Set in Phoenix and published in 2015, the book “The Water Knife” describes a dystopian future where water is scarce, the suburbs are ghost towns and refugees from drought-stricken Texas stream across the borders. A year earlier, an article in the Smithsonian magazine prophetically warned “Arizona could run out of water in six years.”
Which makes you wonder why Bill Gates has coughed up $80 million to help develop a planned community of Belmont, on 25,000 acres of land in the desert west of Phoenix, he’s dubbing a “smart city.” Temperatures in nearby Phoenix last summer reached 117 degrees.
According to a 2017 study by the water conservation nonprofit Western Resource Advocates, up to 40% of the Colorado River (which supplies Arizona) could dry up by 2050, making parts of the state uninhabitable. An agreement made in the 1960s mandated that among those drinking from the Colorado River, Arizona would be the first state to ration water.
To legally build Gates project, the developers would need to prove that the area has a 100-year assured water supply. Quoted by Business Insider, Western Resource Advocates’ Drew Beckwith predicts this will be difficult.
“Ready-made cities generally falter, because they lack a sense of place, authenticity, and distinctiveness. They are like an Epcot version of a city,” said Tom Jones, founder of Smart City Consulting.
“There’s not much that’s smart about trying to land even more people on the deep suburban edge in the desert,” warned Brent Toderian of Toderian Urbanworks. “In a land-use sense, that’s trying to put high-tech makeup on an unsustainable pig.”
A letter to the Arizona Daily Star hit the nail on the head. “The Daily Star reports that billionaire Bill Gates intends to build a “Smart City” almost as large as Tempe in the Phoenix area. It will have “driverless cars, endless data centers and buildings totally designed around technology and high-speed internet.” Tucson, my city, is totally designed around water usage. Does Mr. Gates plan to consume water or just data? I think my city is “smarter”.
“Comparable in square miles and projected population to Tempe, Arizona, Belmont will transform a raw, blank slate into a purpose-built edge city built around a flexible infrastructure model,” real estate investment company Belmont Properties proclaimed.
If Bill Gates is so smart one wonders why he is investing in a massive city project in a state which is both getting hotter annually and drying up as time progresses?
“She’d been tracking Phoenix residents, their hashtags and commentaries, for years. A proxy map for the city’s implosion. Virtual echoes of a physical disaster. In her own mind she imagined Phoenix as a sinkhole, sucking everything down — buildings, lives, streets, history — all of it tipping and spilling into the gaping maw of disaster.” – from “The Water Knife”.