Lake Pleasant: A dual-purpose water supply for Arizona

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Lake Pleasant

While many boaters, paddlers, anglers, and campers know Lake Pleasant as central Arizona’s hub for water sports, it serves perhaps a greater purpose: storing Colorado River water for Central Arizona Project.

Did you know that most Arizona lakes have a dual purpose?

Lake Pleasant in Peoria, for one, actually helps ensure the reliability of our water deliveries.

The lake plays a key role in providing reliability for delivering water to thousands of showerheads, hoses and faucets in central and southern Arizona. It’s also an important link in the fluid transportation system that routes irrigation water to agricultural fields in those regions.

A dual-purpose waterbody

Though millions of people each year enjoy its recreational benefits, Lake Pleasant is also:

  • A 15-square-mile reservoir. Lake Pleasant holds water from two sources: the Colorado River via Lake Pleasant and the Agua Fria River.
  • CAP’s storage reservoir. CAP pumps water into Lake Pleasant for storage during low demand periods, like winter, and releases it to its approximately 60 municipal and industrial, agricultural, and tribal water users during the summer, when demand is high.
  • A hydroelectricity generator. During the spring and summer, water from Lake Pleasant is released, which also generates some hydroelectricity.

Lake Pleasant and Colorado River Shortage

Despite a Tier 1 shortage declaration for Colorado River operations beginning Jan. 1, CAP is not currently expecting the Lake Pleasant water level to be significantly impacted in 2022. CAP expects the lake level to go down, but not outside normal historical operating ranges.

Origins of Lake Pleasant

Created by the Waddell Dam in 1927, the original lake was filled by the Agua Fria River and was about a quarter of the size it is today. In 1973, CAP began building an aqueduct that would divert Colorado River water to the lake and eventually converted Lake Pleasant into a reservoir for the project.

The New Waddell Dam was completed in 1992 and the initial fill of the larger reservoir was finished by 1994, quadrupling the surface area of the lake and submerging the old dam beneath its waters. While the Agua Fria River still feeds the lake, the CAP aqueduct is its primary water source.

Most locals prize Lake Pleasant for its use as a major water sports recreation center.