The Tempe Town Lake Drain

The NASA Earth Observatory captures a lot of amazing images of our planet, and their Image of the Day highlights a particularly interesting image each day.
Their most recent imagery is of Tempe Town Lake in Tempe, Arizona. On July 20, the rubberized dam on the west end of the lake ruptured and sent 977 million gallons of water down the Salt River.
The imagery they released isn’t quite as sharp as the default imagery in Google Earth, but it still shows the massive decrease in the size of Tempe Town Lake.


If you want to see it for yourself, you have a few options. First, you could simply view a jpg image of the July 28 imagery. You could also download that imagery as an image overlay (KMZ) that I created from the July 28 imagery.
If you don’t follow it already, I highly recommend you follow NASA’s Earth Observatory Image of the Day; they show off a lot of great stuff!

About Mickey Mellen

Mickey has been using Google Earth since it was released in 2005, and has created a variety of geo-related sites including Google Earth Hacks. He runs a web design firm in Marietta, GA, where he lives with his wife and two kids.


  1. Tempe Town Lake in Scottsdale, AZ? Might want to check that as the Tempe Town Lake is in Tempe, AZ.

  2. Actually, you’ve linked to the NASA Earth Observatory IOTD, the regular NASA IOTD isn’t quite as good, and can be found here:

  3. James — Wow, that was a nice move on my part, huh? I’m not sure why I put that. Fixed!
    zakalwe — Good clarification. Edited. Thanks!

  4. This event was caused by an error in the maintenance of the “bladder” dams. As stated in several press reports: “Tempe officials said in April 2009 they intended to ignore a safety recommendation from the makers of the rubber dams because sufficient safeguards were already in place to prevent the dams from deflating.”
    Spcifically, the bladder dams were supposed to be kept wet, and the manufacturer recommended in 2009 that sprinklers be used to keep the material from drying out and cracking. It wasn’t done.
    The bladders are being replaced and a new pedestrian bridge is being built:
    “The bridge will help protect the new dam from the sun’s damaging rays to prevent the rubber from aging prematurely. The original dams were meant to last 25-30 years when installed in 1999, but studies determined the rubber deteriorated too quickly to endure that long. The bridge will also support pipes for a sprinkler system that will cool the rubber sections.” “Tempe Town Lake bridge on fast track” East Valley Tribune, Posted: Monday, August 9, 2010 5:37 pm | Updated: 10:34 am, Sun Aug 29, 2010.

  5. Tempe and SRP will soon be filling the lake back up if you want to show that process.
    We used Google Earth to show where the water will come from, and the route it will take to get to the it’s destination.
    Refilling the lake will take up to 2 weeks and the aerials will be pretty cool to see the progression if you can get them.

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