Saturday, April 30, 2011

Tempe Town Lake

Tempe Town Lake, a man-made lake, January 2010 (photo by Pua Pedrina)

Rail bridge over Tempe Town Lake, January 2010 (photo by Pua Pedrina)
 South Rural Rd and East Rio Salado Pkwy, Tempe, AZ

Tempe Town Lake is the second-most visited attraction of Arizona.  This man-made lake has 220-acres of beautiful, imported water accompanied by 5.5 miles of park.  Tempe Town Lake has become home to commercial and residential projects such as condominiums, town homes and business buildings.  It is also home to the Tempe Center of the Arts and the light-rail bridge.  With over 2.3 million annual visitors, this spot is definitely one you should see if passing through Phoenix, Arizona.
Tempe Town Lake started in 1966 with the Rio Salado Master Plan as a challenge by a professor to the students of Arizona State University’s College of Architecture.  The Rio Salado Master Plan was a concept of a town lake with areas of land along the proposed chain of lakes and ground water area to include wildlife habitat sanctuaries, parks, recreation and commercial development.  According to Tempe’s government webpage, the Project is a series of locks and channels creating an inland seaport in the desert designed to keep people safe, create recreation opportunities, remove land from flood restrictions, and stimulate economic development.
Most of the funding for Tempe Town lake was drawn from public and private partnerships, federal and state grants, and Rio Salado Community Facilities District.  Property owners in the district pay an annual assessment for the lakes $47 million construction, operations cost, and maintenance.  However, the purchasing of the water brought controversy onto the city of Tempe.  Water to fill Tempe Town Lake was from the Colorado River by the Central Arizona Project.  The cost for this was about $250,000.  This fact did not go over well with the residents and natives of Tempe.  With the drought and being located in the middle of the desert, natives believed the water, a scarce resource, could have been used more wisely.
Regardless of civilian opposition, requests for bids for the lake construction were sent out on March 19, 1997.  The city awarded contracts for construction of the lake on June 12, 1997.  Water from the Central Arizona Project started flowing into Tempe Town Lake on June 2, 1999, and by July 14, the lake was declared full.  On November 7, 1999, Tempe Town Lake was opened to the public.
Present day, the debate still goes on that Arizona’s water could be better used for.  With the drainage of Tempe Town Lake on July 20, 2010 due to a busted inflatable on the west side of the damn, voices rise up once again claiming that “water is too valuable for Arizonans enduring a record drought to expend on rebuilding a massive artificial lake in the desert.”  According to Dianna Náñez from the Arizona Republic, “Tempe will pay $50,000 to refill Town Lake with Roosevelt Lake water, compared with the $383,000 the city would have paid if it had to purchase water from the Central Arizona Project, which draws water from the Colorado River.  This again, demonstrates the ongoing struggle native Arizonans have in getting their voices heard and the constant oppression from the Arizona government.

- Pua Pedrina and Jimaya Gomez
Eschenfelder, P.  US Air Line Pilots Association.  International Bird Strike Committee.  (2000).  Phoenix Rio Salado/Tempe Town Lake.  (ISBCBC/25AV).  Amsterdam:  Retrieved from
Historic timeline.  Retrieved from
Honker, A. M. (2002). A river sometimes runs through it: A history of salt river flooding and phoenix. ProQuest Dissertations and Theses, , n/a. Retrieved from
Náñez, Dianna.  (2010).  Tempe town lake can be refilled with stored water.  AZ Central.  Retrieved from
Nyren, R.  (2006).  Public/Private Prosperity.  Urban Land, Retrieved From
Tempe town lake: when a lake is a river.  Retrieved from

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