Could Phoenix survive a water crisis?

There is a limited and shrinking supply, growing demand, and a long-run picture that looks, from many angles, hopelessly apocalyptic. Inside the elaborate, diverse, and ever-evolving effort to manage water in what some have called “America’s least sustainable city.”

An hour north of Phoenix, Arizona, Chip Norton drives his truck toward the Verde River. Norton spent the last decade of his career as a public works contractor for water facilities. He retired in 2008. Even so, at 9 a.m. on a Saturday in early June, he is already immersed in his new work, checking on barley fields.

Norton leaves the paved road and traces along a grain field. He parks and steps from the truck, his boots raising dust.

“Amber waves of grain,” he says, moving into a golden ocean of stalks. “All this is malt barley.”

Norton plucks a barley head and spins it between his fingers. One of his business partners, Hauser and Hauser Farms, will start to harvest this crop about a week after I meet him, when its moisture level falls a notch or two below 15 percent. “In Arizona,” Norton says, “that’s not a problem.”

Norton is the president of two-year-old Sinagua Malt. He […]

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Could Phoenix survive a water crisis?
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Could Phoenix survive a water crisis?
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Inside the elaborate, diverse and ever-evolving effort to manage water in what some have called "America's least sustainable city." That's Phoenix, Arizona.
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