Expert: Microchip plant in Phoenix won’t impact Arizona’s water supply
PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) — With President Biden flying in to promote a second TSMC microchip plant coming to the Valley, several viewers have asked Arizona’s Family how it would impact the ongoing water shortage. The main concern: would it hurt Arizona farmers?
Sarah Porter, director of Arizona State University’s Kyl Center for Water Policy, says it won’t hurt farmers and shouldn’t impact the city’s water supply. “It’s not as if the water was taken from the farmer and given or reallocated to the semiconductor plant,” Porter said.
According to Porter, microchip plants and farms have different water allocations and priority levels dictated by the city. “It’s apples to oranges. That farmer gave up priority a long time ago, and it has nothing to do with the water that is available in the city’s portfolio to use for these new plants. The City of Phoenix has enough water in its portfolio, even with cuts in the Colorado River supplies, to be able to supply water for the semiconductor plants. Partly because the city has high priority Colorado River rights and partly because the city has other sources of water that it can use to meet demand,” Porter said.
Porter explains that Arizona farmers were moved to a lower priority level for water years ago in exchange for a subsidy. “We are going to have industries that use water, and as we are moving into this time where we can’t expect as much Colorado River water as we have the last few decades,” Porter said. Though the microchip plants use a lot of water, they can recycle nearly every drop with their near-zero liquid discharge policy.
TSMC, who will own and operate the site, says in a statement that water conservation is a big part of the building’s design. “In our semiconductor manufacturing process, a drop of water is reused on average 3.5 times, and we achieve a nearly 90% water recycling rate,” she said.
Porter says microchip plants are more environmentally friendly than data storage sites and even phoenix golf courses, “That water can’t be reclaimed. So that water is lost to the system, whereas a big chunk of the water used in semiconductors can (be reclaimed),” she said.
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