Arizona Water Pioneers – William Beardsley

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William Beardsley (left) and his son Robert Beardsley, around 1920. (Photo courtesy of Library of Congress, HAER ARIZ, 7 -PHEN.V, 5.8)

Like a late-blooming teenager, 19th century Arizona was still trying to define itself.  Soldiers, miners and rugged pioneers gradually made their way to Arizona to begin life anew in a challenging landscape. These early pioneers quickly realized water was both the key to their survival as well as a powerful force to reckon with. Water, in the Arizona territory, was a double edged sword – there was either too much or too little.

By the late 1800’s, entrepreneurs and visionaries realized Arizona needed consistent, reliable and controlled sources of water to kick-start its growth. In their mind, the best way to meet this goal was by damming rivers and building canals to deliver water where it was needed. Tens of thousands of men were involved in engineering and building dams and canals from one end of the state to the other. One man, unknown to many current Arizonans, devoted a large part of his life to ensuring central Arizona would have the water it needed.  This man was William Beardsley.

What was notable about Beardsley was the fortitude with which he pursued his mission of building a dam and canals to store and divert water.  He would endure a series of setbacks over a 40+ year period that would culminate in a controversial, multiple-arch dam harnessing the Aqua Fria River. Such long term persistence and commitment is a rarely seen among men in any age.

Beardsley was part of a group of “speculative businessmen” who banded together to privately develop the Aqua Fria River. They wanted to harness the river by building a reservoir, diversion dam and series of distribution canals. Work on the diversion dam and canals began in 1892 but stopped 3 years later due to lack of funds. To make matters worse, in the fall of 1895 a flood tore away the west side of the preliminary dam. Things looked bleak. Beardsley was unable to raise money and legal complaints from unpaid contractors forced him into bankruptcy.

The story could have ended here but in a fairy-tale twist, a group of Beardsley’s associates from Ohio took possession of the assets and deeded them back to him so he could continue work on the project. For years he tried to restart the endeavor but the project remained stalled.

As 1902 approached, he started to run into issues with the federal government, specifically with the Department of Interior and the newly found Reclamation Service (now called the Bureau of Reclamation) who was the 800-pound gorilla in Arizona’s water world. Technicalities with surveys and public lands would hold the project up for another 17 years.

Finally in 1919, construction began on a multiple-arch dam designed by engineer Carl Pleasant. This style of dam was selected due to its strength and economy to build. William Beardsley died in 1925 and his son Robert would ultimately finish the project. The dam would be named the Carl Pleasant Dam in 1926 and then renamed the Waddell Dam in 1964 after an investor from New York.

More issues would follow the construction of the dam. Cracks appeared in the buttresses of the dam and much controversy loomed over its safety.  Several engineers poured over plans and reviewed the integrity of the dam. None seemed to agree on the significance of the cracks. Ultimately, modifications were made to ensure the dam’s safety. The required upgrades were completed in 1936.

Historically this dam was unique because it was the only Salt River Valley water storage project successfully completed by a private interest. All the other central Arizona water storage schemes were developed with federal government assistance.  It was also the world’s tallest multiple-arch dam; quite an accomplishment for a private outfit.

Today the project is known as the Maricopa Water District (MWD) which provides power and water service to 60 square mile area west of Phoenix. The new Waddell Dam (built in 1994 and successor to the original Waddell Dam) and resulting Lake Pleasant hold 157,600 acre-feet of water. Water is feed through the 33 mile Beardsley canal and diverted for use through a series of laterals and sub-lateral piping. This lateral piping system is almost 100 miles long. The MWD also has an “interconnect” with the Central Arizona Project (CAP) for collaborative use of the regions water.

What started out as a construction project with his brother George, turned into a multi-generational water business with his son, Robert. Thanks to the fortitude and sheer determination of William Beardsley, the Phoenix area will have water and power for generations to come as well as a beautiful lake for recreation.

Beardsley family – Arizona thanks you!

Bibliography:

  1. Waddell Dam (Pleasant Dam). “Photographs – Written Historical and Descriptive Data”, Historic American Engineering Record, National Park Service, Western Region, Department of the Interior, San Francisco, California, HAER-ARIZ-7-PHEN.V.5.
  2. Giordano, Gerald. “Images of America – Lake Pleasant”. Arcadia Publishing, Charleston, SC, 2009.

Abracadabra – Water from Thin Air!

Technologies are now available which can create water from air – or so they say.  The idea may not be so far-fetched. After all, clouds are merely water vapor floating in the sky. But is this technology viable? Can the sky’s moisture really be harnessed in quantities large enough for human consumption? Let’s take a look.

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About a decade ago an Australian man, Max Whisson, garnered a lot of attention for his wind powered machine which could produce water from air. His contraption, initially called the “Whisson Windmill”, harnessed wind to turn vertically aligned blades on his uniquely designed windmill. The turning blades were cooled with refrigerant and had a special coating applied which allowed the condensate (water) to run-off the blades and be collected.  Whisson claimed his machine could produce 2600 gallons of water from the air per day.1

Some people discounted Whisson’s claims and calculations. On the “SkepticForum” website, blogger “Major Malfunction” contested Whisson’s production estimates of “around 7,000 liters per day, even in a light breeze”.2 Using math “which a 16-year-old school kid should be capable of doing in a matter of minutes”, Major Malfunction showed Whisson was off by three orders of magnitude in his production calculations.3

The skeptical blogger may have been onto something. In spite of the flurry of press Whisson received for his invention, he apparently never got any financial backing to bring his idea to fruition. The website related to his patented invention, MAX WATER at “waterunlimited.com” essentially goes nowhere and doesn’t provide any useful information. However, there is a wiki site (PESwiki.com) that offers some additional insight on Whisson’s patents and provides a listing of 2007 news reports on his windmill idea.4

Another water-from-air technology which made US headlines in 2006 is called AquaMagic. Jonathan Wright and David Richards developed “a machine that filters air, condenses the moisture in it, purifies the water and then dispenses it from a spigot on the side” of a trailer. 5 Their intention was to “help first responders and emergency personnel get the hydration they need to do their jobs” at large-scale events, such as Hurricane Katrina.6 The inventors toured 183 cities within the hurricane zone of the United States and also went to South Africa to see if there machine would work well in that environment.7

The AquaMagic machine is pricey with machines staring at $35,000. While they can produce about 120 gallons (1,000 16 oz bottles) of water per day, they use 50 gallons of diesel fuel during the process, making this technology less sustainable than Whisson’s Windmill which solely relies on wind power.8 Scientists and Public Health professionals pointed out that while the AquaMagic machine does have merit, “there are cheaper and easier ways to provide large-scale water purification if cleanliness is the main issue.”9

A broader online review of water-from-air technology shows very few viable options. Most of the designs referenced on the web went to non-functioning websites or broken links. The assumption being these ideas never got any traction. (See “The Conscious Media Network” referencing designs by airwatercorp.com, vapaire.com, globalrainbox.com and others.10)

However, could we have stumbled upon a new conspiracy theory? Maybe the designs were so innovative the patents were bought by international corporate water interests and squashed in perpetuity to maintain a worldwide strangle-hold on water markets. After all, financial projections for the bottled water industry expect the demand to reach $279.65 billion US dollars by 2020.11 Sounds almost believable, doesn’t it?

As it stands now, the only water-from-air technology which seems to have a current market is manufactured by Aqua Sciences of Florida. Their technology runs air over a salt compound which attracts and binds water molecules. A “proprietary hygroscopic water extraction process” removes the salt concentrate from the liquid to create pure water.12

A quick review of the Aqua Sciences website reveals award-winning technology which was field tested during the disastrous Haitian earthquake in 2010 and also in the Saudi Arabian deserts. Their website implies a contract with the US Military on their “Our Products” page and boasts of coverage by major television networks such as Fox News, CNN, NPR, ABC, NBC and the Wall Street Journal.

Could Aqua Sciences really be a viable and scalable option to pull water from the sky? Guess we’ll have to wait and see. While the Aqua Sciences website is still up and running, the most recent online news seems to be from 2015. Wonder if they’ll be bought out by global water interests too?

References

  1. Josh Clark “Why can’t we manufacture water?” Posted 2 November 2007. HowStuffWorks.com. Accessed 6 February 2017
  2. The Skeptic Forums Society. “Whisson’s Windmill” blog by “Major Malfunction.” Posted 11 June 2007. Accessed 6 February 2017.
  3. Ibid.
  4. Munsey, Andrew (editor). “Directory: Max Whisson’s Gust Water Trap Apparatus.” Posted 14 June 2016. PESWiki.com. Accessed 6 February 2017.
  5. Struglinski, Suzanne. “Make water out of air? Utahn goes with the flow” Posted 1 October 2006. Deseretnews.com. Accessed 7 February 2017.
  6. Ibid.
  7. Ibid.
  8. Ibid.
  9. Ibid.
  10. Tresnor, Jules (web master). “The Conscious Media Network.” Posted 2007. Tesla3.com “Human > Water from Air”. Accessed 7 February 2017
  11. Transparency Market Research. “Bottled Water Market – Global Industry Analysis, Size, Share, Growth, Trends and Forecast 2016 – 2024.” Posted 13 October 2016. transparencymarketresearch.com. Accessed 7 February 2017
  12. “Aqua Sciences – Global Leader in Atmospheric Water Generation” Posted 2015. com. Accessed 7 February 2017

Cow-tastrophe in the Making – Environmental Impacts of the Cattle Industry.

Years ago I remember reading reports on the connection between the cattle industry and global warming.  The articles spoke about how cow flatulence (cow farts) produced excessive amounts of methane, one of the worst gases contributing to global warming.  I dismissed the stories mainly because the reporters’ irreverent slants on cow farts impacting our atmosphere seemed laughable.  Now I’m not so sure.

Recently I watched the document “Cowspiracy” by Kip Andersen and was shocked by some of the information revealed. I’ve watched many, many documentaries and have been involved in the environmental movement for decades, but Andersen’s movie left me with an immediate visceral impact. If true, the cattle industry is one of the leading causes of not only climate change but habitat destruction, water pollution and other impending ecological crises.

How could I have missed this HUGE ominous impact to our global ecosystem? Was I living under a rock? I had to know more.

I set to work researching peer-reviewed scientific information on the environmental impacts of this industry. I wish I could report Andersen’s movie was off-base but I can’t. In fact, the information I found was personally devastating. It immediately made me question some of my own behaviors which may be having a bigger impact on the environment than I could ever imagine.  After years and years of conserving, recycling and being an environmental advocate, it seems my good intentions have been short sighted.

Recently, my blogs have been focusing on water use and contamination issues from hydraulic fracking.  I know the fracking industry uses a huge amount of water – 100 billion gallons of water every year in the US – but I was shocked by Andersen’s disclosure that animal agriculture uses 34 TRILLION gallons of water annually in the US – 340 times that of fracking! WOW!

He points out that our personal (domestic use) of water in the US accounts for only 5% of the total water use but agriculture uses 55% of all the water in the economy. Yet all the conservation efforts proposed by the EPA and other groups are focused on getting us to reduce our personal consumption of water. Clearly the focus needs to be elsewhere.

Recent attention has been given to the concept of “embedded water” which is the hidden water needed to create a product. A National Geographic website page called “The Hidden Water We Use” reveals that 1,799 gallons of water are used to produce one pound of beef. This figure includes 6.6 pounds of grain for feed plus irrigation water, 36.2 pounds of roughage or grasses for feed plus irrigation water and 18.6 gallons of water for drinking and processing per pound of beef.

According to the Home Water Works Organization website, the average American shower uses 17.2 gallons and lasts 8.2 minutes.  If we assume a quarter pound burger uses 450 gallons of water, then just one burger is equivalent to almost one month of daily showers. What an eye-opener!

Consider the larger impact on our globe. McDonalds sells 6,480,000 burgers per day world-wide. If we assume they are all quarter pound patties, then 2.9 billion gallons of water have been used to produce this daily allotment. Now multiply that by all the other burger chains and restaurants selling hamburgers. Now add the steakhouses… Get the picture?  It’s the domino effect on our water supplies.

Clearly our conservation focus should also be on our food consumption habits and not just our home. I’m not saying don’t conserve water at home. Let’s face it, wasting water is wasting water. There’s no need for it. However, if we can make a greater impact on protecting our water resources by changing our diet, isn’t it worth it? Especially when almost all nutritionists purport that a plant based diet is better for our health and is also environmentally sustainable, unlike cattle production.

Of course the water resource issue of the cattle industry is just one small piece of the bigger environmental puzzle. I encourage you to watch Kip Andersen’s “Cowspiracy” documentary for some startling conclusions to this controversy. You can stream it on Netflix or purchase it online.

Also, consider downloading the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations report entitled “Livestock’s Long Shadow – Environmental Issues and Options” (2006). This information is too important not to know.

What if by changing our diet we could nip climate change in the bud? Would you do it?