Phoenix, Short on Water, Limits New Construction

Officials in Arizona are worried about long-range problems with groundwater
By Bob Cronin,  Newser Staff
Posted Jun 1, 2023 7:30 PM CDT
Lacking Sufficient Water, Arizona to Curb Homebuilding
With the downtown Phoenix skyline in the background, a roofer works on a house being built in a new development in 2021.   (AP Photo/Ross D. Franklin, File)

Phoenix got a glimpse of its future on Thursday, and it does not appear to include the sort of multiplying development that has made it the nation's fastest-growing metropolitan region. Arizona officials announced that their analysis shows there is not enough groundwater to support all the housing construction proposed for the Phoenix area, the New York Times reports. So they'll put a stop to plans to build some subdivisions. It's a problem other places in the West, especially, where water supplies are running low because of climate change, drought, and soaring demand, could soon be dealing with. "You're living on borrowed water," said Terry Goddard, a former state attorney general and mayor of Phoenix.

The findings, announced by Democratic Gov. Katie Hobbs, show that unless action is taken, about 4% of the demand for groundwater over the next 100 years will not be met, per the Washington Post. In much of the state, developers have to show they have enough water for 100 years before they're allowed to build. Phoenix, Scottsdale, and Mesa are among the places with a state designation of meeting that standard. But quickly growing areas outside Phoenix do not have that stamp, and development there that would depend solely on groundwater may not go forward.

A builders group pointed out that although Arizona will limit construction of housing, which could make homes more expensive, commercial and industrial buildings will be going up. But the message to developers is clear, said a water policy expert at Arizona State University. "We see the horizon for the end of sprawl," said Sarah Porter. Goddard said the study means that "you need to be conscious of every drop," adding, "You can't build unless you know exactly where the water is coming from." (Read more Arizona stories.)

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