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The surge in desert surf parks raises questions in dry California Lifestyle

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AMY TOXIN – Associated Press

Hours off the California coast, surfers hope that one of the next places they can catch a wave is the desert, where summer temperatures often rise above 100 degrees.

At least four large surfing lagoons are offered for the region around Palm Springs, which is better known for art festivals, hiking and golfing, and has no natural waves in sight.

But some environmentalists and residents say building big resorts in one of California’s driest places in one of the driest periods of recent times isn’t worth it in terms of water. They argue that water in massive surf pools will quickly evaporate into the desert heat, wasting valuable resources, while proponents argue that the waves will boost tourism, boost recreation and use less water than ever popular golf courses. .

“Is it their best use of limited water resources in these climatic times of drought, it’s golf courses and surfing spots?” said Conner Everts, executive director of the Southern California Watershed Alliance. “It’s like a fantasy. It’s like Dubai. “

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California is experiencing a relentless drought exacerbated by climate change, and its nearly 40 million residents in recent years have faced repeated calls to save water. The greater Palm Springs area is at the top of an underground aquifer but receives extremely little rainfall and is dependent on water from the State Water Project, which operates below capacity, and the Colorado River, an important U.S. water supplier that is inflated.

Local water district officials say the 20-year plan has enough water to support the new wave’s pools and resorts.

The offerings, ranging from private, luxurious communities to a public wave park, come at a time when surfing is becoming increasingly popular in the United States. It became an Olympic sport last year, and industry experts predict its further growth as travel resumes after the pandemic ends and the number of indoor surf parks grows, according to Global Industry Analyts Inc., based in San Jose, California.

This is the expectation of Chane Magnusson, a professional surfer who is renovating the Palm Springs Water Park and adding a pool with waves. He said the area is perfect because so many avid surfers live within minutes and the waves on the beach can be unreliable. It’s also a popular vacation spot, he said, and beginners may want to try surfing in a safe environment.

“Many have a day off today and they really want to surf. I can guarantee that they will get a good wave and they will get a lot, ”said Magnusson, who helped develop the wave park in Waco, Texas.

Magnusson’s project is under construction, two more have been approved. In neighboring La Quinta, a proposed 400-acre (160-hectare) building around a half-mile (0.8-kilometer) wave basin is facing opposition from homeowners who have moved to the area in search of a quiet retirement community.

They say the proposed Coral Mountain building will attract noisy surfing festivals and spoil the stars with its bright lights. And they are concerned about the pool’s annual use of 120 acres of water – in addition to water used in 600 homes, hotels and retail outlets – to deplete society’s water supplies.

According to the nonprofit, in 2016 one acre of foot was enough water for three to four families in California a year. Water Education Foundation.

“Everything will happen with evaporation, wind and all this,” said Elena Kalimanis, a member of La Quinta Residents for Resident Development. “The optics of this are just insane.”

But John Hamlin, president of CM Wave Development, noted that the wave pool will have 8-10 times less water than the golf course, and the golf course has already been approved for placement on the site. He said many local backyard pools use drinking water, but the pool will use non-potable water treated at a filtration plant.

“Ultimately, we are confident that the Coral Mountain project will be one of the most responsible water users in the valley,” Hamlin said in an email, adding that residential areas and open spaces make up most of the outdoor space of the water use project. will also use non-potable water.

The Coachella Valley water district, which serves much of the region, said construction projects are decided by local officials, but there is water. While groundwater supplies reached a minimum in 2009, supplies have since improved through replenishment and conservation efforts, said district spokeswoman Lorraine Garcia.

Critics, however, note that the area has replenished groundwater with imported water sources and they are limited. Government officials It was recently stated that water agencies will receive 5% of what they requested this year, in addition to what is needed for important activities such as drinking and swimming in what has been the driest start to the year in California for at least a century.

Conditions arose amid a tourist boom in Greater Palm Springs that became a place to travel more than a century ago when residents sought a hot dry climate, believing it was good for their health. In the last decade, younger visitors have come to music and art festivals, said Scott White, president of Visit Greater Palm Springs.

“For me, surf parks have a natural meaning,” White said.

Desert resident and surfer Dave Hilts said he would like to try wave pools for extra practice – although he will still regularly go to the beach to surf. He created the Coachella Valley Surf Club to give children from low-income foster families the opportunity to surf, and works with a teacher who began surfing at his high school in the desert.

“It will attract many new people to surfing who previously could not surf,” he said.

However, this growth worries Ruth Langridge, a senior fellow at the University of California, Santa Cruz, focusing on water law and policy. She said she has long feared large-scale construction in the desert because of the demand for water – from swimming pools or otherwise.

“You can turn over agricultural land, but you can’t turn over a city if you build it,” Langridge said. “There is a real concern for development in places where there will not be enough water.”

Copyright 2022 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or distributed without permission.

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