The Intersection of Water and Industry in Arizona: How New Jobs Also Equals New Challenges

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Two issues have taken a lot of real estate at the Arizona Progress & Gazette are water and industry. Usually they end up being separated because they are nuanced-enough subjects in their own right, but occasionally they merge, and in one particular case it spells out the massive potential challenges that await our state.

For those of you who use YouTube (which is the majority of every age group), you may be aware of the channel RealLifeLore. They have well over 7 million subscribers and specialize in long-form, detailed videos typically about geopolitics. When they cover a specific topic, you know it will be a very deep dive, and you know that you will learn a lot.

Thankfully, they recently graced us with a video about the Phoenix area. And regardless of how much you think you know about the area, you are certain to learn a lot. And in this case, what we learned was right at the intersection of water and commerce.

We have spoken about the massive investment into the area’s semiconductor industry, one that helps make us a national leader in the industry as well as a critical aspect of national security (here’s one piece). RealLifeLore makes a point of mentioning how incredibly water-intensive the semiconductor industry is; an extremely thirsty industry growing exponentially in a desert.

So how do we resolve this? Israeli corporation IDE Technologies has a solution: desalinization. They have helped flood Israel with desalinized water from the Mediterranean Sea, and recently they have proposed building a massive plant in the Sea of Cortez, in Mexico south of western Arizona, and then build a pipeline up to Maricopa County. It would be at a cost of $5 billion, but with unknown water bills payable to IDE, essentially putting their water security in the hands of a foreign corporation.

Additionally, building a pipeline over hundreds of miles and in two nations is absolutely certain to be a regulatory nightmare. Not online do both federal governments and both state governments need to be in agreement, but then there are environmental concerns. It would cross through the Organ Pipe National Park, and would also imperil sea life in the Sea of Cortez as water is extracted and salt put back into the sea.

Yes, becoming the center of the semiconductor universe, as Arizona is inching towards, is absolutely a great thing. But more semiconductors, more problems, and the potential solutions only bring up additional problems.