Plan to raise Barlett Dam could bring billions of gallons of water to Arizona

ABC15 Arizona
ABC15 Arizona

Located about 60 miles northeast of Phoenix, Bartlett Lake is known for boating and fishing.

James Goff of Goodyear said he's been fishing it most of his life.

"Typically, this time of year when the water starts cooling off. The bass will come up and eat as much as they can. And then they'll go deep for the wintertime," he told ABC15.

The lake is known for boating and fishing, but its real job is to collect rain and snowpack on the Verde River before it flows into the Salt River to be diverted to users in the Valley.

"So we can slowly release that water into the canal system to make those deliveries to water treatment plants to ultimately go into homes and businesses," said Ron Klawitter with Salt River Project which manages Bartlett Lake and Dam on behalf of the US Bureau of Reclamation.

A lot of the water that runs through the reservoir will not be making it to those places because flood waters that come after heavy precipitation are too much for the lake and its dam to hold.

So instead of running into canals, the excess water is routed down the normally dry Salt River bed in the Valley.

Some of it percolates into the aquifer below, but much of it evaporates and goes to no beneficial use according to Klawitter.

"Between 2017 and 2020 we spilled about 250,000 acre-feet of water that ran downstream and was unable to be used," he said.

Enough water to supply 750,000 households for a year that is lost to nature.

But there is a plan to change that.

Nearly two dozen Valley cities, water agencies, and water companies along with the US Bureau of Reclamation are funding a four-year feasibility study on how to capture the water that is currently being lost.

They are:

  • Arizona Water Company
  • City of Phoenix
  • Buckeye Water Conservation and Drainage District
  • City of Scottsdale
  • Central Arizona Groundwater Replenishment District
  • City of Surprise
  • City of Apache Junction
  • City of Tempe
  • City of Avondale
  • EPCOR Water
  • City of Buckeye
  • Fort McDowell Yavapai Natio
  • City of Chandler
  • Pinal County Water Augmentation Authority
  • City of El Mirage
  • Salt River Project
  • City of Glendale
  • Town of Carefree
  • City of Goodyear
  • Town of Gilbert
  • City of Mesa
  • Town of Queen Creek
  • City of Peoria

"We identified an option that could actually restore that capacity and create additional storage capacity," he said.

But to get it done they'll have to go about 20 miles north to Horseshoe Dam.

It is the second dam on the Verde River and is even smaller than Bartlett.

About a third of its capacity is unusable due to sediment of the earthen dam, which Klawitter described as a construction flaw of the World War II era dam that was originally built for mining.

"To make sure we had enough copper production to continue the war effort," he said.

Its new purpose will be the battle against drought.

Under the current proposal modified Bartlett Lake would extend back nearly all the way to Horseshoe Lake.

"That proposal would raise Bartlett dam by 97 feet. And it would more than double the storage capacity on the Verde River," Klawitter said.

According to SRP Horseshoe Lake would no longer be used for water storage, but possibly for habitat and flood control.

The project would be a massive and expensive undertaking.

A December 2021 report from the US Bureau of Reclamation estimated it would cost between $700 and $860 million dollars.

Likely more than that amount due to the cost assumptions being in 2018 dollars.

Klawitter said at least half the funding has to come from local entities in exchange for rights to the newly stored water. The remaining funding would come from the federal government.

After the feasibility study, if approved by the public and Congress construction could last for 15 years.

The hope is that it is time and money well spent so folks like Goff can enjoy more water at the lake and in his home.

"It's a beautiful lake. It's close to town. And I, you know, I just, I kind of hate to see things change, but everything has to change and it's for a good thing," he said.

Comments / 33


It’s a blue state now… this will never be completed. It will get mired into politics and exploited for cash injects to the Communist Dems

John Scadova

Most of what is seen and heard is how All of the lakes are drying up and how the Colorado River level is unable to keep up and some of call BS to all of it. Now this story how there is excess runoff and its just diverted which us what I've told people is happening everywhere. But no! They blame everything they do on the same things and people Russia did it. It's Trump fault and climate change. 🖕

Jill Mullen White

Completely useless plan...WE DON'T HAVE 15 YEARS...Phoenix will be unlivable in our children's lifetime


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