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Vintage Phoenix Artifact: Arizona Falls

Hey, it's Phoenix. If we want things like waterfalls, we have to make them out of other stuff. Thus, Salt River Project long ago crafted, between 56th and 58th Streets along Indian School Road, a natural 20-foot water drop along the Arizona Canal. Known as Arizona Falls, the water feature was restored to use in conjunction with the Phoenix Arts Commission and the Arcadia neighborhood in June 2003, and it officially reopened as a hydroelectric plant and neighborhood gathering place.

Established in the early 1900s, the Falls was a meeting place for locals and the home of Phoenix's first-ever hydroelectric plant. Rebuilt for higher power in 1911, the plant used flowing canal water to produce power until 1950, when SRP shut it down. Today, visitors can hang out in the Water Room, seated on big rocks and surrounded by water sheeting down three walls, or ogle an antique gear system salvaged from the original hydroelectric plant and installed there as public art.

Restored and reinvigorated, the Falls isn't just splashing around and looking pretty; it's also earning its keep. Designed to celebrate the city's past and tout the wonders of various green-centric SRP programs, the site once again generates "clean" electricity from the canal's waterfall, and that electricity — as well as energy generated from its numerous solar panels — is fed into SRP's grid. Propaganda posted at the Falls boasts that the waterfall generates up to 750 kilowatts of renewable electricity, which can power up to 150 homes. Not bad for a little water park on a busy street.

 
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