Sunday, May 3, 2020

"Could Phoenix survive a water crisis?"

From a dozen years ago:
February 2009 
Las Vegas Running Out of Water Means Dimming Los Angeles Lights
 The Las Vegas metro population is approximately two million.
Building cities in the desert is stupid.
The extent of the arid region is even larger than this map portrays (from DesertUSA):

And from The Counter, January 29, 2020:
There is a limited and shrinking supply, growing demand, and a long-run picture that looks, from many angles, hopelessly apocalyptic. Inside the elaborate, diverse, and ever-evolving effort to manage water in what some have called “America’s least sustainable city.”
An hour north of Phoenix, Arizona, Chip Norton drives his truck toward the Verde River. Norton spent the last decade of his career as a public works contractor for water facilities. He retired in 2008. Even so, at 9 a.m. on a Saturday in early June, he is already immersed in his new work, checking on barley fields.

Norton leaves the paved road and traces along a grain field. He parks and steps from the truck, his boots raising dust.

“Amber waves of grain,” he says, moving into a golden ocean of stalks. “All this is malt barley.”
Norton plucks a barley head and spins it between his fingers. One of his business partners, Hauser and Hauser Farms, will start to harvest this crop about a week after I meet him, when its moisture level falls a notch or two below 15 percent. “In Arizona,” Norton says, “that’s not a problem.”

Norton is the president of two-year-old Sinagua Malt. He contracts with local farms for malt barley, which, once harvested, his team will then malt in their nearby Camp Verde, Arizona facility before selling mostly to Phoenix-based craft brewers. The Verde Valley farmers Norton works with have replaced a total of between 125 and 150 acres of feed-corn and alfalfa with malt barley. Sinagua barley is grown in a way that keys into the natural cycles of the Verde River. For his work, Norton doesn’t take a salary. What he seeks is proof of concept. He wants to show that his operation, writ far and large, has the potential to help sustain rivers like the Verde—a crucial Arizona waterway that provides to Metro Phoenix.
Walking parts of Phoenix today, you might spot the ruins of an ancient canal, but probably not. Phoenix expanded so fast in the 20th century that developers razed structures built by the Hohokam, prehistoric North American Indians who lived in present-day central and southern Arizona as early as the 3rd century, until laws were enacted to protect what remained. In 1920, before the building boom began, Phoenix was home to 29,000 people—fewer than the area supported 800 years before. By 1950, Phoenix had grown to 107,000 people; by 1960, to 439,000. And today, Phoenix is home to 1,660,000 people, making it the fifth-largest city in the country. The suburban towns around the city—which, together with Phoenix, are collectively known as Metro Phoenix—house some 4.5 million human souls. And today, just like in the past, the good people of this Sonoran basin face immense resource challenges.

These challenges threaten the desert metropolis’s sustainability, in both the near and distant future. By 2100, city summer temperatures are projected to have risen by 9.2 degrees. (July days already average 104 degrees.) Many of Phoenix’s sustainability obstacles are tied to food systems: farming, transportation, recycling. But the most elemental and harrowing issue that city leaders will have to face reaches back not only to the Hohokam, but to the very meaning of “desert.”
Water. The main issue is water. In Metro Phoenix, everyday dihydrogen monoxide will soon be liquid gold....

The population of the Phoenix Metropolitan Area is something like 4.7 million people.