During the past week I have read several articles about water. There was a long and detailed one about how inadequate the dikes and levees on the Mississippi might be when major rains and spring inundations occur. New Orleans is at risk. The Time article showed the 2019 floods in places like Iowa that impacted farmers. One day this past week Ruth came home from exercising at our usual place and told me not to drink water from its fountains, which I regularly do. She said it had lead contamination and that I should take bottled water with me to drink. I did some research and read that bottled water is no safer than tap water, and that bottled water should always be consumed shortly after purchase because storing it might lead to degraded bottles over time. Plastic residues can contaminate.
As a result, I reminisced about one of the most interesting conversations I had this year. Ruth & I went to the Eisendrath House in Phoenix last February and met Richard. He has contacts in a Tempe water conservation office (SRP) and told me something I did not know. The Colorado River is not the major source of Phoenix’s water. The Salt, a desert river, is this city’s single biggest source of water. The Salt River provides 60% of this city’s needs. A lot of the water from the Colorado is stored in aquifers. In other words, a lot of it is put in the bank. Richard got me some literature about local water usage from the SRP office. I read it in preparation for writing this.
In 1970 the Phoenix area was home to 1.8 million people. Now the population is 7.2 million. The number of water needing people has tripled in the past 50 years. Despite this, Phoenix is doing a good job of keeping up with demand and will be OK unless a major drought occurs. Centuries ago the local Hohokam people used the Verde and Salt Rivers to build a complex system of canals to make agricultural production possible. It was one of the most sophisticated canal systems in the world. Only Egypt had a bigger one. The Hohokams disappeared around 1450 AD; drought is the suspected cause. Today, the Salt meets the Verde River near Phoenix, and 4 dams on the Salt create lakes that are the source of most of this metro area’s water supply.
Arizona has the rights to 2.8 million acre feet of Colorado River water per year. California gets almost twice that much. Arizona is not using all of its allotment, so a lot of it is put into 7 underground aquifers. Still, the Central Arizona Project’s canals carry water from the Colorado River to North Phoenix for use every year. Phoenix gets only about 8 inches of rain each year. Lake Mead is another but dwindling source of water. St. George, Utah, is one of the fastest growing communities in our country. At the Pipe Spring National Monument near St George, a Native American woman told Ruth & me that a developer is considering putting in a waterpark there at the same time that Pipe Spring’s water supply is being restricted.
Phoenix has been slashing usage and recycling waste water for years. During research I learned that there is such a thing as “toilet to tap technology”. Water scientists are, in other words, working on making toilet water so clean that it’s drinkable. I learned all of the above either from Richard or by doing a few hours of reading on the internet. There’s a lot out there, including hard work and hope.