Arizona Ski Resort Uses Treated Sewage Water for Snow

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When the first snow of winter falls, we look forward to our familiar surroundings being covered with a white blanket of fresh powder. This is especially true for avid skiers and snowboarders. 

But one ski resort in Arizona is not leaving it to mother nature to pour some snow on their slopes. Well, they sort of are, but this "mother nature" is of a different kind, the bathroom kind.

The Arizona Snowbowl, just outside of Flagstaff, is the first place in the world to make artificial snow out of 100 percent recycled and treated waste water. Yes, that means treated sewage water.

They started using the flakes in December, but had a disappointing experience as the first snow blown out had a yellowish tinge they said came from rusty pipes.

Though many people have opposed the use of sewage water at the resort, others say it is completely fine and not dangerous. 

The water is first treated by going through a series of tanks that decompose the bacteria. Then they put that through filters and sterilize it with ultraviolet light. Finally, it is blown out onto the slopes as snow.

Resort managers said the water is very high quality and just below the type that is safe for drinking.

Mark Richardson, operations manager for Flagstaff utilities, said, "It is clean, there are no health effects being exposed to it, or anything like that. We get a good response from people that want to use it."

He said that it has also added the huge benefit of saving water.

"We're saving tremendous amounts of water," he said. "The 1.8 million gallons a day of reclaimed water replaces about 1.8 million gallons of drinking water."

J.R. Murray, the general manager, said that the only problem with using the water is the "ick factor."

"We believed that we could overcome that with our skiers. In fact, we have. And there's been no resistance," he said.

"Most usual skiers up here are ok with it because, I mean, it's still snow."

But their plan to use the treated sewage water had to go through a few legal battles before it was approved.

Some environmentalists claim the water is full of pharmaceuticals and chemicals that have an unknown effect on the mountain's ecosystem.

Native American tribes have also protested the idea, as the mountain where the resort stands is on sacred ground, and they believe the use of effluent water is desecrating it.

Klee Benally, an activist and member of the Navajo tribe, said, "Our culture can still be reduced to something that is less important than the profit margin on a ski resort."

NYTimes, DailyMail