Gila River Canal Project Pairs Water Conservation With Solar Energy

Local leaders view the first solar panel-covered water canal in the Western Hemisphere as a ‘major win’ for Indigenous water sovereignty.

1 minute read

December 13, 2023, 10:00 AM PST

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Aerial view of Gillespie Bridge with metal framing and black rock mesa in background in Gillespie, Arizona.

Gillespie Bridge crosses the Gila River near the Gillespie Dam in Arlington, Arizona. | Michael Gill / Adobe Stock

The Gila River Indian Community broke ground on a solar-panel-lined water canal that combines water conservation with renewable energy generation, reports Katie Hawkinson in The Independent.

The group, which has stewarded the Gila River for generations, is the first community in the Western Hemisphere to build this type of project. “The solar panel coverings will reduce water evaporation, while the water in the canals will cool the panels and make them more efficient in producing energy.”

Additionally, “the leaders of this project also say it’s also a major win for Indigenous sovereignty and water rights expansion, and presents an expansion of federal government assistance for green energy projects.” The community is partnering with the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers on the construction phase before the USACE will hand off the project for maintenance by the community.

The project also helps the community preserve land. “Building the panels on top of existing infrastructure allows the community to leave precious land undisturbed while still generating green energy.” 

Tuesday, December 12, 2023 in The Independent

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