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Artificial Snow From Sewage Water At Arizona Snowbowl Resort: All Systems Go

09/27/2012 12:12 pm ET | Updated Sep 28, 2012

Pure as the freshly driven ... sewage?

This winter the Arizona Snowbowl resort will reportedly make its artificial snow from reclaimed sewage water (h/t Newser). That's right. If Mother Nature doesn't cooperate with a bounty of white stuff, skiers will be gliding on frozen former refuse.

The Flagstaff-area ski site is moving forward with its plan after a legal victory in February, the New York Times reported. It will become the first to use 100 percent sewage effluent to make the fake flakes.

Again, the wastewater has been treated. So maybe the black diamond sign on some runs doesn't need to be accompanied by the skull-and-crossbones toxic warning. The U.S. Forest Service, which owns the land, told the Times the liquid is just a grade below drinking water. And, besides, it's already being used on the local soccer fields and golf courses.

That's of little relief to the opposition, however. Throughout the process -- which involved clearing 75 acres of forest to build a pipeline from a sewage plant in Flagstaff -- environmentalists cried foul, and local tribes said the wastewater would contaminate sacred land, according to previous reports.

In August a man perched in a tree to protest the project. James Kennedy, 26, eventually came down during a lightning storm, the Associated Press reported, but his activism again highlighted concerns that the reclaimed water may contain antibiotic-resistant genes.

Last December, six protesters made plea deals to avoid jail time when they interfered with construction, the Daily Sun reported. Arizona Snowbowl general manager J.R. Murray said at the time that the resort would seek compensation for the delays.

Snowmaking with any kind of water has been under scrutiny. In 2007 the Times of London weighed the conundrum of snowmaking: It's needed in times of less water yet it requires a lot of water. "It is wasteful, energy-inefficient and environmentally indefensible," the paper wrote. "A single ski resort needs as much electricity as a small village just to keep its snowmaking systems going, and they are insatiable consumers of water. To cover one hectare (or 2.5 acres) of a snow slope, which may last less than a day, a snowmaking system needs 880 gallons of water."

But artificial snow is a reality and a possible business saver for the resorts and the communities around them. “Everyone does well when the ski area does well,” Murray told the Times.

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