Ancient Canals Offer Water Solution for Desert City
In this excerpt from his book "Elixir: A History of Water and Humankind", Brian Fagan explores how what is now Phoenix thrived off of the irrigation canals of the Hohokam people more than 500 years ago.
"Phoenix and its surrounding communities have paved over much of the Hohokam world. But the long-vanished farmers reappear with persistent frequency, under the foundations of modern buildings razed for new development, in the pathways of expanding interstates, even in backyard gardens. For the most part, the traces of their presence are inconspicuous, requiring careful dissection with spade and trowel. Only a few notable adobe structures still stand above ground, making it hard to believe that the Salt River Valley was the most populous and agriculturally productive valley in the Southwest before A.D. 1500. The land looks barren and utterly dry, yet it has fertile soils and lies near major river drainages. Between A.D. 450 and 1500, the Hohokam living near the Salt River adapted brilliantly to this seemingly desolate environment, refining their agriculture and water management from one generation to the next. Over more than 10 centuries, they built vast canal networks up to 22 miles long and irrigated tracts of arid land up to 70,000 acres in size."