Arizona Water News : November 2015

Saudi Hay Farm In Arizona Tests State’s Supply Of Groundwater

Staff | NPR

Outside of Phoenix, in the scorching Arizona desert, sits a farm that Saudi Arabia’s largest dairy uses to make hay for cows back home.

That dairy company, named Almarai, bought the farm last year and has planted thousands of acres of groundwater-guzzling alfalfa to make that hay. Saudi Arabia can’t grow its own hay anymore because those crops drained its own ancient aquifer.

Reporter Nathan Halverson tells NPR’s Renee Montagne that Almarai bought about 15 square miles in the Arizona desert.

“They got about 15 water wells when they purchased the property. Now, each one of those wells can pump about 1.5 billion gallons of water. It’s an incredible amount of water they’re going to be drawing up from that aquifer underground,” Halverson says. [read more]

My Turn: Israel’s water lesson for Arizona

Sharon B. Megdal, AZ I See It | The Republic

Water director: Desalination isn’t so cost-prohibitive anymore, and that’s important for our future water supply

I just returned from an exciting visit to Israel, my 10th since 2010.  Each time I visit the region I learn new things about their efforts to manage water resources.

At the WATEC 2015 conference in Tel Aviv, where I was an invited speaker, I had the opportunity to interact with key public and private sector contributors to Israel’s efforts to overcome the scarcity of its natural water resources.

There is palpable excitement associated with the Israel’s success at overcoming the scarcity of natural water resources through a large-scale effort to desalinate seawater.  Though some still question the costs and environmental issues associated with these plants, most are confident that this is the right strategy for Israel. [read more]

Could plastic balls really save water here as they do in California?

Brandon Loomis | The Republic

Solutions: What can Arizona do to assure its water supply? Here’s one possible fix.

LOS ANGELES — When word got out that Southern California water suppliers were covering some reservoirs with swarms of grapefruit-size plastic balls this summer, millions of people went searching for the video.

For a few balls to the dollar, Los Angeles-area providers have covered small reservoirs not just to slow evaporation but to keep bird waste and sunlight out to preserve water quality.

The manufacturer promises that by blocking wind and heat from the water, the balls will reduce evaporation by 80 to 90 percent. Using the lower estimate, Los Angeles Water Department predicts it will save 300 million gallons a year in its reservoir.

The balls already are in limited use in storage ponds along the Central Arizona Project’s canal, but wouldn’t work on recreational waters — a limitation that would rule out Central Arizona Project’s big storage at Lake Pleasant. They also won’t work on the canal itself, because it’s pumped water and they’re designed for still water, CAP Colorado River program manager Chuck Cullom said. [read more]

El Nino may pose Santa Cruz flood risk to downtown

Tony Davis | Arizona Daily Star

Tamarisk and mesquite trees, grasses and shrubs jut out 10 to 15 feet from both banks of the Santa Cruz River through downtown Tucson.

It’s a scenic view, conjuring memories of what the river looked like before groundwater pumping dried it up decades ago. But it’s also a flood risk, one that could be particularly hazardous this wet winter, a longtime University of Arizona flood expert says.

The Southwest is in the middle of a major El Niño event that has the potential to be the largest on record. While El Niño’s impacts vary around the world, in this region they typically mean wetter and often cooler late fall and winter weather than normal. [read more]

Scholars urge more research on future of the Colorado River

Associated Press

SALT LAKE CITY — A coalition of scholars across the West is urging the federal government to partner with the National Academy of Sciences to study the future of the Colorado River, including if climate change is leading to reduced stream flow.

Twenty-three scholars from Western universities sent a letter Tuesday to Interior Secretary Sally Jewell detailing their request for more scientific research on a host of issues related to the Colorado River.

Chief among the concerns is if there will be enough water in the river to support 36 million users in seven U.S. states and parts of Mexico over the next 50 years.

The scholars argue the federal government is relying on a projection of a 9-percent stream flow decline by 2060, while skimming over other estimates that suggest it could fall by as much as 45 percent by 2050 due to climate change. [read more]

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