Flood Irrigation in Phoenix, Arizona Explained

Residential Flood Irrigation System
SRP, used with permission

If you have ever seen a home in the ​Phoenix area where the front yard has several inches of standing water, chances are a pipe didn't burst on the property or an underground well is not overflowing. They probably just received their delivery of water from the flood irrigation system.

Flood irrigation often comes to mind when people are discussing agricultural issues, but in the Phoenix, Arizona area there are actually residences that receive flood irrigation instead of using drip lines or sprinklers to water their property. Flood irrigation is useful mainly for older trees (including fruit and nut trees), which wouldn't survive otherwise. The water from flood irrigation soaks into the soil and helps promote deeper and stronger roots. It also prevents salinity in the soil, which can harm turf and plants.

Flood Irrigation Management in the Phoenix Area

Salt River Project ("SRP"), one of the major utilities in Arizona, manages much of the flood irrigation provided to residential properties. That company is responsible for the canal system, and the water used for flood irrigation is fed from the canals.

How Flood Irrigation Works

Flood irrigation is the process by which water is delivered by Salt River Project to a delivery point for distribution to properties. The property has to be set up for flood irrigation, and the water delivery must be scheduled.

Water orders are combined and the determined amount of water is released from the storage facility. The water then flows into canals. An SRP employee known as a “zanjero” (pronounced sahn-hair-oh) opens a gate to release the water from the canal into a system of smaller waterways called laterals. From there the water is released into your neighborhood system.

Homes in Flood Irrigation Areas

Properties that exist within the boundaries of this map are in the SRP flood irrigation boundaries. A realtor or previous owner can tell you if the home is outfitted for flood irrigation. Rarely will new construction include flood irrigation equipment.

Use of flood irrigation is optional. You aren't required to have your water delivered in that manner if you don't want to. Water delivered by flood irrigation is often cheaper, and plants get good deep watering. On the downside, you can't pick and choose which plants get the water and which don't. The standing water may be an issue for those that have pets that spend time in that part of the property. Finally, the standing water may attract pests.

Myth: SRP delivers water to properties.
Truth: SRP provides water to delivery points. Flood irrigation systems and maintenance are the responsibility of the property owner.

SRP is the largest flood irrigation provider in the valley, although there are others. To find out more about flood irrigation, or to find out if it is available at a specific location, contact Salt River Project Water Services or the water provider at your location.