And there's no question that desire to live in metro Phoenix still burgeons.


One reason Phoenix is picked on as the city with no future, Grady Gammage Jr. says, is its name.

Metro Phoenix gets about half of its water from Apache Lake (seen here) and other lakes on the Salt River reservoir system, providing a buffer against smaller flows from the Colorado River.
Wikimedia Commons/Bernard Gagnon
Metro Phoenix gets about half of its water from Apache Lake (seen here) and other lakes on the Salt River reservoir system, providing a buffer against smaller flows from the Colorado River.
Andrew Ross, a New York University sociology professor, still maintains that Phoenix is the "world's least sustainable city," as his 2011 book states.
Andrew Ross, a New York University sociology professor, still maintains that Phoenix is the "world's least sustainable city," as his 2011 book states.

Either Swilling or another pioneer, Darrell Duppa, both educated in the classics, came up with the moniker to represent the new settlement's rebirth from the old Hohokam town. The English word comes from the similar-sounding term used by the ancient Greeks to describe the myth of the Phoenix bird, which dies before it's reborn from its ashes in an endless cycle.

Nothing about modern civilization truly is sustainable — seven billion people on Earth trying to achieve a First World standard of living isn't sustainable. Phoenix and other modern cities will end at some point, everyone should agree. Climate change, war, and/or other human-caused environmental problems may hasten the end.

But modern Phoenix is maturing from its recent rebirth, not dying.

"The question is how we respond to challenges," Gammage says. "It's not like we're going to dry up and blow away anytime soon."

Marshall Vest, director of the U of A Economic and Business Research Center, says he's heard concerns for 40 years that Phoenix will run out of water, is getting hotter, and generally is damned. And, all the while, the masses have poured in.

The migratory flow of Americans has followed consistent patterns for decades from the Snowbelt to the Sunbelt, and it won't change soon, even if average temperatures increase, he says.

Yes, overnight lows in the Phoenix area have risen dramatically since 1990, by 10 to 15 degrees. The "heat-island effect" of concrete and asphalt trapping solar radiation has made some summer nights here more miserable than they used to be, and it's expected to get worse. But, over the past 23 years, the Valley's population nearly has doubled.

That is, extreme heat doesn't keep people away.

Arizona's population is about 6.5 million, Vest says, and that's projected to rise to about 10 million in the next 30 years. The possibility of severe negative effects from climate change or other calamities isn't factored into the equation, he acknowledges.

The Maricopa Association of Governments also doesn't take into account the possibility of horrendous environmental changes in population projections it's required by law to prepare for the Governor's Office. That's because dramatic changes aren't considered probable in the 30-year time frame considered by planners, says Anubhav Bagley, a MAG statistics and information manager.

The official projections use the best information from state water and climate experts who try to be realistic about potential problems, Bagley says. Based on available data, MAG believes the county will have 6.2 million residents by 2040.

Bagley is impressed by the region's potential for growth, even in bad times. Maricopa County grew by 745,000 people — a 24 percent increase — from 2000 to 2010, a period that includes the economic downturn, he says. Census data shows the county grew by at least a few thousand people in its darkest modern years, from 2008 to 2010.

Smart water management has been key to past growth, and the area will have to be even smarter in the future.

Water managers, regional and city planners, politicians, and activists have struggled for years to build the infrastructure and analyze the complex legal negotiations over water rights that make the average resident's eyeballs glaze over. And average residents, so far, have had nothing to worry about. Water's relatively cheap, its quality's good, and it almost never fails to come out of the faucet.

In the early 20th century, following Swilling's visionary lead, the Phoenix community formed the organization that would evolve into Salt River Project, which manages the Salt and Verde watersheds.

With the feds' help, Roosevelt Dam was completed in 1911. Other dams tamed the wild rivers and formed immense reservoirs in ways that Native Americans couldn't. The Hohokam canals, built along stunningly precise grades, were cleared and modernized with concrete. In 1980, a crisis of pumping too much groundwater was averted with a new law that requires "water banking" back into aquifers. Then came the Central Arizona Project canal, which Congress authorized in 1968 and now provides water to about 40 percent of the state's population.

New development in the state must prove that it has a 100-year water supply before it can be authorized, a standard not required in other states with potential water-shortage problems.

No one can predict the future with certainty, of course. Maybe it never will rain again in Phoenix. However, worst-case scenarios are not likely.

Climate change will be felt gradually, experts say. It may grow hotter over time, but it's already hot here, and a few more degrees won't matter. A dramatic end to rain, snow, and river flow, like the shutting off of a spigot, isn't a realistic prediction.

The worst 14-year period of drought in the past 100 years is taking place now, and scientists predict further reductions in the flows of the Colorado, Salt, Verde, and Gila rivers in the next few years. Releases of Colorado River water from Lake Powell will drop next year to their lowest level since the lake was filled in the 1960s. Yet, officials say, even if poor snowpack persists for another two years and a shortage is declared in 2016, resulting in fewer allocations for farms and underground aquifers, Valley residents would keep receiving their full share of CAP canal water. New development would continue.

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8 comments
johnnymorales1
johnnymorales1

If people ever accept building homes mostly underground with only skylights or a single room above ground then Phoenix will have no problem surviving.


Building underground doesn't require digging deep holes. Homes could still be built above ground for the most part with waterproof materials Etc., and then have dirt heaped around them.


The result if creatively managed would be a collection of hills but with windows and various other decorations that could still be built on the outside just like we do with houses.


The other alternative would be to opt for a building homes using giant quarry blocks instead of the thin walls we currently build and do away with wood entirely for exterior wall construction save for interior home design. 


Developments could take on the look of mini-Petras.


It's our obsession with having a home fully above ground designed with the Midwestern climate in mind, completely exposed to the elements that requires such heavy resource utilization.


Sure we have great insulation today, but it would be completely unnecessary if most of the house we build was underground underground.

.

By keeping most construction underground, the land would not contribute to higher temperatures via hot concrete and asphalt. 

Runoff would be allowed to return to a more natural form and nurture the land replenish the water table like it used to rather than rushing off into the concrete drainage system.

maxplanck0
maxplanck0

It remains to be seen if the groundswell of new immigrants will tolerate the intensity and duration of the summers here. Yes, they have in the past but not everyone makes the transition of their initial summer, "trial by fire." I did, but that was in years past, when Baseline Road was still 2 lanes and populated with citrus groves.

John Cady
John Cady

Where are the breasts though?

Judy Hedding
Judy Hedding

Wow. Five posts in a row without any breasts.

Anita Mahaffey
Anita Mahaffey

The damage is more likely to occur because of the crumbling infrastructure. The Phoenix Metropolitan Area, and especially Mesa, are ignoring the immediate needs of the community. SRP, the County, and the State are "helpless," due to budget constraints. The City of Mesa Mayor's Office is happy to let the existing community languish, while they look for opportunities for new development. The desert, and it's natural inhabitants can't take much more of this abuse, not to mention that the citizenry and law enforcement and safety officials are in constant danger.

DNichols
DNichols

Thank goodness satelite guided Jet Drones are spraying various "Chemtrails" over Metro Phoenix 24/7 to block out U.V. rays, and lower the surface temperature.

Look up People due to this Phony "High Cloud" spraying the temperatures in Phoenix are being manipulated, and are about 5 to 10 degrees cooler than they would be otherwise.

We are countering the adverse effects of man made pollution with yet further man made pollution.

The main "Chemtrails" being sprayed in the air we must breathe now is White Aresol,the more they spray the lower our visibility.

Look around at the White air pollution that matches the color of the "Chemtrails."

This "Chemtrail" spraying will slow the effects of Global Warming for a few more years, however with out it plant life in Phoenix would already be adversly effected.

Look up people it is easy to see if you have both eyes, and an open mind to see reality.

Lockhead Martin had a TV commercial showing a satelite, then the cloud covered Earth, and called it "Climate Control."

Down side to "Chemtrails is Heart Disease, Lung Disease, COPD, Alzhiemners, Dementia, Breast Cancer, and many other Cancers, and Diseases.

 
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