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Bill Gates Just Bought 25,000 Acres in the Arizona Desert (kgw.com) 311

What's the world's second-richest man up to now? A Phoenix news station reports: One of Bill Gates' investment firms has spent $80 million to kickstart the development of a brand-new community in Arizona's far West Valley. The large plot of land is about 45 minutes west of downtown Phoenix off I-10 near Tonopah. The proposed community, made up of close to 25,000 acres of land, is called Belmont. According to Belmont Partners, a real estate investment group based in Arizona, the goal is to turn the land into its own "smart city."

"Belmont will create a forward-thinking community with a communication and infrastructure spine that embraces cutting-edge technology, designed around high-speed digital networks, data centers, new manufacturing technologies and distribution models, autonomous vehicles and autonomous logistics hubs," Belmont Partners said in a news release.

A former columnist for the Phoenix newspaper writes that "Unless Gates plans to turn the land into a preserve, he might want to know a few things that the locals didn't tell him..." First, Arizona doesn't have enough water to continue these kind of developments, no matter what the mouthpieces of the Real Estate Industrial Complex say... Second, climate change poses a clear and present danger to Arizona now. Summers are significantly hotter and lasting longer than a few decades ago. Massive wildfires are common, another new phenomenon. Whether Phoenix will even be inhabitable by mid-century is an open question. Already, it is a man-made environment totally dependent on electricity to power air conditioning and gasoline delivered by vulnerable pipelines. All of which make it questionable whether all the dreamed developments ever get built, much less last long.
"To be fair, wealthy people who were clever in one area -- especially tech -- often think they know a lot about everything," the columnist concludes. "If this is the case here, he might want to study up."

Bill Gates Just Bought 25,000 Acres in the Arizona Desert

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  • by Speare ( 84249 ) on Sunday November 12, 2017 @03:48AM (#55534227) Homepage Journal

    I grew up in Arizona, and let me tell you, a couple decades ago it was HOT. Like, 122 F in Tucson and Phoenix was not unheard of. Now, it's fairly likely to hit that every year.

    https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Arcosanti

    Since the 1950s, people have thought that the cheap land could be tamed and "new ideas" would just blossom out of the goodness in people's hearts. Arcosanti is a great example, but not the only one. Last I saw the place, it had a gift shop where the hippy owners took money selling semi-erotic paintings and charcoal drawings, and invited the young folks to spend some quality time mixing concrete with desert sand... or pose for the artist. There's never going to be an Arcosanti the way it was originally envisioned, or even with a population over 10.

    • Siiiiigh (Score:3, Insightful)

      by rmdingler ( 1955220 )
      As the population of humans on the planet continues to grow, it will becomes increasingly necessary to move into and settle regions previously considered inhospitable.

      Learning to live in new environs is what resourceful life does when it refuses to die and depopulate at the edge of the Petri dish.

      If we cannot figure out how to live (and eventually thrive) in the earthly atmosphere of the Arizona desert with its excessive heat and limited water, off-planet settlements are the dreams that come from pipes.

      • This settlement is 45 minutes outside of Phoenix, a city of population 1.6 million. And growing [forbes.com]. Rapidly [bizjournals.com]. All the critics here who are chorussing "oh, Gates is so stupid, he doesn't know that Arizona is uninhabitable" are silly: we already know it's possible because 1.6 million people already live there.

        He merely needs to make a suburb that's somewhat more attractive than the other suburbs currently being built. And he can sell this to, not new people who had never thought of moving to Arizona, but som

        • by DontBeAMoran ( 4843879 ) on Sunday November 12, 2017 @09:23AM (#55535031)

          And people are saying the people already living there are in trouble. Not enough water, requires a lot of energy just to stay livable by our modern standards, and on top of that it's going to be far from work so that means even more energy to move people back and forth between home and work twice a day.

          • by rmdingler ( 1955220 ) on Sunday November 12, 2017 @09:57AM (#55535157) Journal

            And people are saying the people already living there are in trouble. Not enough water, requires a lot of energy just to stay livable by our modern standards, and on top of that it's going to be far from work so that means even more energy to move people back and forth between home and work twice a day.

            Sure, but of the 200K years mankind's footprint has been expanding on the planet, most of it has been spent exploiting the rich natural reserves of the planet.

            The conservation of (and stretching of) resources has arguably only advanced in times of extreme shortage. The exponential growth (intended) of crop yields to keep feeding a booming population is but one example. People are resourceful, intelligent creatures for the most part, yet often complacent unless propelled by hardship.

            It's not Arrakis, but living in desert cities has already prompted water conservation and recycling unheard of a few generations ago.

          • And people are saying the people already living there are in trouble.

            Since the 70's (as far back as I remember).

        • by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Sunday November 12, 2017 @10:02AM (#55535177)

          All the critics here who are chorussing "oh, Gates is so stupid, he doesn't know that Arizona is uninhabitable" are silly: we already know it's possible because 1.6 million people already live there.

          Cool story bro, except it isn't that the desert is uninhabitable, it's that there are limits and you are pressing them. While your real estate brochure version of living in the desert is cool, it seems to assume that there will always be plenty of water, plenty of air conditioning, and will be just like living in 70 degrees all year round - perfect comfort.

          And it's sort of funny - why move to an area when all you want to do is alter the environment to something the environment isn't.

        • by plopez ( 54068 ) on Sunday November 12, 2017 @11:26AM (#55535541) Journal

          All the critics here who are chorussing "oh, Gates is so stupid, he doesn't know that Arizona is uninhabitable" are silly: we already know it's possible because 1.6 million people *already* live there.

          You are committing a fallacy. You are assuming the past and the future will always resemble each other. It will not in this case as there are resource limits and the resources are shrinking see: https://uanews.arizona.edu/sto... [arizona.edu]

          Jared Diamond wrote a nice book on what happens to societies when a critical resource(s) are depleted.

      • As the population of humans on the planet continues to grow, it will becomes increasingly necessary to move into and settle regions previously considered inhospitable.

        New Jersey is not that bad.

        • Re:Siiiiigh (Score:4, Informative)

          by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Sunday November 12, 2017 @10:07AM (#55535203)

          As the population of humans on the planet continues to grow, it will becomes increasingly necessary to move into and settle regions previously considered inhospitable.

          New Jersey is not that bad.

          Digressing here, but New Jersey is a state of incredible contrasts. The northern part is "which exit you live at" land, and the one most people think of. Urban AF. Then going south it becomes pine forests and a lot less population density, finally ending in Cape May, which is exceptionally different.

          And in the meantime, they somehow produce enough food to support Chris Christie, and you know that can't be easy.

      • Re:Siiiiigh (Score:4, Interesting)

        by Ol Olsoc ( 1175323 ) on Sunday November 12, 2017 @09:55AM (#55535155)

        As the population of humans on the planet continues to grow, it will becomes increasingly necessary to move into and settle regions previously considered inhospitable.

        Learning to live in new environs is what resourceful life does when it refuses to die and depopulate at the edge of the Petri dish.

        If we cannot figure out how to live (and eventually thrive) in the earthly atmosphere of the Arizona desert with its excessive heat and limited water, off-planet settlements are the dreams that come from pipes.

        Your first sentence gives the answer for the last sentence. The numbers of humans are what makes it difficult.

        Humans living in arid places has been done for a long time. Some incredible adaptation has occurred in Africa. But that is humans adapting to the local conditions. People have lived in America's southwest deserts as well, perhaps not as acclimated as Bedouins, but they got by. Even in Death Valley.

        The difference is in the numbers. We try to convert the desert to what we think is ideal. We like the grass in our lawns, we like nice water fountains, and we like a lot of people inhabiting these places. This is completely unsustainable.

        Going to Mars, it will be a few people, and probably living in containers like domes or maybe even underground. That isn't comparable to trying to turn the Southwest desert into paradise. 10 or 20 people - possible. Millions? Nope.

        • You're correct, of course.

          Living on the Space Station, for example, recycling water and testing how our bodies respond to the lack of gravity are much better tests for humans considering off-planet settlements.

          Yet, learning to live within the confines of what the environment is able to provide is not without value. Xeriscaping, rainwater collection, grey water reuse, and Municipally-mandated water restrictions are all the offspring of scarcity. It's not inconceivable that scarcity could lead to more innov

          • It's not inconceivable that scarcity could lead to more innovative approaches to the fresh water shortage we're destined to endure if the population growth continues unchecked.

            A settlement for humans won't really solve the real problem. Fresh water for humans will never be a problem. We could survive on bottled water. Also, there is plenty of water in the ocean and we have plenty of technology for purifying, and piping the water to where it needs to be. Water is also dirt cheap. Even desalinated water is dirt cheap for human usage. Swimming pools and even lawns are not the problem. The problem is really agriculture. We cannot afford to desalinate water and use that water

      • I grew up there. Phoenix is very much thriving, moreso than many places I've seen in my travels.

        I used to hate it growing up there, but now that I'm older, I don't know another place where I'd rather live, except it is becoming very crowded with people moving from more hospitable places to live.

    • Never is a very long time ! I doubt that Bill Gates jumped into this project while being deaf, dumb, blind and stupid. Heat is a challenge as is water supply. I can tell you that Florida is forced to dump billions of gallons of fresh water every year as we simply can not contain our tropical rains. One day some investors may pipe that water to ares that need it. My local spillway often has to dump 1.5 billion gallons a day and there are many spillways and canals tasked with removal of excess water.
  • We'll see... (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Frosty Piss ( 770223 ) * on Sunday November 12, 2017 @03:59AM (#55534251)

    According to Belmont Partners, a real estate investment group based in Arizona, the goal is to turn the land into its own "smart city."

    I'm really interested in how they plan to deal with the water issue, it seems like a show-stopper. Maybe they can build something to recover water from the dry arid air - because otherwise they're going to have to pipe it in, and the Colorado River is already over used... They must have considered this issue when they bought the dry desert land...

    • Re:We'll see... (Score:5, Interesting)

      by tlhIngan ( 30335 ) <slashdot AT worf DOT net> on Sunday November 12, 2017 @05:43AM (#55534499)

      I'm really interested in how they plan to deal with the water issue, it seems like a show-stopper. Maybe they can build something to recover water from the dry arid air - because otherwise they're going to have to pipe it in, and the Colorado River is already over used... They must have considered this issue when they bought the dry desert land...

      Or you use water smartly and not waste it. Sure you have to truck some in now and again, but if they're envisioning a next-generation "smart city", smart water use would also be a part of it.

      Our daily lives we waste enough water to make any third world country cry. Watering lawns is practically a complete waste of water unless you are using it wisely as a filter medium for example.

      Lots of sunlight also means cheap solar stills for water purification.

      And I'm sure Gates has considered the water issue. In fact, he may have bought it because of that - with climate changing, the real issue IS going to be access to water. (We are relatively fortunate in North America as we have almost half of the world's reserve of freshwater).

      It could be a very smart play - get the technology used to recycle and conserve water working now, so when its really needed, you've just cornered the market in patents, and the technology has matured to be usable, while everyone else is scrambling to find fixes.

      • And I'm sure Gates has considered the water issue. In fact, he may have bought it because of that - with climate changing, the real issue IS going to be access to water. (We are relatively fortunate in North America as we have almost half of the world's reserve of freshwater).

        Perhaps Gates already *has* AI (or has used his money/power for either/or bribes/research to find out) and it looked at climate change and predicted, as the Sahara has been similarly predicted, that it will become "green". Maybe not rain forest levels or tropical/sub-tropical ranges, but dramatically higher average rainfall averages than current.

        Maybe Gates (or his estate/successors) will become even richer selling excess rain water to California/LA, etc, while simultaneously reaping profit and accolades fo

      • Or you use water smartly and not waste it. Sure you have to truck some in now and again, but if they're envisioning a next-generation "smart city", smart water use would also be a part of it.

        But most people don't want to conserve in that manner.

        Our daily lives we waste enough water to make any third world country cry. Watering lawns is practically a complete waste of water unless you are using it wisely as a filter medium for example.

        It depends on where you are located. Here in the rainy Northeast, we worry a hella lot more about floods than we do about running out of water. I water my lawn, and it doesn't make a difference. No one is harmed, and no one goes without. There is no point in conserving water unless we are experiencing a rare drought.

        And since it isn't practical to pipe it to the places where water is in short supply, we might as well just use it

        Lots of sunlight also means cheap solar stills for water purification.

        And I'm sure Gates has considered the water issue. In fact, he may have bought it because of that - with climate changing, the real issue IS going to be access to water.

        And those solar stills

    • Re: (Score:2, Insightful)

      Perhaps they'll produce enough reliable power to offset some of the production of the nearby Palo Verde nuclear power plant that consumes as much as 20 millions of gallons of water per day.

    • by amorsen ( 7485 )

      Desert air is generally quite wet, in an absolute sense. In a relative sense it's low humidity, because warm air holds so much water. But cool it down to 5C and you'll see quite a lot of water precipitate out of it.

      I did a quick Googling, and Phoenix apparently has quite high relative humidity in summer, whereas it is lower in spring and autumn. This is handy, as that means the water extraction has lots of humidity available right when solar panels are at peak output.

    • Re:We'll see... (Score:5, Insightful)

      by currently_awake ( 1248758 ) on Sunday November 12, 2017 @09:28AM (#55535049)
      Build underground. The insulation from the sand makes it cheap to temperature regulate, and you capture the evaporation and runoff from your plants and lawns.
    • I'm really interested in how they plan to deal with the water issue, it seems like a show-stopper. Maybe they can build something to recover water from the dry arid air - because otherwise they're going to have to pipe it in, and the Colorado River is already over used... They must have considered this issue when they bought the dry desert land...

      They aren't going to be able to do that, and there are some presumed cheap ways to extract water from the air, but they just cannot provide enough water on a city scale. If this smart city is to live within the desert conditions, and not just be another drain on the overwhelmed Colorado river, people there will have to learn to exist in some pretty hot temperatures in the daytime,cold at night, a massive reduction in the number of showers that Americans are used to, extreme water conservation, and a stand

    • by fermion ( 181285 )
      Certainly they can get unlimited electric with solar panels. If you never want to go outside, and can afford a plane to Santa Fe, it would not be a bad life. For household use they can basically make water if they want to pay enough. My concern would be manufacturing, which is a stated goal, and requires vast amount of cheap water. I can imagine that if they were just mining bitcoin this would be a good setup.
    • There's a really easy way to deal with it: Gentrification. Which is a really fancy way of saying screw to poor and lower working class. Water resources will be diverted to the well to do and a select few who serve them and the rest of us will be left to fight for the scraps. In all the discussions about how to solve the water problem I've not heard this one mentioned once, and it's by far the most likely...
  • by Bruce66423 ( 1678196 ) on Sunday November 12, 2017 @04:22AM (#55534315)

    "Already, it is a man-made environment totally dependent on electricity to power air conditioning and gasoline delivered by vulnerable pipelines."

    Those really aren't the issues if photovoltaic cells get as good as they are on course to. Will they even bother to go on the grid for electricity? The real issue is water.

    • "Already, it is a man-made environment totally dependent on electricity to power air conditioning and gasoline delivered by vulnerable pipelines."

      Those really aren't the issues if photovoltaic cells get as good as they are on course to. Will they even bother to go on the grid for electricity? The real issue is water.

      There's a whole ocean of water that can be used for drinking water if you've got a lot of free or cheap electricity. Just add some pipes and a desal plant.
      Cheap energy pretty much makes every other problem easy.

  • It's the freeway (Score:5, Interesting)

    by stoolpigeon ( 454276 ) <bittercode@gmail> on Sunday November 12, 2017 @04:24AM (#55534327) Homepage Journal

    They bought the land to develop because a big freeway is supposed to go right through the middle. They'll extort the state for a ton of money, make a huge amount of profit and then exit before the community is fully done. So the long term viability of the site is irrelevant.

    • A big freeway which is not yet funded, that is. And in Trump's America, there seems to be little motivation to spend money on anything that will improve the country. But maybe Gates knows something we don't about that?

  • Bates (Score:5, Interesting)

    by tquasar ( 1405457 ) on Sunday November 12, 2017 @04:28AM (#55534339)
    Bill must think of the desert as an empty sandbox for him to play in, but there is a vibrant community already there in the plants and animals that have evolved to survive in the climate and terrain . Use the google, there's a website about it: https://www.desertusa.com/ [desertusa.com]. What knowledge will be lost about the Anasazi and Sinagua people? I've walked on pre-Columbian trails where people migrated from the hot Colorado desert to the cool Laguna and Palomar mountains as the seasons changed.
    • Are you saying that the desert is an ocean with its life underground and a perfect disguise above?

      I thought it was the other way round.

      • There is life above and below ground. I saw a desert tortoise crawling over rocks then disappear into a burro in the ground. I wondered how long it took to excavate the hole in the ground. I found an empty shell I considered taking but hung it from tree branch instead. Some plants are pollinated by birds, others by moths. There was a rattlesnake laying in the little shade provided by an ocotillo plant. I stepped away and continued my hike.
  • What is this shit? (Score:5, Insightful)

    by Gussington ( 4512999 ) on Sunday November 12, 2017 @04:40AM (#55534379)
    "To be fair, wealthy people who were clever in one area -- especially tech -- often think they know a lot about everything,"
    Unlike say columnists?
    C'mon, I'm sure Bill didn't just smoke a blunt and decide to go build a new city in the desert. You can bet there's a ton of experts involved who have already thought about whatever it is Mr Columnist or Mr Forum poster thinks and then some. Because that's the thing with smart people, they think about all the things you think about, plus some more.
    Why did we need this ignorant opinion in the summary? It only serves to dumb down the real story which could be something really interesting.
    • C'mon, I'm sure Bill didn't just smoke a blunt and decide to go build a new city in the desert.

      I'm not so sure. Marijuana is legal in Washington, Arizona, California, and 20+ other states. Maybe one of his buddies shared his blunt while talking about retiring in the desert and Bill took the idea and ran with it. Judging by some of his past projects I suspect mind altering substances were involved in many of them as well.

  • Given the amount of electronic equipment they are going to install, I would check first issues about lighting protection, soil conductivity, etc.
    From some statistics [vaisala.com], although Arizona isn't exactly in the "hottest" place for lightings, in Summers it seems they get a lot of thunderstorms as well. Raising constructions over a flat land could easily change statistics, however.
  • To be fair - technologists nearly always know a hell of a lot more about whatever the columnist is pretending to be knowledgeable about.

  • Wonder if this is an escape hideout for when the shit hits the fan?

  • Concentrated solar with molten salt storage, plus electric vehicles, could easily produce energy independence for Belmont. Water could be a problem, but if cables are run, they could use some of that electricity to power a desalination plant on the west coast (and pump the water back via pipeline). Given that high-speed internet is a major part of the city, that suggests fiber. Electric lines could be buried underground along with the fiber. Bonus points if there's a hyperloop between Belmont and the Bay Ar

  • If the heat doesn't melt everything, the Indian burial ghosts will clean house.
  • "Well...there was a girl...and a lighthouse..."

  • There was an excellent article in National Geographic called, "The Drying of the West". In it, the author conducted a ring study of the Bristlecone Pines in southern California. These are some of the oldest trees in the world. What was discovered was that the 20th century was the wettest in the last 2000 years. The author(s) argue that conditions in the western United States are returning back to more normal levels of dryness and this could very well be a very very long trend. GOOD LUCK Billy, I know 8
  • Maybe he read Paolo Bacigalupi's novel [goodreads.com]
  • If you can just get the water from the pacific ocean to the desert then there should be half a dozen ways to turn it into fresh water with all that dry sun during the day and cold at night. Just having a large enough lake and the ground should filter the salt and replenish some small portion of the ground water that is being sucked dry. Arizona and New Mexico and eastern California could become exporters of clean water. They could also build massive molten salt plants and instead of generating electricity

  • Naysayers (Score:4, Informative)

    by nospam007 ( 722110 ) * on Sunday November 12, 2017 @06:15AM (#55534583)

    "First, Arizona doesn't have enough water to continue these kind of developments,"

    Just if for some reason you want to have lawns around each house, that ship has sailed, not only in Arizona.

    "Summers are significantly hotter and lasting longer than a few decades ago."

    Great! The solar roofs on every house and garage will like that. That's one of the reasons they chose Arizona.

    "Massive wildfires are common, another new phenomenon. "

    That's why they chose the desert, with no trees, no fires.

    "Already, it is a man-made environment totally dependent on electricity to power air conditioning "

    Yes, great for solar and no heating in winter, what's not to like?

    "and gasoline delivered by vulnerable pipelines."

    Gasoline? This is new 21th century, nobody needs gasoline anymore. These people will drive Teslas, not F150s.

    • "Summers are significantly hotter and lasting longer than a few decades ago."

      Great! The solar roofs on every house and garage will like that. That's one of the reasons they chose Arizona.

      Solar panels don't run off heat, they convert sunlight to electricity. As the temperature rises, they become less efficient.

  • by XSportSeeker ( 4641865 ) on Sunday November 12, 2017 @07:03AM (#55534683)

    Look, Bill Gates can get a lot of things wrong, that much anyone can tell.
    But quite frankly the smugness of the columnist is quite hillarious, on how stupid someone can be.
    As if he's more equipped to know how Bill's investment will pan out from a very superficial reading, like in comparison to a guy who made his top 3 world fortune position out of a garage upstart and is currently driving one of the most effective and important foundations in the world. Smugness tied to ignorance, good way to show the entire world how much of an idiot you are.

    With the sort or money and power Gates has, he can turn any desolate land into paradise. He could build a tropical paradise out of Antarctica. It's the sort of backing that made places like Las Vegas and Disney.

    Climate change, massive wildfires, hotter summer? Does this guy even know who he's talking about? There's a whole range of ways to make the region profitable.
    And even if he doesn't, people have to understand that the stuff Bill Gates invest on these days are not always running around profit.

    You can hate his Microsoft years and whatnot all you want, and you can throw arguments about tax deductions and whatnot against his foundation all you want, the fact is that there's probably no one else in the world right now investing more on charitable causes. We're talking billions of dollars often on causes that will have no financial return.

    People often don't realize how much he and his foundation did because most of the stuff it's currently investing on are ways to address basic health, hygiene and sanitation problems in the poorest countries, so we don't directly see results as much, but for certain regions in the world his contributions probably advanced things several decades in years time.

    He's not the kinda guy who is gonna be worried about infrastructure problems in an arid region. He's the guy who has the best chances of finding out a way of solving such problems there, and then selling or sharing the knowledge to do the same to other parts of the world.

    • Look, Bill Gates can get a lot of things wrong, that much anyone can tell.
      But quite frankly the smugness of the columnist is quite hillarious, on how stupid someone can be.

      At least it wasn't written by E J Montini, our other Democrat.

  • For all of the people seeing the reasons for this to fail, there are other possible motivations that may be at play. First, he may actually put up a dome over the whole place, and there may be some ways to pull in whatever moisture there is in the air at night, though I don't know if it would be nearly enough. The dome solution would help with both the heat and the pure dehydration effects caused by the heat, and might also apply to those who want to see people living on Mars.

    This is all speculation, bu

  • Reminds of Dickens' Martin Chuzzlewit. Now, if Gates plays the role of Martin Chuzzlewit or of Scadder, that is something for you to decide.
  • by DontBeAMoran ( 4843879 ) on Sunday November 12, 2017 @09:34AM (#55535069)

    A "smart" city would be one that's not built in a freakin' desert .

  • by mark_reh ( 2015546 ) on Sunday November 12, 2017 @09:38AM (#55535083) Journal

    I found...

    There's no shade.
    There's no water (except at the golf courses)
    All the plants have thorns
    All the insects are venomous
    All the animals are venomous
    It's too hot to be outside for about 9 months of the year.

    Everything about the place screams "humans do not belong here!", yet most of the population lives in the Valley of the Sun.
    I guess that explains the voting record...

  • ... Seattle is getting a bit too close to Kim Jong Un's missiles for Mr. Gates.

  • Wouldn't it be better for an array of solar steam generators or solar panels? At least if you are going to gobble up a huge chunk of one of the few the last places of open land we have., do something USEFUL with it!! Lower the amount of Carbon we put into the atmosphere. (Brainless people with money are dangerous!)
  • There's just nothing for miles around there. Nobody employed will want to live there because the commute will be insane. We've already got at least two such failed experiment communities outside of and both already much closer to Phoenix (called Verrado and Anthem) I guess Gates doesn't do his homework.

    The last thing AZ needs is yet another half-occupied community full of seniors and snowbirds.

  • Let's for the moment assume that me and the reporter are equally qualified to talk shit about science we both obviously don't understand. Then I'll chime in on what I can get from using common sense and maybe a little multidimensional thinking.

    Solar and Wind - These two tools are really useful for solving power issues. They're not end-all solutions and large batteries in the desert will get hot and cooling them to a reliable operational level that don't leak constantly will require large air-conditioned facilities or at least massive underground storage. On the other hand, using it should be possible using Elon Musk's tech to build most internal walls of each climate controlled home and office to collect and store quite a bit of power without the need for large centralized facilities. A reliable automated method of washing roof tiles will be needed, but I imagine that sprinkler systems mounted on the roof should assist with this.

    Niagra falls and the NYC aqueduct. This was accomplished originally in 1907 with technology from 1907... as a government project it was expanded substantially in 2015 and that was one of the biggest examples of government corruption in NY history... the land of the mafias... Those aqueducts have supplied tens of millions of people with water across a 262km stretch for over a hundred years. The issue is to bring water...not necessarily fresh, but simply water to the desert. It should be possible for Bill Gates to buy a "Boring Company" drill and get zoning to drill from the Gulf of California to his plot. Alternatively, he can lay an above ground pipe which might be more profitable. The reason is that using vacuum a heated pipe will start sucking water uphill without the assistance of pumps if the pipe is correctly designed. In addition, pumps will further assist. This can allow a large salt water reservoir to be established near/on his plot. Then the problem is desalination.

    Desalination - The only real problem with desalination is the energy cost and salt disposal... which in a desert isn't overly problematic. One method is either to use solar electricity. An alternative is to build glass boxes ... from sand (if there is any sand for clear glass there) which will cause water to evaporate and then be caught on the top of the box and drip off the sides to be collected. The salt can be dumped into the desert as one option, it can also be gathered through maintenance (probably using low cost labor or robots). If using solar electricity, also keep in mind that it doesn't need to work 24/7. Instead of storing electricity, it can simple overproduce during the day and be stored as fresh water to be filtered for drinking after.

    There is also ground water. Ground water is quite plentiful but difficult to access in the desert. Of course, this option debatable as there are many ground water problems in the desert. The most obvious is that as the water level decreased, the desert sinks too. This can be a nightmare for construction and infrastructure.

    There are also many methods for extraction of water from the air. This is becoming more and more common in African deserts. Of course, the yield is low (at least on an urban scale) and dries out the environment further.

    Purification generally requires power and filters. The most obvious filter which solves an economical problem as well is coal. I am no expert on chemistry and don't understand the process of producing the specific types of coal required for water purification, but I would imagine that this would increase demand for non-energy related coal.

    Wildfires are always a problem in hot climates. So the solution for this is increase water, that means pumping more sea water in. The desert is a nightmare to make lakes in, but it's possible to do. On method is major concrete basins. Other methods could be to scorch the earth further to bring the sand closer to glass. I'm sure there are people far smarter than me who can come up with methods of building massive pools for salt and clean water
  • by erp_consultant ( 2614861 ) on Sunday November 12, 2017 @10:43PM (#55538311)

    First of all, it isn't "Arizona's" west valley. It is the west valley of Phoenix, a city in the state of Arizona.

    Secondly, in Tonopah there are massive aquifers (underground rivers essentially) and the water is very close to the surface. Makes it easier and cheaper to drill wells.

    "Whether Phoenix will even be inhabitable by mid-century is an open question" - I think he meant habitable. In any case, lots of people are moving there. Minnesota in January - that's inhabitable.

    "Already, it is a man-made environment totally dependent on electricity to power air conditioning and gasoline delivered by vulnerable pipelines." - That may be true now but Arizona is perfectly set up for solar and wind. The kind of city that Gates envisions is achievable.

    Phoenix is expanding in basically two directions. Due west, towards Los Angeles. And north west towards Las Vegas. The east valley (Scottsdale, Chandler, Tempe) are basically built out. There is very little land left and what is left is very expensive. To the south, South Mountain effectively cuts off everything south of it from Phoenix making travel into Phoenix difficult. To the north you have the densely packed suburb of Anthem. Beyond that the only freeway (the I-17) goes down to two lanes. And there are Indian reservations hemming in the east valley. In fact, many of the big office towers in Scottsdale are built on land leased from Indian tribes. And they are never selling that land.

    People in Scottsdale have traditionally looked down their noses at the west valley of Phoenix. But those are the only large parcels of land left. Jerry Colangelo, who used to own the Phoenix Suns basketball team, made a shit-load of money developing land in the west valley. As did a guy named John F. Long, whose family donated the land that the Arizona Cardinals stadium sits on today. They were buying up land at $5-10 dollars an acre. Today an acre of raw land - no house, no utilities, no water - will set you back about $100,000.

    Gates knows exactly what he is doing.

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