Drilling Deeper Won’t Fix This

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People in the lower Colorado River basin are now witnessing drastic cuts to their allotments. In many cases, developers find alternate sources of water by drilling into underground aquifers. But in places like Pinal County, Arizona, that groundwater is already becoming scarce. We hear from Stephen Q. Miller, who sits on both the Pinal County Board of Supervisors and the board for the Central Arizona Pipeline. Without sufficient water for crops, and facing some of the highest temperatures on record, he says farmers in his area will fallow up to 70 per cent of their land this year.

As Phoenix and its outlying suburbs start limiting development because of water shortages, those who stay put rely increasingly on wells and groundwater.

Arizona State University professor Kathryn Sorensen explains why consuming water from deeper wells is one solution – but it’s not ideal. The ancient freshwater underneath much of Arizona will never be replenished during our lifetimes. With high-tech cloud computing centers and some of the world’s biggest microchip manufacturers expanding their reach — and water use — we look at the desert future of the southwest.

With increasing water scarcity across the lower Colorado River basin states, we look at the technology of the future – and the role of cloud computing centers. How much water do they consume, and what does that mean for people in water-stressed areas? Amazon Web Services has set a goal to become water-positive by the year 2030, and we hear how the company is recycling and re-using water, with Will Hewes, AWS’ Global Lead on Water Sustainability.

Outside Phoenix, Intel Corporation has been a presence for more than four decades, with two recent expansions of its 700-acre campus in the desert. Those expansions allow Intel to manufacture more of the microchips that we rely on in modern life, powering everything from cell phones to automobiles. We hear from Intel vice-president and chief sustainability officer Todd Brady. He says the public-private partnership Intel struck years ago with the city of Chandler, AZ means a more sustainable, predictable supply of recycled water.

Water scarcity is also having a profound effect on the desert south’s political landscape. In this episode, we hear from Kathleen Ferris, a senior research fellow at ASU’s Kyl Center for Water Policy, and we check in with Patrick Adams, water policy advisor to Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs.

Our last word in this episode goes to the University of Arizona’s Kathy Jacobs, director of the Center for Climate Adaptation Science and Solutions.

Guest Bios

Stephen Q. MillerStephen Q. Miller

An Arizona native and resident of Pinal County for more than 45 years, Supervisor Miller took office in January 2013 as Supervisor of District 3 representing the Casa Grande region. Supervisor Miller was nominated by his peers on the board to be the first Chairman of the now five-member Pinal County Board of Supervisors.

Supervisor Miller previously served more than ten years on the Casa Grande City Council, giving him valuable experience in public service, budget management, and leading the government out of more than one fiscal crisis.

Kathryn SorensenKathryn Sorensen

Kathryn served for many years as Director of Phoenix Water Services as well as Director of the City of Mesa Water Resources Department. In these roles she was responsible for the delivery of safe, clean, reliable water for millions of Arizonans, and significantly advanced the sustainable management of water resources in Arizona and the Colorado River basin. She earned a PhD in Agricultural and Resource Economics from Texas A&M University and a Bachelor of Arts in Economics from the University of Michigan. In her position at Arizona State University, she oversees the research efforts of the Kyl Center for Water Policy, serves as a Professor of Practice at the Watts College of Public Service and Community Solutions, and contributes to the Global Futures Laboratory.

Will HewesWill Hewes

Will is the Global Lead for Water Sustainability at Amazon Web Services (AWS), a role he has held since 2019. In his current role, Will is pursuing his passion for sustainable water systems by building a water stewardship program that will reduce AWS’s global water footprint and support projects to restore watersheds and expand water availability in communities where AWS operates.

Prior to joining Amazon, Will held roles at two mission-driven organizations related to his values and passion for climate-smart planning and water conservation. He served as director of Table Rock Infrastructure Partners from 2013-2019 and as Associate Director for American Rivers from 2006-2011. He received his MBA from the University of California, Berkeley in 2013 and his BA in International Environmental Policy from Brown University in 2005.

Todd BradyTodd Brady

Todd Brady is the Chief Sustainability Officer for Intel Corporation, and Vice President of Global Public Affairs. As Chief Sustainability Officer, he leads Intel’s global sustainability initiatives including climate, energy, water, green buildings and circular economy.

Currently, Todd’s organization is focused on achieving Intel’s ambitious 2030 sustainability goals and commitment to achieve net zero greenhouse gas emissions in Intel’s global operations by 2040.

During his 25+ year career at Intel, Todd has represented the company in numerous public forums and led industry-wide initiatives in national and international committees. He has authored several papers in scientific journals and conference proceedings on a variety of sustainability topics. He was named by Scientific American as one of ten outstanding leaders involved in research, business or policy pursuits that have advanced science and technology and one of the world’s top 20 sustainability leaders by Sustainability Magazine.

Todd holds a Bachelor of Science in Chemical Engineering from Brigham Young University and a Master of Science in Environmental Engineering from the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign. He lives in Gilbert Arizona with his family, and in his spare time can be found running or biking the streets and trails of the Grand Canyon state.

Kathleen FerrisKathleen Ferris

Kathleen Ferris has been involved with Arizona water issues for nearly 40 years. She was appointed executive director of the Arizona Groundwater Management Study Commission in 1977, culminating in passage of the 1980 Arizona Groundwater Management Act, which is heralded as one of the nation’s most visionary laws for managing groundwater. She served for five years as chief counsel of the newly formed Arizona Department of Water Resources before being appointed in 1985 by Governor Bruce Babbitt to be the Department’s director. Formerly Executive Director of the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association, Ferris continues to serve as the Association’s legal counsel. She earned her juris doctor degree at the S.J. Quinney College of Law at the University of Utah in Salt Lake City.

Patrick AdamsPatrick Adams

Patrick Adams is the Water Policy Advisor to Arizona Governor Katie Hobbs. Prior to joining the Governor’s Office, he served as Water Policy Advisor at the Arizona Municipal Water Users Association (AMWUA), providing policy expertise on behalf of Arizona’s largest municipal water providers. Patrick was responsible for the legislative and water resource policy programs and represented AMWUA across all levels of government. Before joining AMWUA, Patrick was an environmental scientist at the Arizona Department of Environmental Quality where he administered and enforced the state’s Aquifer Protection Permit Program and Recycled Water regulations. Patrick is a graduate of Utah State University where he received a bachelor’s degree in Environmental Studies from the Quinney College of Natural Resources and a bachelor’s degree in Economics from the Jon M. Huntsman School of Business.

Kathy JacobsKathy Jacobs

Katharine Jacobs is the Director of the Center for Climate Adaptation Science and Solutions (CCASS) at the University of Arizona. CCASS builds and supports climate change adaptation and assessment capacity, connects science with decision-making, and works with stakeholders to build collaborative, practical solutions to climate-related problems. Jacobs is a professor in Environmental Science and holds appointments in Geography and Regional Development and Hydrology and Water Resources. She was the director of the National Climate Assessment in the Obama Administration for four years and served as a White House water policy and adaptation advisor. Current activities include managing the Colorado River Conversations Project; hosting and facilitating a wide range of adaptation-related workshops, events and symposia; public presentations to multiple audiences; teaching adaptation and assessment. She serves on a standing National Academies board, has been a chair or panelist on nine Academies committees, and serves on fifteen advisory committees.