Former Phoenix mayor: Partner with Mexico to desalinate seawater

Dec 14, 2013, 8:45 AM | Updated: 8:45 am

PHOENIX — The former mayor of the nation’s sixth-largest city wants Arizona to form a partnership with Mexico that would build desalination facilities and tap in the ocean’s virtually limitless supply of water.

Phil Gordon, who served as mayor from 2004 to 2011, said bringing in desalinated water from the Gulf of California would not only secure Arizona’s future but increase collaboration with Mexico and create economic opportunity on both sides of the border.

“I want to see a desalination plant built because, as mayor of Phoenix, I knew how valuable water is and will continue to be,” he said. “Not only the Valley but in the world water is going to become, if it’s not already, more valuable than gold or oil.”

Raising the idea in a November column published by The Arizona Republic, Gordon said one benefit of desalinated water would be allowing Mexico and Arizona to create more farmland.

“Use that water for putting all those millions of acres of desert in northern Mexico and southern Arizona into food production and become not only a water-producing area but also a breadbasket for the United States and the world,” he said.

Acting now would provide a secure long-term water supply before an emergency leaves the state and northern Mexico scrambling, Gordon said.

“It’s better, to me, to start addressing that today than to wait until a crisis of lack of water, lack of food, and then all of the sudden you have, really, disruption in the state and in Mexico,” he said.

Sandy Fabritz-Whitney, director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources, said she agrees with Gordon that desalination would provide the state a drought-proof supply of water in the long run.

“Desalination is definitely a part of our future; it’s completely feasible,” Fabritz-Whitney said.

She also likes the idea of involving Mexico.

“We share so many issues with them, and water is a big one,” she said. “Partnering with Mexico, we’d get more useable water and more jobs – it’s a win-win.”

Kathleen Ferris, executive director of the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association, said that desalination has downsides such as the amount of energy required to treat and transport the water as well as dealing with brine. She said she hasn’t written off the idea, however.

“This is a difficult and expensive prospect. We’re going to need some really big thinkers and a very sophisticated approach,” Ferris said.

Former Sen. Jon Kyl, who sponsored legislation that led to agreements on American Indian tribes’ water rights in Arizona, said the state needn’t be concerned with desalination right now.

“Thanks to good planning with the CAP, the SRP and the Groundwater Management Act, we’re not in a situation right now to invest in something as expensive as desalination,” he said. “Quite possible by midcentury, but not right now.”

Kyl noted that Israel and other countries in the Middle East already get water through through desalination, so the processes and costs should improve as time passes.

He said he doesn’t see the economic opportunities Gordon raises as reasons to get into desalination.

“You don’t do it just to create jobs,” he said.

Sandy Bahr, director of the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon chapter, said there’s no upside to desalination and that Arizona’s focus should be on conserving the water it already has.

“At a time when we’re trying to reduce energy use and get it from cleaner sources, building massive desalination plants to feed unsustainable development is just not a good choice,” she said.

But Gordon said committing to desalination would be in keeping with the pioneering spirit that envisioned a bustling city in the desert and created the water infrastructure to make it happen.

“If we look back over 100 years ago, people thought that the original ranchers and farmers of the Salt River Project were crazy, and yet we couldn’t survive today without that forward thinking,” he said.

Lifetime Windows & Doors

We want to hear from you.

Have a story idea or tip? Pass it along to the KTAR News team here.

Arizona News

(Facebook Photo/Tucson Police Department)...
Wills Rice

Tucson man sentenced 17 years for fentanyl sale resulting in death

A Tucson man was sentenced to 17 years in prison for selling drugs containing fentanyl that led to the death of a young man, authorities said.
17 hours ago
(Photo by Mark Wilson/Getty Images)...
KTAR.com

Iowa man accused of making election-related threats to Arizona officials

An Iowa man was arrested on Thursday for allegedly sending election-related threats to two Arizona officials last year, including Maricopa County Supervisor Clint Hickman, authorities said.
17 hours ago
(Facebook Photos/ Senator Mark Kelly, Blake Masters for Senate and...
KTAR.com

Watch: Arizona US Senate candidates Kelly, Masters, Victor share debate stage

With the start of early voting a week away, Arizona’s three U.S. Senate candidates are scheduled to share the stage Thursday in a live debate.
17 hours ago
Bryant James Walker (Chandler Police Department Photo)...
KTAR.com

Stalking, public indecency suspect arrested by Chandler police

Police in Chandler said Thursday they arrested a Mesa man suspected of public indecency and felony stalking.
17 hours ago
(Abrazo Health Photo)...
Alex Weiner

Abrazo West Campus acquires Arizona’s 1st Loop-X robot to assist spine surgeries

Abrazo West Campus in Goodyear is adding the new Loop-X robot to assist doctors in spine surgery operating rooms.
17 hours ago
Arizona Secretary of State Katie Hobbs, who is running for governor, speaks during a Democratic Par...
Kevin Stone

Here’s what Democratic candidate Katie Hobbs says about Arizona abortion laws

Katie Hobbs, the Democratic nominee for Arizona governor, said the state’s near-total abortion ban goes against the will of the people and she’d work to change it if elected.
17 hours ago

Sponsored Articles

...
Quantum Fiber

How high-speed fiber internet can improve everyday life

Quantum Fiber supplies unlimited data with speeds up to 940 mbps, enough to share 4K videos with coworkers 20 times faster than a cable.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Ways to prevent clogged drains and what to do if you’re too late

While there are a variety of ways to prevent clogged drains, it's equally as important to know what to do when you're already too late.
...
Day & Night Air Conditioning, Heating and Plumbing

Most plumbing problems can be fixed with regular maintenance

Instead of waiting for a problem to happen, experts suggest getting a head start on your plumbing maintenance.
Former Phoenix mayor: Partner with Mexico to desalinate seawater