Arizona is considering bringing water from Mexico as the Colorado River continues to decline | Daily News Byte


Arizona’s top water authority is mulling a plan to pump water from a desalination plant near the Sea of ​​Cortez in an effort to reduce the state’s reliance on the Colorado River.

The plan, presented by Israeli water treatment company IDE Technologies, would involve a binational effort led by Arizona and the Mexican state of Sonora to build desalination plants and canals to pump water to Arizona and two Sonoran cities.

The Arizona Water Infrastructure Finance Authority this week decided to move forward with the nascent plan, which still has to clear regulatory hurdles at the state, local and federal levels in Mexico and the United States.

If built, the desalination plant would be located on the coast of the Sea of ​​Cortez near Puerto Peñasco, a Sonoran panhandle resort that has long attracted Arizona tourism.

The main channel from the plant would shoot north through Organ Cactus National Monument toward Arizona’s main population center surrounding Phoenix, according to the AZ Central report.

A secondary route would pump water south from the plant to Hermosillo, the capital of Sonora, and a third canal or pipeline originating from the main line would send water to the border city of Nogales, Sonora.

The plan would provide up to 1 million acre-feet of water for purchase to Arizona, according to the IDE proposal. One acre foot is roughly the amount of water needed to supply two households with water for one year.

Arizona’s rapidly growing population has contributed to water shortages in the Southwest, while the overburdened Colorado River struggles to supply its seven basin states and Mexico.

The Colorado River stopped regularly reaching the ocean in the 1960s, after the completion of Glen Canyon Dam. In the spring of 2014, US and Mexican authorities released a “pulse flow” of water due to earthquake damage to Mexico’s irrigation system, allowing the river to reach its natural destination for several weeks.

But climate change and population growth have increased pressure on the river, forcing southwestern states to look for other sources of water.

Still, the desalination project could face tough regulatory hurdles, in part because of its environmental impact.

The construction of the Orgulje National Monument is a challenge, as is the disposal of concentrated salt water, which is a natural by-product of desalination.

And according to a report by AZ Central, the project could face political hurdles as it competes with other conservation and infrastructure projects for a $1.4 billion tranche earmarked by outgoing Gov. Doug Ducey for the water crisis.

While Arizona’s water options are limited, political opposition to the desalination project could also be fueled by the high relative costs of desalinated seawater.

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