Grand Canyon National Park Water System

Grand Canyon National Park

Grand Canyon National Park Water System

Modernizing Infrastructure for a Timeless Wonder

In a breathtaking setting perfectly carved out by water over millions of years, the Transcanyon Water System, constructed between 1965 and 1970, continues to serve Grand Canyon’s 6.2 million annual visitors. At the time of its construction, it was one of the largest and most complicated construction projects ever accomplished by the National Park Service. 

The current 12.5-mile Transcanyon Waterline delivers water for visitors and approximately 2,500 year-round residents, supplying all potable water to the park's South Rim as well as Grand Canyon's cross-canyon corridor. Water from the pipeline also provides fire suppression protection capabilities for all South Rim and cross-canyon facilities, including over 800 historic buildings.

The Transcanyon Waterline has exceeded its expected design life and experiences frequent failures, requiring costly repairs and maintenance in remote and rugged environments accessible only by helicopter or steep trails.  

The NPS selected HDR to design the replacement of the Transcanyon Waterline to provide a safe and reliable drinking water system for the Grand Canyon National Park. The work requires a collaborative, inter-disciplinary team to address key project elements such as drinking water treatment, complex pipeline hydraulics, floodplain evaluations, power transmission and SCADA. The team has worked with the NPS throughout the planning and design process ranging from predesign services to the preparation of construction documents. 

Informing Design  

As the first-ever commercial drone operation1 within the canyon, our team leveraged drones, surveys and lidar to capture high-resolution imagery, point cloud data, digital surface models, videos and still images. 

Our data acquisition experts were able to access up-close looks at hard-to-reach places in support of the Transcanyon Waterline and North Rim Utilities projects. We have created digital twins for the Roaring Springs to Cottonwood Pipeline and North Rim Utilities projects consisting of a wastewater treatment facility and water tanks, overhead power system and pumphouse. 

These deliverables provided extended context and a more comprehensive view of the built and natural world. We leveraged this precise data to develop models that informed our engineering, environmental, geotechnical and inspection work, and contractor procurement.

From Planning to Construction Documents

Predesign services included development of the project program, a predesign report and condition assessment. We assessed the performance of the waterline through the mapping of pipeline failure locations and environmental risk factors, and developed an overall system risk assessment map to identify critical at-risk pipeline segments. 

During the schematic design phase, we developed alternatives for the replacement of the pipeline. These alternatives used an integrated design and assessment approach to investigate alternate water sources, treatment methods, pipeline alignments and pipeline construction methods including horizontal directional drilling, all while considering the context and environmental resources within the park. 

We have completed the design development phase of the project and have initiated the construction documentation design phase which includes the preparation of drawings, specifications and other documents to support bidding and construction. 

Critical Infrastructure in Complex Environments

For more than a decade, we have provided a full range of planning, engineering, architecture, environmental and construction management services to the NPS. We have worked on more than a dozen projects at Grand Canyon National Park and on numerous projects across the National Park system. Through our years of collaboration with the NPS, we have developed a clear understanding of the project goals and objectives, the schedule constraints and the importance of completing the project successfully within the context of one of our nation's greatest treasures. 


1. Drones at Grand Canyon National Park are used for official business only, including project work, wildland fire, and search and rescue. Recreational drone use is strictly prohibited.

Grand Canyon National Park