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Cultural Water Demand in the Upper Colorado River Planning Area - Industrial Demand

Water use by sector

Figure 4.0-17 Cultural Water Demand by Sector in the Upper Colorado River Planning Area 2001-2005 (in acre-feet)

Cultural water demand in the Upper Colorado River Planning Area is shown in Figure 4.0-17.  As shown, agricultural demand is the largest use sector at approximately 99,550 AFA due almost entirely to farming in the Lake Mohave Basin. Municipal demand is the next largest water demand sector with approximately 52,400 AFA met primarily by groundwater.  Industrial demand, mainly for mining, is about 22,100 AFA.  Total demand averaged approximately 174,100 AFA during the period from 2001-2005. 

Industrial Demand

Industrial demand averaged approximately 22,100 AFA during the period 2001-2005; 13% of the total cultural water demand.  Industrial water demand in the planning area includes mining, electrical power generation, dairy/feedlot and golf course irrigation served by a facility water system.  If these use categories are served by a municipal water system they are accounted for as municipal demand.  Industrial demand is summarized in Table 4.0-14 for selected time-periods.

Mining is the largest industrial user in the planning area, primarily due to activities at the Freeport McMoRan (formerly Phelps Dodge) Bagdad Mine in the Bill Williams Basin.  Most of the water used at the mine is pumped from a series of wells along a 10-mile reach of the Big Sandy River north of Wikieup in the Big Sandy Basin, and delivered via pipeline to the mine site.  A relatively small volume of surface water (probably <500 AFA) from Francis Creek springs and wells in the vicinity of Bagdad may also be used at the mine site or provide water for potable use in the company town of Bagdad.  The volume of water used at the mine is proprietary and recent estimates were based on reported copper production and known processing methods.

Table 4.0-14 Industrial Demand in the Upper Colorado River Planning Area

Industrial demand

Claims were first staked at the Bagdad Mine property in 1882 with open pit mining beginning in 1945.  Historically, mining operations were relatively small-scale due to the low grade copper ore.  However, advances in ore processing have resulted in increased copper production at the site.  Estimated water use has increased from approximately 2,000 AFA in the early 1970s to an estimated 15,600 AFA on average.  The mine consists of a porphyry copper open-pit copper mine and concentrator.  Molybdenum is a by-product of the mining operation.  The site is recognized as the world’s first commercial-scale concentrate leach processing facility (beginning in 2003) and is the longest continuously operating SX/EW (solution extraction/electrowinning) plant in the world (since 1970).  Phelps Dodge Corporation acquired the property in 1999 from Cyprus Amax Minerals Co. (Freeport McMoRan, 2007).

Mineral Park Mine

Mineral Park Mine, Sacramento Basin

The Mineral Park Mine, located in the Sacramento Valley Basin northwest of Kingman, operated a milling operation from 1964 to 1980 that produced a total of 646.4 million pounds of copper, 46.8 million pounds of molybdenum and 5 million ounces of silver as concentrate.  Milling operations ceased in 1980 due to changes in ownership and low metals prices.  Mercator Minerals Ltd. recently acquired the property and plans to increase copper production from the current level of approximately 6 million pounds of copper per year through a phased expansion to include enlarging the existing SX/EW plant capacity and eventual construction of a milling operation to process copper-molybdenum resources found at lower depths (Mercator Minerals, 2005).  Mercantor Minerals commenced crushing and stacking ore in late 2008 and shipped the first molybdenum concentrates from the mine in 2009 to a roasting facility in Tucson (Reuters, 2009). Current water use is about 220 AFA, delivered from Valley Pioneers Water Company.

The only other mining activities in the planning area are associated with small mines/quarries, principally sand and gravel operations in the Hualapai Valley, Lake Havasu, Lake Mohave and Peach Springs basins.  Some of these operations are identified on the cultural demand maps for these basins.  Water is used for aggregate washing, dust control, vehicle washing, and equipment cooling.  Typically, relatively little water is consumed at these sites.


Four power plants operate in the planning area.  The hydroelectric plants at Hoover Dam and Davis Dam in the Lake Mohave Basin are not considered direct consumers of water so their associated water demand is not included in Table 4.0-14.  However, they are prominent industrial facilities in the planning area and are briefly described below.

The Hoover Dam and power plant were authorized by the Boulder Canyon Project Act of 1928 with electrical generation as one of its purposes.  The power plant generators are used primarily to generate a low-cost peaking resource.  The demand for Hoover power generation is seasonal, with the low-demand period in the winter months, and is a direct function of river flow and downstream water demands.  The power plant generators operate in conjunction with the Davis and Parker power plants to provide maximum power generation with efficient use of water resources.  The plant has a net generation capacity of more than 4,700,000 megawatt hours (MWh) (USBOR, 2006b).  Davis Dam was authorized under provisions of the Reclamation Project Act of 1939.  Power generated from this power plant is marketed to wholesale customers in Arizona, Southern California, and Southern Nevada after priority use power obligations have been met.  Davis generation is the direct result of downstream irrigation needs.  Net power generation is about 969,000 MWh (USBOR, 2005).

Davis Dam

Davis Dam, Lake Mohave Basin

The South Point power plant is located on the Fort Mojave Indian Reservation in the Lake Mohave Basin.  The 540-megawatt natural gas-fired plant with two gas-combustion turbines began operations in 2001.  It is operated as a “merchant plant”, meaning that the energy generated at the plant is sold on the open market.  The Fort Mojave Tribe has a 50-year lease with Calpine, an independent power company, for both the site and the water that the plant uses.  The average annual use during 2001-2005 was estimated at about 3,700 AFA of Fort Mojave Indian Colorado River entitlement water (BIA, 1998).

The 600-megawatt Griffith power plant, also a merchant plant, is located about 15 miles southwest of Kingman.  It began commercial operation in January 2002 and was sold in May, 2006 to LS Power Equity Partners.  An estimated 1,200 acre-feet of groundwater is used at the plant each year. 


Colepine South Power Plant

South Point power plant, Lake Mohave Basin

Because of the relative remoteness of the area and its proximity to regional power grids, the Upper Colorado River Planning Area has become an attractive location for new power plants including solar and wind.  As of May 2009 there were plans for four solar plants in the planning area.  The two largest are a 340-megawatt plant northwest of Kingman and a  200-megawatt facility south of Kingman.  Two smaller facilities have been proposed in the Yucca area and in the Detrital Valley Basin. (Associated Press, 2009)  

LS Power has proposed construction of  a 175-megawatt gas-fired peaking plant adjacent to the Griffith plant.  The source of water would be a portion of the groundwater already allocated to the Griffith plant through the Mohave County Water Authority.  A 720-megawatt plant proposed in the Big Sandy Basin near Wikieup was turned down by the Arizona Corporation Commission (ACC) in November, 2001 primarily due to concerns about environmental impacts.  It was the first plant to be denied a certificate by the ACC (ACC, 2001).

There are two “industrial” golf courses in the planning area, both located in the Lake Mohave Basin.  Industrial courses receive at least some water from facility wells and not from a municipal water provider.  The Desert Lakes Golf Club and El Rio Country Club (opened in 2005) are considered industrial facilities.  Industrial groundwater demand was 530 AFA during the period 2001-2005.  The Riverview Golf Club was an industrial facility but now uses municipal effluent as shown in Table 4.0-12.

A dairy operated in the Sacramento Valley from 1947 to 2005.  During that time, the dairy facility used about 76 acre-feet of groundwater a year.


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