Canals always have fascinated me. When I was running around as a juvenile delinquent in Brigham City, Utah, in the earl 1960s, I used to climb in the canal that directed water around the Mormon Temple and ride the water all around the plaza.
When I was over in Yuma, Arizona, this past week, I saw a lot of the All-American Canal. Looks like this:
Yes. I wanted to jump in.
The All-American Canal is an aqueduct 82 miles long in southeastern California and is the only water source for the massive Imperial Valley. It provides drinking water for nine cities, irrigation water for the Imperial Valley, and electricity via its many hydroelectric dams.
Along with the Hoover Dam, the All-American Canal was authorized by the 1928 Boulder Canyon Project Act. Construction began in the 1930s and was completed in 1942. It is the largest irrigation canal in the world and moves a maximum of 26,155 cubic feet of water per second. Most water for the Canal is diverted from the Colorado River by the Imperial Dam, located about 30 miles northeast of Yuma.
Originally one of the driest places on earth, the Imperial Valley now is a huge crop land comprising about 630,000 acres, all due to the All-American Canal. Agricultural runoff from the Canal, comprising silt, selenium, and sales, drains into the Salton Sea, sadly, because there is no way for water to drain out of the Salton Sea, leaving a large, polluted lake with pollution becoming even more concentrated due to evaporation. Any fish caught in the Canal should not be eaten since they are known to have high levels of mercury, PCBs, and selenium.
There are five smaller canals which branch off the All-American Canal to help move water through the Imperial Valley, as well as a large network of even smaller canals. The main canal has a total drop of 175 feet, a width between 150 feet and 700 feet, and a depth ranging from 7 feet to 50 feet.
Eight hydroelectric power plants have been constructed along drops in the All-American Canal system, all relatively small and providing a combined capacity of 58 MW.
The Canal runs through the Algodones Dunes, an extraordinarily dry and hot area, losing a lot of water due to evaporation. It used to lose 68,000 acre feet per year due to seepage, especially in the Algodones Dunes. Eventually, 23 miles of the canal was lined with concrete to prevent seepage, but that created other environmental problems. In some areas, a parallel, lined canal was constructed and water diverted into it to help control seepage.
Over 500 people, mostly Mexican citizens attempting to cross have into the United States, have drowned in the Canal since its completion because of deep, cold water, steep sides that make escape difficult, and swift currents of up to 5½ miles per hour. It has been called “the Most Dangerous Body of Water in the U.S.” In 2011 the Imperial Irrigation District started installing lifesaving buoy lines across the canal in 105 locations, as well as bilingual signs reading “Warning: Dangerous Water” in 1,414 locations.