their website.



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