Friday, April 2, 2010

Phoenix, while it lasts

It's shocking how green Phoenix is right now. The wet season must have ended recently, as vacant lots are full of weedy wildflowers. I doubt, however, that recent rains explain the miles of bright green agricultural fields and lawns - or the many swimming pools and artificial lakes.

It's amazing what can be accomplished by pouring millions of gallons of water into the desert sand. More than one of my friends joked that I should enjoy my stay in Phoenix, as it wouldn't exist 50 years from now.

I'm curious how good or bad water conservation really is in this town. At least around the airport and Tempe, there seemed to be a pretty good amount of xeriscaping. The city apparently is making an effort to restrict green to slivers among stone and cacti. It was encouraging how even small amounts of green made the environment perfectly inviting.

Mostly though, in places like our hotel, cacti were flanked by all manner of thirsty palms and figs. Every lawn I saw seemed to be as close-cropped as a fairway too, which isn't great for water use efficiency. All over town, the air was thick with the scent of orange flowers, pouring from dark green jungles of orchards and ornamental plantings. Beautiful, but unlikely sustainable for much longer. Tempe Town Lake immediately appears to epitomize profligate water use, but upon reading up on it, it simple seems to be the damming of winter flood waters.

It was really exciting to see lots of saguaros though!

What do you know about water use in the Southwest?
Do residential water prices approximate the real costs of this resource?
How does water get rationed between different stakeholders in and outside of major cities?

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