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 the ocean’s limitless supply of water.
Phil Gordon, mayor from 2004 to 2011, said bringing in desalinated Gulf of California water would secure Arizona’s future, 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 ,” 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 in 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 U.S. and the world,” he said.
Acting now would provide a long-term supply before an emergency leaves the state and northern Mexico scrambling, he said.
Sandy Fabritz-Whitney, director of the Arizona Department of Water Resources, agrees with Gordon that desalination would provide the state a drought-proof supply of water in the long run.
“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.
Kathleen Ferris, executive director of the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association, said 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,” she said.
Sandy Bahr, director of the Sierra Club’s Grand Canyon chapter, said there’s no upside to desalination and Arizona’s focus should be on conserving the water it has.
“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.