Phoenix Called Out as the 'Least Sustainable' City in the World
New suburbs are sprouting up all around Phoenix but new water supplies are not. "Twenty years ago, Anthem sprung out of virgin desert, a community 'masterplanned' from scratch with schools, shops, restaurants and spacious homes – many behind high walls and electronic gates – and its own country club and golf course," Joanna Walters reports for The Guardian.
The city is growing, it's now the country's fifth largest city, and that population needs water. Walters cites a Federal Bureau of Reclamation report from 2012 that says the city will experience droughts of five years or more every decade from now until 2050. But the region has been slow to act. "Greater Phoenix has not declared any water restrictions. Nor has the state government decided its official drought contingency proposal," Walters writes.
Building in the desert means bringing water from distant sources, "… Phoenix gets less than eight inches of rainfall each year; most of the water supply for central and southern Arizona is pumped from Lake Mead, fed by the Colorado river over 300 miles away," Walters reports. Bringing water uphill from that shrinking lake uses a lot of power, and though the city enjoys more than 300 days of sun a year, only between 2 to 5 percent of the state of Arizona's power comes from solar.
Meanwhile, growth continues. "Another firm wants to build a 'masterplanned community', like Anthem, south of Tucson, and modelled after the hilltop towns of Tuscany. It envisages five golf courses, a vineyard, parks, lakes and 28,000 homes," Walters reports.