Flagstaff lies just outside the San Francisco Peaks, a wintery wonderland in the state of Arizona (in the winter that is), with elevations up to 12,000 ft. This is a prime location for skiing; Arizona Snowbowl, the ski resort of the area, has been taking skiers and snowboarders up their lifts for decades — it’s one of the country’s oldest continually running ski resorts. However, fluctuations in snowfall have made it difficult to maintain a consistent ski season, and Snowbowl has been considering taking matters into their own hands; if all goes according to plan, man-made snow will cover the mountain — completely made of treated sewage water.

Naturally, there is a debate as to whether or not this is a good idea; Snowbowl had proposed man-made snow in the late 70s but faced opposition. But now, with reports from the Environmental Protection Agency claiming that reclaimed water is safe for humans — provided it is treated — Snowbowl has been greenlighted to go ahead with the construction of a long pipeline to bring water 15 miles from a treatment facility to snowmaking machines.

While water conservationists may applaud the efforts not to waste potable water for a frivolous recreational activity, most environmentalists don’t trust the EPS ruling, citing studies from the US Geological Survey and Northern Arizona University which report that treated water may still contain “pharmaceuticals, hormones, industrial pollutants, carcinogens and endocrine disruptors” and “a wide range of organic chemicals” — and the environmental impact of spraying it everywhere is a huge uncertainty.

Despite the debates, construction of the pipeline continues, so that Arizona’s winter wonderland may stay that way for entire seasons to come. However, knowing that snow derived from toilet water where feces used to flow in, I’d think twice before being in the meadow to build a snowman, and pretending that he is Parson Brown. [via Wend, Mother Jones]

Photo above: Martin Ely via flickr Creative Commons CC BY 2.0