Tech and the Desert

Just returned from Scottsdale this morning and water has been on my mind. Two years ago when I wrote Could Water be the Oil of the 21st Century?, I was thinking pretty hard about the possibility that the current growth rates in the desert Southwest weren’t sustainable and the wisdom of a potential second home investment in that region.

No one knows, but I’m reading a lot about water and the desert. The Fourth Assessment Report of the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) includes a sobering prediction that temperatures in the
American West will increase by an average of nine degrees Fahrenheit by
the end of this century. For more read Denial in the Desert which discusses drought, the draining of the aquifers under the desert, this report and more.

My bride and I looked once again for a second home there but came away without moving forward. Each time we return, the traffic is worse; there are more roads being built; newspapers discuss a far off but looming crisis in water, heat and smog; and the crush of humanity just feels oppressive at times.

Makes me wonder if technology might be the answer.

We stopped by Barnes & Noble yesterday to snag a couple of things for the plane ride home. I love books of history so grabbed a good one on the history of Scottsdale. When I think deeply about how massive the change has been in that city just since World War II, I realize that this CSMonitor article should give anyone pause if they’re considering a move to Arizona (or any thirsty community in that part of the world):

According to the Central Arizona Project (CAP), which supplies roughly a quarter of the state’s water, current water supplies can support central Arizona’s population through 2030, when the population is expected to reach 8.5 million people. Add on likely water supplies and the region can make it to around 2045, when the population is projected to reach 10.2 million.

If you’d like to see a delightfully campy and interesting fashion video from 1941 at the Internet Archive, take a peek and go 7:13 into the video.

Camelback Inn

They fly over Phoenix and peek down at the Camelback Inn (where I was on Friday for David Allen’s GTD seminar). What strikes me about this video is that in 66 years, an area has exploded and is completely built over. The Camelback, owned now by Marriott, is being renovated in a massive way completely remaking it for a new generation of tourists.

Often I think about how we can sustain the impact on the earth, the growth, and the harvesting of natural resources like water. At the same time, I love the desert, Arizona and want to be there. It’s the classic push-pull.

So what could technology do to help this issue?

Desalination is an ever-present option. There’s a big ocean close to Arizona (the Gulf of California is ~200 miles from Phoenix…though accessible in Mexico) and nuclear powered plants could be built without contributing to greenhouse gases.

Carbon nanotubes as a filtering mechanism hold promise too. Buying water from Canada is another.

A buddy of mine suggested I’d be dead and thus wouldn’t need to worry about it, “You’ll be six feet under so let your kids inherit your Arizona place and take the loss.” Ahh…I don’t think so.

We’ll probably buy there at some point in the next several years. I’m too optimistic to think that we won’t be able to solve this problem.

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1 Comment

  1. Phillip Titterington on April 30, 2007 at 8:03 pm

    Dear Sir –
    With regard to the mention of ‘looming crisis in water, heat and smog ‘. Well Im not so sure that all will be doom and gloom. I have noticed that while many speak and prophecise about global warming etc I think we all may just wake up to it and take action before it goes too far. My reasoning may seem naive and quaint, but here it is for what its worth. Many films/books etc with global catastrophe/opression their central theme never seem to show many folk realising they are heading toward the disaster till it happens. In reality though the media is awash with messages/warnings of global warming/resource shortages etc. I think there is currently a huge number of people allready trying to take action against the impending doom. Imagine going back twenty years and telling folk of the current hot topics in world news etc, I don’t think climate change and saving the earth would be one of them. I think the worse that may happen is we all become a planet of ‘ Hippies ‘ and ‘ tree huggers ‘, well it could be worse. Im not sure about buying water from the Canadians, if they knew their favorite neighbour was using it they may piss in it.



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