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Local Opinion: Senators should push for clean tech to combat drought

Local Opinion: Senators should push for clean tech to combat drought

The following is the opinion and analysis of the writer:

This summer, Colorado River reservoirs hit their lowest levels since first being filled over a half-century ago, forcing the U.S. Bureau of Reclamation (USBR) to announce massive cutbacks in water supply, with even greater cutbacks projected for 2023.

This is a major wake-up call for Arizona. In response to the USBR’s cutbacks, farmers in Arizona are being paid to keep their fields fallow. And if reservoir levels drop much lower, the Glen Canyon Dam will no longer be operable.

For better or worse, this unprecedented water shortage is deeply intertwined with the energy sector.

The Central Arizona Project (CAP), which channels water from the Colorado River to our cities and irrigation districts, is the single largest electricity user in Arizona. This electricity, in turn, is generated using massive amounts of water. Clean energy can help address this redundancy.

My company has submitted proposals for solar panel installations over canals which will use very little water, prevent evaporation, and won’t contribute to desertification.

In the power sector, our largest utility uses as much water as Tucson’s entire residential sector for cooling towers at its thermoelectric power plants. Ramping up renewables in Arizona would help address water demand in the short-term while also driving down greenhouse gas emissions that are intensifying droughts in the long run.

But clean energy doesn’t just reduce emissions — it’s also good for attracting businesses; many Fortune 500 companies have sought out renewable-heavy grids to tie into. We can make Arizona more welcoming for businesses by becoming a leading provider of renewable energy while also creating new clean energy jobs. It’s not just Fortune 500 firms that agree; I’ve joined over 630 business leaders from across the U.S. who’ve signed a letter calling on Congress to act boldly on clean energy.

The bipartisan infrastructure package that Arizona’s senators helped negotiate and guide through the Senate is a significant first step to addressing our water shortage. It includes $8.3 billion in funding for the Bureau of Reclamation. On clean energy, the bill includes $73 billion in funding for power infrastructure including $8 billion to expand transmission — funding crucial to deploying clean tech at scale.

But Congress must go further and enact robust investments in clean energy through the reconciliation package. With $550 billion in investments for clean energy including enhanced tax credits, investments in clean-tech manufacturing and supply chains and a national green bank, this package would represent a turning point for clean-tech deployment.

If we don’t act now, not only will our farmers continue to suffer while our groundwater reserves become depleted, but we’ll miss the opportunity to secure our share of the exponentially growing clean-tech market.

Send. Kelly and Sinema, let’s get both bills over the finish line.

Lepley is a registered architect, an instructor at the University of Arizona, and founder of Tectonicus Constructs LLC, a U.S. Department of Energy-funded architecture and engineering firm.

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