The Coachella Canal


The Coachella Canal is an 123-mile long aqueduct that conveys water from the Colorado River to the Coachella Valley. Completed in 1948, the canal is known as one of the largest irrigation canals in the world. Its purpose is to secure a source of water for an arid region, supplementing local water resources.


    Carrot pullers harvesting carrots in the Coachella Valley in 1937.    

History of the Canal

In the late 1800s, the availability of water and a thriving agricultural industry attracted many to the isolated desert region that is known today as Eastern Coachella Valley. Early pioneers who settled in this area recognized the long-term potential for the region, but realized that a reliable water supply was essential to support its growth. Because the region sits below sea level, it was determined through the use of telemetry that water could be diverted from the Colorado River using gravity alone. As a result, the area’s pioneers fought to secure vital water rights from the Colorado River and moved forward with construction of the Coachella Canal.


    Construction of the Coachella Canal    

Paying for the Canal

The Coachella Canal was design to divert Colorado River water to the flourishing Coachella Valley. When it was completed after World War II in 1948, construction costs totaled $23.5 million; that’s about half a billion in today’s dollars. A construction loan from the United States Bureau of Reclamation helped finance the cost to build the canal. This loan was repaid in full over 40 years, with key financial contributions made by the agricultural industry and other community partners.


    (Left to Right) Thomas E. Levy Groundwater Replenishment Facility in La Quinta, Groundwater recharge ponds in Palm Springs.    

The Canal Today

The Coachella Canal has made it possible for the Coachella Valley to secure a reliable and valuable water resource. This imported water is used today for irrigating crops and golf courses, as well as to replenish groundwater supplies throughout the Coachella Valley.

Sources: Erica M. Ward, Images of America Coachella (2014); Ole J. Nordland, Coachella Valley’s Golden Years - Coachella Valley Water District (1978); Coachella Valley Water District, Water and the Coachella Valley (2001)