The Phoenix area is the fastest growing region in the country. Arizona’s two major sources of water – groundwater and the Colorado River – are dwindling from drought, climate change, and overuse. Officials in the state are considering a radical plan to construct a desalination plant off the Mexican coast that will take the salt out of seawater, and then pipe that water hundreds of miles, much of it uphill, to Phoenix.
The project is the brainchild of the Israeli company, IDE, which is one of the world’s largest desalination companies. IDE has asked Arizona to sign a 100-year contract to buy water from the project.
There are multiple complications surrounding the plan. Desalination plants are common in California, Texas, and Florida, and in more than 100 other countries. But the Arizona project is unusual because of the distance involved and because the state is landlocked. The water would have to travel 200 miles and climb 2,000 feet along the way.
There is also the issue of waste brine, which is a major output of desalination plants. In this case, the brine would flood the northern Gulf of California, potentially threatening a productive fishery. In addition, the pipeline, as well as electrical transmission lines, would have to go through the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, a UNESCO biosphere reserve.
The plant would be located in Puerto Peñasco, a struggling town with its own water problems.
With booming home construction going on in the Phoenix area, the need for more water continues to grow. Whether this plan will be approved by Arizona and by Mexico remains to be seen.
Photo, posted September 26, 2008, courtesy of Dan via Flickr.