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.”
Image Credit: Flickr – Stella Blu