Is it hot enough for ya?
In the coming years, as temperatures rise, weather patterns evolve, and plant and animal species become extinct, that wry, old country greeting will lose it’s quaint humor. Thanks to global warming.
The Southwest is already the hottest and driest part of the US. And our region is already experiencing longer and more intense heat waves, a dramatic spike in forest fires and severe dust storms, and changes in rainfall and seasonal snowmelt. These changes threaten water resources, food security, and public health. As extreme weather events continue to increase, we will see higher rates of heat stress, newly emerging infectious diseases, asthma, and other respiratory illnesses.
How will the Sonoran Desert change as climate change progresses? Will we have enough water? What will our air quality be like if Arizona’s dirty coal-fired power plants continue to balk at environmental regulations? How will Arizona cope with rolling brown outs if electrical demand spikes? How will Tucson’s vulnerable populations fare with more days over 100 degrees? What can we do NOW to lessen the impact of climate change on our fragile environment?
This coming weekend, Sept. 20-21, the Arizona Chapter of Physicians for Social Responsibility (PSR) is sponsoring an important conference for us desert dwellers:Climate Smart Southwest, Ready or Hot? Check out the details after the jump.
Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
Press release from the Save the Scenic Santa Ritas Association:
Local Coalition Goes to Court to Protect Southern Arizona Water
Lawsuit filed to overturn Rosemont Groundwater Permit
(Tucson, Ariz.) A diverse coalition of southern Arizonans filed a lawsuit on Friday to overturn state approval of a key water permit for the proposed Rosemont Mine in the Santa Rita Mountains, south of Tucson.
Despite its name, the “aquifer protection permit” would allow a Canadian mining company to pollute Tucson’s groundwater supplies with mercury, arsenic, lead and other dangerous contaminants.
The suit seeks to overturn the Arizona Water Quality Appeals Board's (WQAB) decision to approve Rosemont Copper Company’s Aquifer Protection Permit. The suit asserts that the WQAB acted "arbitrarily and capriciously" when it rubber-stamped the Administrative Law Judge’s rejection of administrative appeals of the permit.
by Will Greene
In landlocked Arizona most don’t know or care about developments in the world’s oceans. Yet this is a story I cannot help but report because public awareness of the issue is so abysmal, and in the end it will affect all of us. It is the other carbon problem - ocean acidification.
Oceans have absorbed one quarter of the carbon dioxide humanity has released since the beginning of the industrial revolution. For years scientists thought this was a good thing. It meant a reduced greenhouse effect, slowing the projected calamities of a warming planet such as sea level rise and desertification. We now know, thanks to extensive work by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), that the absorption of carbon dioxide by the oceans is causing severe damage, with ramifications for humanity. An estimated 2.6 billion individuals rely on the oceans as their primary protein source.
As CO2 is absorbed, it reduces the pH of ocean water, making it more acidic. This is a big problem for species that rely on shells for survival such as crab, lobster, mussels, oysters, sea urchins, shrimp and pteropods. Acidic water impedes calcification and corrodes shells, causing near-certain death. Already, the acidity of the oceans has increased 30% relative to pre-industrial times. Acidic waters are being linked to the recent collapse of the Pacific Northwest Oyster harvest.
by Will Greene
Word might be getting out. The Arizona Corporation Commission, widely regarded as a lower-tier agency in terms of attention, is receiving heavy interest from a bevy of candidates eying its two open seats in 2014. Fifteen months before any voting will take place, five candidates have formed exploratory committees, with more likely on the way.
Ryan Randazzo reported Tuesday night that Republican state Rep. Frank Pratt, who chairs the Energy and Natural Resources Committee, announced his intention to run.
“As a Corporation Commissioner, I will focus on a balanced energy portfolio that provides clean, reliable energy at the lowest possible price,” Pratt said in a statement. “We must use all forms of energy including solar, nuclear, wind, coal, natural gas, hydroelectric and other emerging and proven technologies.”
Nancy LaPlaca, a former policy adviser at the ACC, is exploring a run according to her campaign facebook page. LaPlaca will likely stress her vision for a solar future in the state and her years of experience dealing with complicated energy regulatory issues.
by Will Greene
Nearly every actively publishing climate scientist in the world – the folks who wake up every day and go to work studying our climate system – has concluded that humanity’s release of heat-trapping greenhouse gasses is changing our planet in a dramatic and essentially permanent way. Comparable periods in earth’s history where change occurred this rapidly coincided with extinction events of many species habiting the planet at the time.
That is why Arizona’s thought-leaders like Grady Gammage Jr. do our state a disservice when they publish “cooler-heads-prevailing” articles, such as Gammage’s spread in this Sunday’s Arizona Republic entitled “Phoenix’s Bright Future”.
by Will Greene
Climate change is poised to whip Arizona in the 21st century. On a higher-emissions track experts with the US Global Change Research Program warn of an eight to ten degree Fahrenheit increase in average annual temperature in the US Southwest this century. Imagine the hottest Phoenix summer day and add ten degrees to it. Think of the Phoenix economic development pr consultant trying to spin this type of heat. “Come to Phoenix, you’ll have a scorchingly good time!”
Aside from the blistering temperatures confronting anyone who ventures outside (or is forced outside due to poverty) this could mean the loss of vital reservoirs such as Lake Powell and Lake Mead, dust-bowl-like conditions straining agriculture and ranching, constant “haboob” storms, worsening fire seasons making 2011’s record Wallow fire seem minor, and potentially devastating migration issues due to uncertainties as folks south of the border deal with similar issues. The Bureau of Reclamation recently told us we can expect dramatically reduced Colorado River flow thanks to snowpack loss in the Rocky Mountains, increased evaporation, and population stresses, equating to a gap between water supply and demand of 3.2 million-acre-feet by 2060. That is roughly five times the amount of water Los Angeles uses in a year. Arizona’s ability to sustain itself is literally being called into question.
by Will Greene
Jim Holway, a prominent advocate for water sustainability has indicated interest in a run for the Arizona Corporation Commission in 2014 according to jimholway.com. This would make him the first non-incumbent 2014 ACC candidate to form an exploratory committee. Two seats are open in next years mid-term contest, with Commissioner Gary Pierce terming off the Commission, and Commissioner Brenda Burns presumably running for re-election assuming she doesn’t throw her hat in for a different post. The 2014 general election is 20 months away.
Holway was elected to represent Maricopa County on the Central Arizona Water Conservation District Board in 2010 receiving an Arizona Republic endorsement and an impressive vote haul.
He is formerly the Director of the Western Lands and Communities program, a Professor of Practice in the School of Sustainable Engineering and the Built Environment at Arizona State University, the ASU Coordinator for the Arizona Water Institute, and Assistant Director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources.
By Karl Reiner
Good education and infrastructure systems are major components in maintaining and promoting a nation's economic growth. The role of infrastructure has been particularly ignored in recent years due to the testy Tea Party led standoff in Congress regarding budget priorities and deficit reduction.
The development of infrastructure affects an economy. After the Theodore Roosevelt dam was constructed on the Salt River northeast of Phoenix during 1905-11, the economy of central Arizona rapidly expanded. The $10 million dam project managed by the Federal Reclamation Service controlled floods, stored water and generated electricity. For a time, it was the largest masonry dam structure in the world. The dam remains in service having been renovated and enlarged in 1989-96.
by Will Greene
Scientific literature regarding the future of water in the Southwest up to this point has been alarming, yet vague. In general, studies have confirmed that rising temperatures will hit the Southwest hard, with water availability shrinking significantly. Uncertainties related to the degree to which changes will affect evaporation and precipitation have stopped scientists short of making headline-generating predictions.
That changed this week with the release of a new study by researchers at Colorado State University, Princeton, and the U.S. Forest Service that provides rare specifics as to how climate change may affect key reservoirs such as Lake Powell and Lake Mead that feed the Colorado River and therefore the Central Arizona Project (CAP). The study presented a number of varying scenarios dependent upon levels of greenhouse gas emissions and population stresses. One scenario details a dire future in which “Lakes Powell and Mead are projected to drop to zero and only occasionally thereafter add rather small amounts of storage before emptying again.”
“We were surprised to find that climate change is likely to have a much greater effect on future water demands than population growth,” Forest Service research economist Tom Brown, who led the study along with CSU’s Jorge A. Ramirez, told Summit County Citizens Voice. “The combined effects of climate change on water supply and demand could lead to serious water shortages in some regions.”
Tucson is one of the poorest cities in the southwest, has a fragile desert ecosystem, and relies far too heavily on defense, the University of Arizona, and tourism for its vitality. We need diversification and creativity in our economic development efforts.
Tonight's speakers represent wide-ranging ideas from public banking and time trading to TREO's efforts in building Tucson's economy. The meeting will be held in the downtown library's lower level meeting room. Doors open at 5:30 p.m.; program begins at 6 p.m. Details after the jump.
Border Patrol agents have been caught on video destroying water jugs and removing clean blankets that No More Deaths humanitarian volunteers left in the Arizona desert for border crossers.
From No More Deaths...
Tucson, AZ- A hidden camera video released by Tucson-based humanitarian organization No More Deaths shows an agent of the U.S. Border Patrol removing clean blankets and food intended for migrants in distress.
Videos of Border Patrol behaving badly and more details after the jump.
by Will Greene
Salt River Project (SRP), Arizona’s second largest electric utility operates Arizona’s greatest single source of greenhouse gas and air pollution, Navajo Generating Station (NGS) in Page, Arizona. 16 deaths and 25 heart attacks (among other ailments) are attributable to NGS annually, earning it a #8 ranking on an Environment America list of the dirtiest power plants in the nation.
The station is the power source for the CAP canal that pumps Colorado River water throughout the state, including to Tucson. It produces significant income and jobs for the Navajo and Hopi Nations.
In an editorial published in the Arizona Daily Sun, SRP Chief Resource Executive John Sullivan indicated the utility has no plans to close the 40-year-old station, despite its devastating health impacts and substantial contribution to the worsening climate crisis.
“The owners of NGS are working to resolve a number of challenges that face the plant, including extending a site lease with the Navajo Nation and potential costly emission control requirements from the Environmental Protection Agency. The owners are optimistic that a lease agreement that benefits both the plant and the Navajo Nation can be reached soon so that NGS might continue to operate beyond 2019. They are also hopeful that the EPA will issue a regional haze rule that recognizes the emissions controls already installed at NGS.”
Under current value structures (that do not account for the health or environmental impacts of the station) NGS represents a dependable and profitable venture for SRP and its other owners, a list that includes Arizona Public Service (APS) and Tucson Electric Power (TEP).
The reality is these utilities could find an alternative to NGS in its current form, by hybridizing the plant with 300-500 megawatts of solar while providing clean tech jobs to Navajo and Hopi tribal members. But it will take serious regulatory action to get them there.
In 2008, the City of Tucson passed a grey water ordinance requiring new homes to include a stub-out to enable grey water usage.
Four years later, City of Tucson Development Services Manager Ernie Duate wants the City Council to march backwards and dump the ordinance. Why? Because homebuilders are whining. Grey water plumbing can add $600-1000 to the cost of a new home. On a $150,000 home, that's 0.04% to 0.06% of the cost. According to home builders, that extra cost prices people out of the housing market. (In some ways, this story is similar to the dirty coal story I published yesterday because capitalists are lobbying government to lessen or eliminate envrionmental laws.)
Duarte also claims that no one wants the grey water piping. According to the Arizona Daily Star, more than 800 homes have been built with grey water piping since 2008 and not one homeowner has come to Development Services and paid the $800-1000 permit fee to complete the grey water installation. Many Tucsonans have "grey water system" like mine, pictured here. It is amazing how much water gushes out of that old washing machine's hose during just one load of wash. (I wish I had the piping in my house.)
I take issue with Duarte's claim that no one wants grey water piping. What happened to the US and Tucson economies since 2008? The housing and financial markets colapsed. Millions of people lost their jobs and their homes. Tucson became the most empoverished city in the Sun Belt. People who still own homes are just trying to keep them. Just because no one volunteered to pay an extra $1000 to install grey water doesn't mean that no one installed grey water or that no one wants it. More wrangling after the jump.
Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
I don't know what it is with Tea-Publicans in this state. They have had a jones on for years about wanting to mine for uranium in the Grand Canyon. The Colorado River is a critical water source to Arizona, Nevada and California downstream. If you poison that water supply, we're all screwed.
The Dr. Richard Carmona for U.S. Senate campaign fact checks Rep. Jeff Flake's support for uranium mining in the Grand Canyon.
Ever since Congressman Jeff Flake repeated his call to open up the Grand Canyon and its watershed to uranium mining over the weekend -- calling it "prime mining lands" -- the 12-year incumbent Congressman and former lobbyist has been trying to back away from his record.
The Congressman's campaign is denying that he ever advocated for uranium mining around the Grand Canyon, but the record is clear. On several occasions, Congressman Flake has pushed to open up the Grand Canyon and its surrounding watershed to uranium mining.
If Congressman Flake got his wish, he would endanger the drinking water of 25 million people in the Southwest. Flake's documented history of pushing uranium mining claims at the Grand Canyon has earned scorn for press throughout Arizona and surrounding states. So why is Flake pushing this so hard for this? Because he was a uranium mining lobbyist before he became a career politician.
"Before Jeff Flake was elected to Congress, he was a lobbyist and registered foreign agent for Rossing Uranium," said Carmona for Arizona communications director Andy Barr. "The Congressman's advocacy to open up the Grand Canyon and its watershed would endanger the drinking water of millions and threaten Arizona's agriculture and tourist industries. It's a dangerous position only a former uranium mining lobbyist could justify."
Posted by AzBlueMeanie:
The League of Conservation Voters and the Democratic-affiliated Majority PAC launched a $470,000 ad buy in the Arizona Senate race on Monday.
The new ad attacks Jeff Flake on the issue of uranium mining, contrasting his idea with the image of a little girl drinking a glass of water: "Flake sponsored legislation to allow uranium mining that would threaten the Colorado River — by companies like the one he worked for as a lobbyist. The same type of companies that gave Flake thousands in campaign cash. It's the most dangerous kind of Washington politics. We can't risk Flake in the Senate."
Video below the fold.
by Pamela Powers Hannley
Investigative reporter John Dougherty's InvestigativeMEDIA LLC has produced a short documentary about the proposed Rosemont Mine and a sister operation in Italy. Entitled Cyanide Beach, this short film will premier on August 23 at the Crossroads Cinema in Tucson. Click here to RSVP for this free event, which includes the movie and a discussion.
What does a small town in Sardinia, Italy have in common with the pitched battle over the proposed Rosemont copper mine in the Santa Rita Mountains south of Tucson?
The same Canadian mining speculators that are now seeking government permits to blast a mile-wide, half-mile deep hole in the Santa Rita Mountains and dump waste rock and mine tailings on more than 3,000 acres of the Coronado National Forest once owned and operated an open-pit gold mine in Sardinia.
What happened near the iconic Sardinian farming town of Furtei provides crucial insight into what could happen here, in southern Arizona.
InvestigativeMEDIA, LLC’s 23-minute video documentary “Cyanide Beach” tells an important and timely story that anyone interested in the Rosemont copper mine project needs to know.
“Cyanide Beach” will premier at 7 p.m., Thursday, August 23 at the Crossroads Theater in Tucson.
InvestigativeMEDIA founder John Dougherty will answer questions following the screening. Admission is free. To reserve your seat, please RSVP here. “Cyanide Beach” is also available for private showings. Contact InvestigativeMEDIA for more information.
Check out the movie trailer after the jump.
by Pamela Powers Hannley
The Congressional District 8 (CD8) special election debate on Wednesday night was the most boring debate I have ever heard.
High school graduate Jesse Kelly repeated the Teapublican talking points faithfully-- guns, God, guv'ment-- but he forgot the gay part of their message. Former Gabrielle Giffords aid Ron Barber revealed himself as a true Blue Dog (AKA Republican-lite). And the Green Party's Charlie Manolakis did what any self-respecting third party candidate would do; he raised issues that the two major party candidates would rather not mention-- like universal health care, the Occupy Movement, and the 99%.
The only thing that made the debate less somnamulant was the live chat line provided by the Arizona Daily Star. I had great fun jousting with FOX News zombies like local radio attack dog Jon Justice (who kept declaring verbal victories for Kelly when none existed). Of course, the FOXies were all for a double border fence (championed by Kelly) and further militarization of the border (promoted by both Kelly and Barber) but totally against "Obamacare" (which Kelly wants to end and Barber weakly sorta defends). One brilliant commenter even declared, "Not everyone needs health insurance." (He's either on Medicare or just foolish. Chat line chatter here.)
By far the longest discussions focused on the economy, the border, healthcare, and Rosemont Mine (Kelly for, the other two against). Unless I missed them between chat posts, ending the wars, public education, true immigration reform, job creation (beyond cutting taxes for the rich, as Kelly proposes), the plight of the 99% and the disappearing middle class, the Republican War on Women, and broader environmental issues were not addressed.
On the economy, Kelly blabbered about the folly of raising taxes (AKA letting the Bush tax cuts sunset) during a down economy and pushed for further tax cuts for the rich and smaller government. His transparent defense of the corporatist class was appalling. Barber said he would not vote to increase taxes on the middle class but believes that the rich should "pay their fair share"-- President Obama's original position during the big tax cut fight of December 2010. Every time the economy or job creation came up, Kelly touted tax cuts for the job creators-- ignoring the fact that trickle down economics has failed on all accounts, except for making the rich richer.
On immigration, all three candidates focused on border security and the drug-related violence in Mexico and ignored the messier issues-- like the role US policy (NAFTA and the War on Drugs) has in creation of the violence; the plight and exploitation of undocumented workers; deportation and family stress; border crosser deaths in the desert; and the DREAM Act.
Predictably, Kelly was the most militant on border issues-- calling for a double fence along the whole Arizona border and more law enforcement. (Kelly wants less government except when it comes to the military.) Focusing on militarization with electronic gadgets as well as more boots on the ground, Barber's position wasn't much different. Manolakis introduced a few chuckles into the debate when suggested that border patrol agents should ride camels because they're suited for the desert and cost less to maintain. (Charlie, although you're idea makes some sense, it doesn't go with the John Wayne cowboy image Arizonans have of themselves.)
None of the candidates addressed the roles that the North American Free Trade Act (NAFTA) and the War on Drugs have played in creation of border violence, near lawlessness in Mexico, and dire poverty south of the border. President Nixon's War on Drugs has worked as well as Prohibition did; it has increased drug use and helped organized crime become more organized. (Check out the PBS documentary on Prohibition. The similarities to today's situation with marijuana prohibition are too glaring to ignore.)
On healthcare, Kelly decried rising healthcare costs and repeatedly called for repeal of Obamacare but offered no solutions for the future-- although he was asked to do so multiple times. Presumably, he goes along with the right-wing's call for the return of free-market health insurance, which is what got us into this costly mess. Ironically, Obamacare (which is based upon Romneycare, a Republican initiative) supports private insurance-- except for a few important changes like prohibiting the denial insurance coverage because of pre-existing conditions, expanding coverage to millions of Americans, and providing a minimum benefits package. Barber gets points for bringing up negotiating drug price discounts with Big Pharma. (President Bush II and his all-Republican Congress created Medicare Part D-- the Medicare prescription drug benefit-- as a giveaway to the pharmaceutical giants. The US is the only country in the world that pays top dollar for drugs and does not negotiate volume discounts.) Otherwise, Barber showed faint support for the worthwhile parts of Affordable Care Act (AKA Obamacare). Manolakis gets bigger points for championing universal healthcare. Medicare for All is really the best solution to rising costs, broader coverage, and curtailment of unnecessary procedures.
Overall, the debate was too civil-- with the majority party candidates repeating talking points. Except for the camels, negotiation of drug prices, and the brief mention of universal healthcare, no new ideas were discussed.
The CD8 vote is happening now. If you live in Giffords' old district, as I do, check your mailbox for your ballot. If you want to go old school, you can go to the polls on June 12. The winner of this election will serve out Giffords' term.
Thanks to redistricting, the old CD8 will morf into the new CD2 for the general election in November. Barber has announced that he will run for that office also. Marth McSally, one of Kelly's challengers in the recent Republican primary, also has said she will run again. I'm hoping that other Democrats-- particularly State Senator Paula Aboud-- will enter the CD2 primary race to spice it up. Mr. Civility's mild-mannered, middle-of-the-road approach is more suited to campaign administration and not the blood sport of American politics.
by David Safier
Two key officers in the Rosemont Copper Company were officers of a company that went bankrupt in 1995. An article in the Star called it a "high profile" bankruptcy. Arizona law requires that a company include information about a bankruptcy involving people controlling over 20% of the shares, like these two officers. But Rosemont didn't include that information.
Why? Because the bankruptcy was in Canada, not the U.S., which means, according to the Rosemont folks, they don't have to say anything.
"We have nothing to hide. We would put that on there if we thought we needed to put it on there," [Rosemont Copper President and CEO Rod] Pace said in an interview, referring to a Corporation Commission disclosure form seeking information about past bankruptcies.
And for some reason I cannot understand, the Arizona Corporation Commission agreed, saying Rosemont is in compliance "with applicable statutory provisions."
Rosemont wants to dig a very large hole in Southern Arizona, which it promises to be around long enough to fix. It wants us to trust it to transport huge quantities of ore on our roadways. It wants us to believe our water will not be polluted by the mining. The underlying premise of any agreement to let Rosemont open a mine is, "You can trust us. We're as good as our word" (unlike so many mining operations in the past). Yet it uses a technicality to hide a past bankruptcy of two of its officers. And we should trust the Rosemont folks aren't hiding other important pieces of information that we'll learn about too late, after the damage has already been done?
By Karl Reiner
The water level in the Colorado River’s storage lakes has been steadily dropping, leading to the possibility that Tucson will face a water shortage in the future. As consumers of local ground water and supplies from the Colorado, we need to start paying attention to the problem. The combined effects of population growth, drought and global warming trends are turning the region’s water future murky.
A recent government report on climate change states that global warming has already brought about some climate modifications. Man-made pollution composed of greenhouse gas emissions was found to be the main cause behind higher average temperatures in the Midwest. The increased warming has extended the growing season by a week. It also caused more frequent heavy rain storms.
The report warns that these changes are only the beginning. We will face more serious consequences if emissions are not restricted. If the warming trend is allowed to continue, temperatures across the U.S. are projected to rise by 4 to 11 degrees by 2100. As the temperature rises, some areas such as Arizona will become drier.
In the United Kingdom, worried scientists want to undertake research to find ways to reverse the global warming process. If the world’s governments can’t agree on programs to curb greenhouse gas emissions, they want to start developing technologies that can remove carbon dioxide from the atmosphere and reflect sunlight back into space.
A normal summer monsoon delivers about six inches of rain to the Tucson area. As has often been the case in recent years, this year’s monsoon rains fell short. Rainfall was about half of the amount that should have fallen during the June to September season. At the end of September, precipitation in most of the metropolitan area was three inches below normal.
This year’s failed monsoon may be a continuation of the drought that has been plaguing Tucson for 10 years. Some weather observers believe the drought could drag on for another 20 years. They see evidence linking the current dry period to a reoccurring drought pattern that has come and gone for the past 1,000 years. It is believed that the warming trend brought by climate change could worsen the drought pattern.
Drought has upended societies in the past. It was a factor contributing to the decline of the Hohokam culture in the early 1400’s. Prior to its demise, Hohokam society had developed fairly sophisticated irrigation and farming techniques. The structural ruins that remained after the Hohokam disappeared impressed and puzzled the early Spanish explorers as they traversed the region.
The $3.6 billion Central Arizona Project (CAP) is designed to deliver 1.5 million acre-feet of Colorado River water per year from Lake Havasu to Pima, Pinal and Maricopa counties. (An acre-foot of water equates to 325,851 gallons.) Water travels a distance of 336 miles through a system terminating 14 miles south of Tucson.
When the Colorado’s water was liberally allocated to the using states, very little was known about reoccurring drought patterns and the effects of climate change. If runoff in the Colorado River’s watershed continues to decline, water deliveries will have to be reduced. Depending on the severity of the drop in runoff, planners believe deliveries to Phoenix and Tucson might have to be reduced by a third or half in the future.
While there is disagreement among the experts as to the causes, timing and severity of the looming water shortage, there is a general consensus that Colorado River water will be increasingly in short supply as time goes by. Some scientists believe that if the current trend holds, the Colorado could be running extremely low by 2050.
Due to the lack of recharging rains, Tucson’s groundwater supplies will also diminish. As overall water availability declines, we will have to start looking to the costly solutions other nations have implemented. One country that has been dealing with water problems for years is the Kingdom of Saudi Arabia.
About the size of the United States east of the Mississippi River, Saudi Arabia is home to one-fifth of the world’s proven oil reserves. The ample store of oil ensures that the Kingdom will remain among the world’s top oil exporters for the foreseeable future. Although the country can be said to be floating in oil, it is short of water. Being more arid than Arizona, securing a stable water supply has always been a concern.
To meet the country’s needs, Saudi Arabia has been seriously investing in desalination technology since the late 1970s. Over time, it has become the world’s largest producer of desalinated water, accounting for 26% of world production. There are 30 desalination plants in operation on Saudi Arabia’s Red Sea and Persian Gulf coasts. To meet future demand, Saudi Arabia is expected to invest $90 billion in water and sewage systems over the next 20 years.
One of the world’s largest desalination plants is located at Jubail on Saudi Arabia’s Persian Gulf coast. The massive complex produces 50% of the nation’s drinking water. The plant supplies two pipelines that move desalinated water 290 miles inland to Riyadh, the capital.
The Jubail-Riyadh system of pipelines and pumping stations delivers 210 million gallons of water per day. Since Riyadh, with a population of approximately six million, suffers severely from declining ground water sources, the water from Jubail has become vital to the city’s ability to function.
If the dire predictions of a water shortage come true in southern Arizona, our closest source of ocean water is less than 200 miles away, along the coast of the Gulf of California in Mexico’s state of Sonora. If we have to start scrambling to get salt water processed and delivered to Tucson’s taps, our water utilities will be rushing to participate in joint ventures in Mexico to build the desalination plants and pipelines needed to serve Sonora and Arizona.
With the cost of desalinated water running about 10 times the cost of current supplies, our water use habits will drastically change. We will stop taking water for granted and have to treat it as a finite resource. The massive increase in price will focus attention on conserving and reclaiming every available drop.
Unlike the Hohokam, we will have access to technology that can help prevent a disaster. While expensive desalination technology can provide for urban needs, it cannot support much agriculture. As a consequence, a drying climate will bring massive changes to Arizona’s economy. Regrettably, much of the change will not be good.
by David Safier
As more parts of the world face prolonged droughts or water shortages, desalination is on the rise. In California alone some 20 seawater-desalination plants have been proposed, including a $300m facility near San Diego. Several Australian cities are planning or constructing huge desalination plants, with the biggest, near Melbourne, expected to cost about $2.9 billion. Even London is building one. According to projections from Global Water Intelligence, a market-research firm, worldwide desalination capacity will nearly double between now and 2015.
Not everyone is happy about this. Some environmental groups are concerned about the energy the plants will use, and the greenhouse gases they will spew out. A large desalination plant can suck up enough electricity in one year to power more than 30,000 homes.
The good news is that advances in technology and manufacturing have reduced the cost and energy requirements of desalination. And many new plants are being held to strict environmental standards. One recently built plant in Perth, Australia, runs on renewable energy from a nearby wind farm. In addition, its modern seawater-intake and waste-discharge systems minimise the impact on local marine life. Jason Antenucci, deputy director of the Centre for Water Research at the University of Western Australia in Perth, says the facility has “set a benchmark for other plants in Australia.”
The energy-recovery devices in the 1980s were only about 75% efficient, but newer ones can recover about 96% of the energy from the waste stream. As a result, the energy use for reverse-osmosis seawater desalination has fallen. The Perth plant, which uses technology from Energy Recovery, a firm based in California, consumes only 3.7kWh to produce one cubic metre of drinking water, according to Gary Crisp, who helped to oversee the plant’s design for the Water Corporation, a local utility.
So, I guess if you can find a particularly windy stretch of ocean, put up some wind turbines and a desalination plant, you're good to go.
That's it. We will now return to our regularly scheduled blogging.
NOTE: Right after I put up this post, I found a comment from Ben Kalafut that basically explained to me what I found out myself. Ben concludes, "if someone was to be looking for startup capital for opening up a cogenerating nuclear power/desalination plant in the Tijuana area that would sell water and electricity to the Californians, I'd put in a thousand dollars!"
Ben,Sen. Al Melvin is your man. He advocates putting a nuclear power/desalination combo in Sonora somewhere. Write that check and get in on the ground floor!
Recently, I had the opportunity to have a nice conversation with newly-elected Oro Valley Councilpersons Bill Garner and Salette Latas.
We discussed their astounding primary victories in which both of them managed to net over 60% of the primary vote, placing both of them directly on the Council from the primary: a first for an Oro Valley town election. In doing so, they beat three incumbents, knocking one of them out of the race and leaving the final two playing musical chairs for the final seat in the June general election.
We were joined in our discussion by Art Segal, the Bloggitor (my neologism of blogger/editor, like it?) of the Let Oro Valley Excel, or LOVE, blog. Art is something of a blog hero in my book: he stood up to legal threats and some fairly slimy political intimidation tactics by the Oro Valley Board through their Town Attorney before and during the town's election.
We discussed the many land-use, development, budget, tax, and water issues facing many of the swift-growing cities and towns of the desert Southwest. The conversation runs about an hour. Here is a chronology in case you are only interested in particular parts of our discussion:
1:00 What’s Happening in Oro Valley?
5:00 Motivation for Change
7:00 Transparent Government Popular Uprising
9:00 The Strategic Campaign Plan
13:00 The Vestar Tax Scam
17:00 Citizens Organize to Fight Back
18:00 The Online Campaign
20:00 The Coming General Election
25:00 The Issues the Next Council Will Face
28:00 Arroyo Grande
43:00 Zoning Hi-Jinks
45:00 Naranja Mega-Park
54:00 Growth Politics in Arizona (sorry, some brief audio difficulties)
The Arizona Daily Star has recently filled a real vacuum in local civil society by encouraging Tucsonans to take a closer look at what kind of place they want to live in the future. I have quibbles, of course, but they are to be commended for acting as a catalyst and resource for a community faced with some serious choices. There are deep divisions about our future course between those who seek to manage growth (either more or less) and those who believe the facts indicate that we are far past their point where we can just grow smarter, we need to stop growing.
The Star certainly provided some interesting raw data to chew on from their survey earlier this month. Admittedly, some of the questions were intolerably leading and biased, or just plain dopey. But there is some gold in there. I found some insights into Tucsonans' attitudes toward water, transportation, and development.
Read more about what I see—and failed to see—in the data...
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