A ski resort in Arizona has been angling to use artificial snow to bolster its slopes for the last seven years, but a slew of legal issues has prevented them from doing so – until now. After the Hopi tribe withdrew a longstanding lawsuit, which argued that the resort defiles sacred land, the Arizona Snowbowl resort in Flagstaff used treated wastewater to create a fresh layer of fluffy white snow for the first time.
Arizona Snowbowl leases 700 acres of land from the U.S. Forest Service but local tribes claim that the peak now covered with treated effluent is sacred to no fewer than 13 American Indian tribes. Just before Christmas, several protestors were arrested near the site, according to NPR.
After years of fighting a losing legal battle, a new argument surfaced that the treated effluent could be damaging to a threatened plant and encourage a host of new antibiotic-resistant genes, though most scientists agree that treated wastewater is perfectly safe. However, the City of Flagstaff responded to these criticisms by suggesting it would investigate more powerful filtration equipment.
The U.S. Forest Service says that using treated wastewater is the most economically and environmentally responsible thing to do in such a water scarce state.