Water in the Desert, Phoenix Edition

Lake Pleasant, Arizona

Originally uploaded by heinemanfleck.

It was 95 F (35 C) when I went up to Lake Pleasant Friday afternoon. Remember this is mid-October. You couldn’t see the water evaporating off the lake, but I’m pretty sure it was happening.

Located in the hills north of Phoenix, Arizona, Lake Pleasant is the storage reservoir for Colorado River water pumped into central Arizona via the Central Arizona Project Aqueduct. The energy used to get it here is huge, the evaporation is not insignificant (something like 3 to 4 percent of the total supply, most of it from the lake), but if building a giant city in the middle of a very dry desert is your goal, this is definitely the way to go. (Phoenix averages less than 8 inches (20 cm) of rain a year. I’ll leave it to the Arizonans to discuss whether building a city in a place like that is a reasonable goal. It’s their state.)

The interesting thing to me is the way people gravitate around the lake, as we always seem to do when there’s water in the desert. You can see the boats in the picture. Up the hill behind me, I stopped to talk to a couple up from Phoenix for the weekend, as they often do, sitting in the shade of their big RV having a beer, with a fishing boat on a trailer nearby.

As I sat on the bank overlooking the lake, watching the birds, a couple of old hippies who’d driven a relic of a van in from California picked their way down the hillside, looking for a place to swim. The found their way down through the rocks to the best approximation of a beach, slipped into the water, and paddling around delightedly.

Water in the desert is a strange and wonderful thing.

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