Icky twist to climate change: Arizona ski resort uses sewage water to make artificial snow

Environmental groups, Indian tribes oppose plan

FLAGSTAFF, Ariz. - In what some call an icky twist to climate change, Arizona Snowbowl this ski season will become the first resort in the world to use 100 percent sewage effluent to make artificial snow.

The New York Times reports that in February, a federal appeals court ruled in favor of the Arizona ski resort’s expansion plans that include clear-cutting 74 acres of forest and piping treated sewage effluent onto a mountain to make snow.

The decision ends a long legal battle waged by a coalition of environmental groups and 13 American Indian tribes, which consider the mountain sacred and view the wastewater snow as a desecration.

"It's a disaster, culturally and environmentally,” Taylor McKinnon of the Center for Biological Diversity, one of the plaintiffs, told the Times.

McKinnon said he worries about the impact on the delicate alpine tundra and to human health should skiers fall into the treated sewer-water snow and ingest it.

But in drought-stricken Arizona, using recycled effluent will ensure snow coverage throughout the ski season and pump money into neighboring Flagstaff, which contracted to sell Snowbowl the water from its sewage treatment plant, the newspaper reported.

The United States Forest Service, which owns the land where the resort is, says the treated water meets the highest standards -- just below drinking water -- and is already used to irrigate golf courses, soccer fields and parks.

"Snow-making has become necessary because of climate change," Corbin Newman, a regional forester, told the Times.

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