Robotic Fish Could Help Clear Weeds in Arizona's Canals

The Crosscut Canal is part of Salt River Project's canal system and passes through Phoenix and Tempe. | Courtesy of Salt River Project

A research project at Arizona State University could eventually mean some new robotic residents of the state's canal system.

Salt River Project is funding the $60,000 project, which aims to develop robotic fish to cut through weeds growing in the canals, ABC15 reported last week. The utility currently adds real fish to the canals to accomplish that task, but those fish can't travel through shallower and narrower parts of the canal system, SRP said.

A team of Ph.D. students is participating in the ASU project, and they've built two prototypes so far. The next step, researchers said, is to add a cutting mechanism and a way for the fish to turn around.

The study will continue into next year, and researchers said that even if the fish never make it into SRP's canals, the research could have implications for water problems worldwide.

SRP's canal system includes 131 miles of canals, plus 1,000 miles of laterals and ditches. Fishing in the canals is legal with an Arizona fishing license, but if you catch a white amur — the fish species SRP adds to the canals to control weeds — you must release it immediately. For more information, click here.

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