As arid Arizona scrambles to quench the thirst of a rapidly expanding population, officials are eying the Sonoran seaside in Mexico as a potential wellspring for future demand.
But whether the Mexican state and federal governments would be on board with the arrangement — and the hefty infrastructure such a project would require — remains to be seen.
“I am going to defend the interests of Sonorans. That is my responsibility,” Sonora Gov. Alfonso Durazo said at a recent press conference, describing the plans as “utter absurdity.”
At the core of the project, proposed by Israel-based IDE Technologies, would be a $5 billion desalination plant rooted in the resort city of Puerto Peñasco. While some of the treated water would go to Sea of Cortez coastal towns, most of it would be piped 200 miles north to the Phoenix area.
“We’re still very early in this process,” Chuck Podolak, the newly hired director of the Water Infrastructure Finance Authority of Arizona (WIFA), an independent agency established by the state legislature last year, told The Hill. “It’s a complicated project, with complicated politics and permitting on both sides of the border.”
Cross-border tensions began mounting at the end of January, when Durazo denied any involvement in the plans, appearing to backtrack on previous comments. He was fielding criticism from Sonoran businessman Óscar Serrato, who had resurfaced comments made in December about the governor’s meetings with IDE.
At two separate hearings on Dec. 20, representatives from IDE relayed to WIFA board members and Arizona state legislators the warm reception from Durazo that their project had received.
The project proposal, submitted to WIFA a week prior to the board meeting, outlines an intent to withdraw, desalinate and move water from the Sea of Cortez — with a goal of providing Arizonans with up to 1 million acre-feet annually “for 100 years and more.”
The project’s first phase, which could be online by 2027, would generate up to 300,000 acre-feet of water annually, per the proposal. Only later would the capacity expansion to the upper limit of 1 million-acre foot, which would be enough to fulfill the needs of 3 million households.
At the project’s core would be a desalination plant in Puerto Peñasco, about 60 miles southwest of the Arizona border. While this city, as well as Hermosillo, Sonoyta, and Nogales, would receive some water, most of it would be piped across the border, according to the plans.
Four pumps located on the Mexican side of the border would bolster the uphill portions of the journey, powered predominantly by solar and battery storage, the consortium explained. This arrangement allows the project to circumvent Arizona’s Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument, according to IDE.
Source: El Universal