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Arizona Ski Resort Could Make Snow From Recycled Sewage

Arizona Ski Resort Could Make Snow From Recycled Sewage


Ski resorts have been manufacturing artificial snow for years. It’s a practice that’s especially common in regions for which several feet of snowpack is a hard thing to come by. Even ski areas in the Rocky Mountain use snow makers to pacify eager skiers when Mother Nature refuses to cooperate.

So it’s no surprise that the Snowbowl Ski Resort in Flagstaff, Arizona–a literal desert–depends heavily on artificial snow making to stay in business. What’s more surprising is the resource that the resort wants to use to manufacture its snow: wastewater.

The City of Flagstaff recently agreed to sell the resort 1.5 million gallons of wastewater per day from a local treatment plant. In order to utilize the wastewater for snow making, the resort plans to construct a 15-mile pipeline that will transport the water from the city to a reservoir.

Aside from all the “don’t eat the yellow snow” jokes that might apply here, some in the Flagstaff area have voiced their opposition to the resorts plan because of potentially serious environmental effects. After all, there’s a reason that you aren’t allowed to water your lawn with water from the sewer.

Fast Company reports that The Coconino National Forest’s environmental impact statement for the project contains a laundry list of potential problems: visible “scarring” of the local landscape, increased local noise levels from the snowmaking machines, the potential to change soil chemistry and moisture, and destruction of wildlife habitats.

Additionally, a lawsuit has been filed by the Hopi Tribe on behalf of the 13 Native American tribes worship at the San Francisco Peaks–the inactive volcano range that is home to Snowbowl. The tribe claims that the land is sacred and not to be defiled by the introduction of “soiled water.”

“Restrictions on limiting human contact with wastewater cannot be met,” wrote the tribe in a statement, “and harm to the unique alpine environment in the area, including rare animals and plants, cannot be prevented. The contract is also illegal under Arizona law because it will result in unreasonable environmental degradation and will further deplete limited drinking water resources.”

Related Reading:

Saving The Snow: Skiing Industry Sets Sustainable Example

Arizona Teacher Fired Over Bumper Sticker

U.S. Cities Fight Back Against Water Pollution

Image Credit: Flickr – Stella Blu

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8:56PM PST on Dec 6, 2011

I'm sorry, but no, yuck.

9:50AM PDT on Aug 30, 2011

Extra incentive not to fall!!

3:00PM PDT on Aug 29, 2011

It's not like the snow won't melt. The same problems that exist with sewage water will be present when it's snow or post-snow.

12:43PM PDT on Aug 29, 2011

Would not want to ski on that! Imagine getting some in your mouth,ewwww!

2:09PM PDT on Aug 28, 2011

We are going to have to open our minds to new ideas. Many municipalities get their drinking water from rivers. These are the same rivers that sewage overflow and sewer plants dump into. They sanitize it and we end up drinking it. We have to recycle there is no way we can supply a dessert community with the amount of water it is consuming.

1:24PM PDT on Aug 28, 2011


7:26PM PDT on Aug 27, 2011

no, no and no....

1:08PM PDT on Aug 27, 2011

Arizona wants to de-regulate EVERYTHING... including the right to vote for anyone who's not a caucasian. What on earth makes anyone think this snow out of pee-water will be any less ridiculous than their other environmental practices? Without exception, every timeI've gone to Arizona in the past 15 years, I've come down with something. Summer, Winter, Spring or Fall... it never mattered. I'd spend 3-5 days there visiting my relatives, and I'd start to feel ill and have to leave for California immediately... before I ended up too sick to drive. The past few years my family was alive, I even took my own cold water in glass bottles, and stayed out of hotel casinos, in case the germs I always seems to come in contact with were in the hotel A/C vents. But I continued to catch whatever it is, that's there. So I don't go anymore.

3:21PM PDT on Aug 26, 2011

I think they are nuts. I would not want to play in sewer water even if it went through a treatment process which would probably not be 100% safe all the time.

3:04PM PDT on Aug 26, 2011


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