Central Arizona Project


Water: Brought to you by Central Arizona Project

Central Arizona Project imagePicacho Pumping Plant imageTonopah Recharge Site image

Central Arizona Project is designed to bring about 1.5 million acre-feet of Colorado River water per year to Pima, Pinal and Maricopa counties. CAP carries water from Lake Havasu near Parker to the southern boundary of the San Xavier Indian Reservation southwest of Tucson. It is a 336-mile long system of aqueducts, tunnels, pumping plants and pipelines and is the largest single resource of renewable water supplies in the state of Arizona.


CAP’S Commitment to the Environment

Before CAP was constructed, many archaeological and biological studies were conducted by a number of local and federal organizations to determine how the environment would be affected by CAP and what could be done to minimize those affects. Planners realized many desert animals would be attracted to the canal for water, so in an effort to reduce animal drownings in the concrete-lined canal, a six-year study was conducted by the University of Arizona and a three-year study by the Arizona Game and Fish Department to identify ways of protecting wildlife along the canal route.

In addition, 15 major archaeological studies were completed and more than 5,000 historic and prehistoric sites were located. Of those, approximately 600 sites have or are currently being excavated. As a result of the biological studies and implementation of numerous features into the system, CAP successfully passed over 40 consultations with the federal government regarding the Endangered Species Act. The following are just a few of the ways CAP tried to mitigate its impact on the environment:

  • Specially designed bridges were placed at important animal movement and migration paths so animals and desert tortoises can safely cross the canal.
  • Eight-foot high fences line the canal on both sides to keep large animals safely out.
  • The top five feet of the concrete lining have a rough finish to let small animals that get through the fence to climb down for a drink and safely back out.
  • Funding was provided to the Arizona Game and Fish Department, Bureau of Land Management, Forest Service, National Park Service, and Pima County for construction of 45 wildlife watering sites located away from the canal.
  • Construction near bald eagle nests was scheduled to avoid nesting season.
  • Siphons and tunnels were constructed to solve the problem of crossing through flood plains, rivers, and mountains.
  • With regard to desert vegetation, cacti and other native plants were salvaged and areas were re-vegetated to replace wildlife habitat disrupted by construction.



H2O4U is an educational activity for middle school and high school students in Maricopa, Pima and Pinal counties, or anyone who wants to learn more about Arizona water. H2O4U combines learning with fun! Students will learn about Arizona water history, Central Arizona Project, water conservation and emerging issues. The H2O4U activity can be completed as part of a class or as an individual student. Choose the appropriate link below to learn more about H2O4U and how to complete the activity.

**For Teachers

Use the H2O4U activity in your classroom. Whether you use the assignment and assessment as a stand-alone activity, or utilize the learning unit lessons plans, students will learn about Arizona water.

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**For Students

Students can also complete the H2O4U activity on their own. The individual activity is especially ideal for home school and virtual school students.

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Investing in Community Sustainability

CAP also supports water education through our Community Investment program. Every year, CAP budgets $50,000 to provide one-time assistance grants up to $5,000 to non-profit and educational agencies in support of water education and the environment. Over the years, we’ve been able to help teachers bring innovative technology into the classroom, support regional science fairs, sponsor museum exhibits, get kids out of the classroom and into the environment, and enhance wildlife habitat.


To learn more about CAP click here and visit their website