Science | December 24, 2022 6:30 am

Could the Solution to Arizona’s Drought Involve the Pacific Ocean?

The project has yet to be approved

Sea of Cortez
John Steinbeck fans, take note: it's the Sea of Cortez.
Kirt Edblom, CC BY-SA 2.0

If you’ve been following water levels in the western U.S. in recent years, you’ve probably noticed something: drought conditions abound. In Arizona, this has been the case for a long time: the state’s Climate Office notes that the drought currently affecting the state began in 1994, which means that it’s been happening for as long as at least one member of Congress has been alive.

As you might expect, climate change isn’t helping the situation — in fact, it’s making things worse. That, in turn, raises the question of what, if anything, Arizona can do to alleviate those conditions. As per a recent article in The Washington Post, one option that’s on the table right now involves ocean water — albeit water that’s had its salt removed.

The article details an ambitious proposal from IDE Technologies, a company based in Israel that specializes in desalinization plants. (The company is responsible for the largest such facility in China, for example, which is located in Tianjin.) But the proposed location of the plant, which would extract water from the Sea of Cortez, adds logistical challenges to the process.

As the article notes, the water would travel north from Mexico to Arizona via 200 miles of pipeline. There are some lingering questions over the project’s effect on the environment as well, from the impact of extracting water from the ocean to the proposed water pipeline’s route through the Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument.

The fate of the project remains up in the air at present, but the stakes appear to be increasing dramatically with each year. As with many things involving the climate and fraught ecosystems, there are few easy answers here.