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Photo of Laguna Dam sluiceway - 1909
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Yuma and Yuma Auxiliary Project History (68 KB) (pdf)
General Description| Plan| Development| Benefits

General Description


The Yuma Project provides irrigation water for lands near the towns of Yuma, Somerton, and Gadsden in Arizona, and Bard and Winterhaven in California. The project was divided into the Reservation Division, which consists of 14,676 acres in California, and the Valley Division, which consists of 53,415 acres in Arizona. The Reservation Division was further subdivided into the 7,120-acre Bard Unit and the 7,556-acre Indian Unit. The original features of the project include Laguna Dam on the Colorado River, the Boundary Pumping Plant, one unnamed powerplant, and a system of canals, laterals, and drains. Laguna Dam has not been used as a diversion structure since 1948.

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Water for the project is diverted from the All-American Canal to the forebay of the Siphon Drop Powerplant on the Yuma Main Canal, then distributed over the Valley Division and a portion of the Reservation Division. Some Reservation Division lands are served directly from turnouts on the All-American Canal above Siphon Drop. The Yuma Main Canal crosses underneath the Colorado River near Yuma in an inverted siphon to supply the West Main, Central, and East Main Canals of the Valley Division, which flow south and irrigate land to the Mexican border.

Facility Descriptions

Laguna Dam, an original feature of the project, is located on the Colorado River 13 miles northeast of Yuma, Arizona, and about 5 miles downstream from Imperial Dam. The dam was constructed to divert Colorado River water to the project area. Since 1948, however, irrigation water for the project has been diverted at Imperial Dam. Laguna Dam now serves as a regulating structure for sluicing flows and for downstream toe protection for Imperial Dam. It has a structural height of 43 feet and contains 486,800 cubic yards of material.

Drainage System

A system of open drains, supplemented by wells in problem areas, removes excess water from irrigated land in the Yuma Project area. Drains in the Reservation Division discharge into the Colorado River; nearly one-half the Reservation Division drainage system was installed to intercept seepage from the All-American Canal.

In the Valley Division, the main drain runs through the central part of the area, terminating at the Boundary Pumping Plant adjacent to the Mexican border. Drainage wells along the east side of the valley intercept underground flows from Yuma Mesa and divert seepage from cultivated lands. Some of these wells are operated and maintained by the Yuma County Water Users` Association; the remaining are operated by the Bureau of Reclamation.

The original Boundary Pumping Plant began operating In 1919. In 1953, a more modern outdoor plant was put into operation. This plant, with an installed capacity of 245 cubic feet per second, uses four vertical turbine, electric motor unit to lift water about 12 feet. 

Distribution System

Originally, the Yuma Main Canal extended from the California side of Laguna Dam 10.5 miles to Siphon Drop Powerplant, then southerly 3.5 miles to and under the Colorado River to the Valley Division. In 1941, a turnout was completed in the All-American Canal at Siphon Drop Powerplant to supply part of the Reservation Division and all of the Valley Division with water diverted at Imperial Dam. In addition to the Siphon Drop Powerplant turnout, the Reservation Main, Titsink, Yaqui, and Pontiac turnouts were constructed in the All-American Canal to serve the remainder of the Reservation Division.

On June 23, 1948, the outlet works at Laguna Dam were sealed and the reach of the Yuma Main Canal from Laguna Dam to Siphon Drop Powerplant was abandoned. The Yuma Main Canal extension from the All-American Canal Siphon Drop turnout to the Colorado River Siphon is 3.5 miles long, with a capacity of 2,000 cubic feet per second. In addition to the main canals, there are approximately 218 miles of laterals to deliver the water to individual farms. The drainage system includes 127 miles of drains.

Operating Agencies

The Bureau of Reclamation has operated and maintained the distribution and drainage facilities of the Reservation Division since they were constructed. The Yuma County Water Users` Association assumed the operating responsibility from the Bureau of Reclamation for the Valley Division irrigation facilities on July 1, 1951, and for the Yuma Main Canal, the Siphon Drop Powerplant, and the 34.5-kV transmission line from Siphon Drop Powerplant in California to the Boundary Pumping Plant in Arizona on January 1, 1963.

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In the 1890s and early 1900s, three private ditch companies were organized for the purpose of developing and irrigating the bottom lands of Yuma Valley. The Yuma County Water Users` Association was founded in 1903, and contracted with the United States for the construction of Laguna Dam, the Yuma Main Canal in California, an invert siphon under the Colorado River, and a distribution system.

Following the authorization of the Yuma Project in 1904, the United States purchased the properties of the original ditch companies. The first Colorado River water was delivered through the siphon to the Arizona side of the river on June 29, 1912.

The Fort Yuma Indian Reservation in California was established by executive order of January 9, 1884. The lands in the Indian Unit of the project are a part of the reservation lands and are owned by Indian allottees. The land that is irrigated is leased to various operations and is administered by the Bureau of Indian Affairs. The Bard Unit of the division is private land.

Work began on the distribution system of the Reservation Division in 1908 and the deeded land was opened to settlers in 1910. The Bard Irrigation District was organized in 1927 to represent owners of the patented land in the Bard Unit.


On August 31, 1903, the President ordered that the abandoned Fort Yuma Military Reservation in Arizona be reserved and set apart for use by the newly established Reclamation Service. The report by the Reclamation Service engineers indicated the value of constructing a large irrigation project, which prompted the project authorization.


The project was authorized by the Secretary of the Interior on May 10, 1904, in accordance with section 4 of the Reclamation Act of June 17, 1902 (32 Stat. 388).


Construction work on Laguna Diversion Dam began in July 1905. The Government obtained the pumping plant of the Colorado Valley Pumping & Irrigation Company and the distribution system of the Yuma Valley Land & Water Company in 1907. The pumping plant and the distribution system were repaired and improved. A new heading with a capacity of 100 cubic feet per second was built for the distribution system early in 1908, and a scoop wheel with a capacity of 80 cubic feet per second was installed at the heading to provide for irrigation at times of low water. The Government purchased the Ives` heading pumps and ditches and the Rollings` ditch in 1908. The Laguna Diversion Dam was completed in 1909 to furnish the diversion for the Yuma Main Canal. In 1941, a turnout was provided at Siphon Drop on the All-American Canal to supply part of the Yuma Project with water diverted by Imperial Dam, and on June 23, 1948, the turnouts on the California side of the Laguna Diversion Dam were sealed. The principal canals were constructed in 1907-1909.

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Fertile bottom lands ranging from 90 to about 140 feet in elevation above sea level make up both divisions of the project. Numerous crops are grown on the project; winter and early spring vegetables are predominant.


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Last updated: Jan 30, 2012