Water in the Desert: Tempe Town Lake

Tempe Town Not Lake

Tempe Town Lake sans water, July 2010, courtesy Titoxd

Great essay in High Country News by Jackie Wheeler about the strange and wonderful (and currently empty) Tempe Town Lake and our quirky relationship with water here in the affluent desert southwest:

In so many ways, Town Lake was frivolous, artificial, and naïve. It didn’t produce hydroelectric power. It wasn’t built by beavers or glaciers. Every several years, it has even lost its “lake” status when dam releases upstream dictate that the Salt flow free again. There are many rational reasons to fret about it, but when it comes to water, desert dwellers’ rationality dims. And not just human desert dwellers either; critters like beavers and ospreys had inexplicably begun appearing in the lake, to considerable acclaim.


  1. Is the lake getting water again? My heart breaks every summer for the people in the mid-west when I hear about drought and water scarcity issues. I hope we find a solution.

  2. Melissa –

    When last I heard, the plan was to get the Tempe Town Lake dam rebuilt and the lake refilled by this fall.

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