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Arizona Begins to Understand Water


Arizona has finally realized that it cannot grow forever because it doesn’t have water to do so. And this is going to be very, very interesting to watch.

In one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the country, it’s a boom time — water-intensive microchip companies and data centers moving in; tens of thousands of houses spreading deep into the desert. But it is also a time of crisis: Climate change is drying up the American Westand putting fundamental resources at ever greater risk.

“I’m incredibly concerned,” said Famiglietti, an Arizona State University professor who is leading a multiyear effort to assess the water supply the state has above and below ground. “I don’t think that people, and this is everyone, the general public, but right up to our water managers and elected officials, really understand now that groundwater is the key to our future.”

“There’s just not enough for all the things we want to do,” he said.

The decision by Arizona in the past week to limit residential construction in some parts of the fast-growing Phoenix suburbs is another major warning about how climate change is disrupting lifestyles and economies in the West. Throughout the region, glaciers have receded, wildfires have expanded, rivers and lakes have shrunk. It has been a wet winter, but the deeper trends brought on by the warming atmosphere persist.

First, the idea of companies placing water-intensive industry in Arizona is just so incredibly short-sighted. Second, that Arizona is actually moving to limit residential construction is….unprecedented in American history. Given how many people want to live there….lord knows why but whatever….means that this could have a huge rippling effect through the economy. If Nevada and New Mexico follow, which I don’t think they have any plants to do, but it seems eventually inevitable, then it will really reshape much about modern America. The entire mentality about growth in the West is that the government, which of course we hate, will find us water and not leave us dry. Well, there’s only so much water.

Or hey, maybe we can just engage in more massive technological fixes that won’t work!

Fifty miles south of the U.S. border, at the edge of a city on the Gulf of California, a few acres of dusty shrubs could determine the future of Arizona.

As the state’s two major sources of water, groundwater and the Colorado River, dwindle from drought, climate change and overuse, officials are considering a hydrological Hail Mary: the construction of a plant in Mexico to suck salt out of seawater, then pipe that water hundreds of miles, much of it uphill, to Phoenix.

The idea of building a desalination plant in Mexico has been discussed in Arizona for years. But now, a $5 billion project proposed by an Israeli company is under serious consideration, an indication of how worries about water shortages are rattling policymakers in Arizona and across the American West.

On June 1, the state announced that the Phoenix area, the fastest-growing region in the country, doesn’t have enough groundwater to support all the future housing that has already been approved. Cities and developers that want to build additional projects beyond what has already been allowed would have to find new sources of water.

This is total lunacy. I mean, I guess people really are that desperate to not live in Ohio or Indiana.

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