Arizona imposes restrictions on new housing development amidst water supply concern

  • Governor Katie Hobbs announced that Arizona will not approve new housing construction in the fast-growing area of ​​the Phoenix metropolitan area that relies on groundwater.
  • The decision comes as a result of years of overuse and prolonged drought that have dried up the state’s water supply.
  • The restrictions will require developers to find alternative water sources, such as surface water or recycled water, to proceed with construction in affected areas.

Arizona will not approve new housing construction on the edge of the rapidly growing Phoenix metropolitan area, which relies on groundwater for water supplies that have been depleted by years of overuse and decades of drought.

At a press conference Thursday, Gov. Katie Hobbs announced restrictions that could affect some of the fastest-growing suburbs of the nation’s fifth-largest city.

Officials said developers could continue to build in the affected areas, but would need to find alternative water sources, such as surface water or recycled water, to do so.

Driving the state’s decision were projections that over the next 100 years, about 4.9 million acre-feet of groundwater demand in the Phoenix metropolitan area would not be met without further action, Hobbs said. One acre-foot of water is roughly enough for two to three of his households in the United States for a year.

Despite the move, the governor said there is no shortage of water in the state. “Those who have water never lose it,” says Hobbes.

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Officials said the measure would not affect existing homeowners who have already secured water supplies.

Hobbes added that the 80,000 unbuilt homes can go ahead with construction because they already have secure water supply certificates within the Phoenix Active management area, a designation used to regulate groundwater. rice field.

As climate change exacerbates years of drought in the West, pressure is mounting gradually among western states to reduce water use. Much of the focus has been on the decline of the Colorado River, a major water source for Arizona and six other western states. In the last two years, supplies to Arizona from the 1,450-mile western powerhouse have been cut twice.

Phoenix relies on imported Colorado River water and uses water from the state’s Salt and Verde Rivers. The city’s small water supply comes from groundwater and recycled wastewater.

Droughts have made groundwater, which is stored in underground aquifers and takes years to replenish, even more important.

Water from the Colorado River diverted through the Central Arizona Project fills an irrigation canal in Maricopa, Arizona on August 18, 2022. (AP Photo/Matt Yorke, File)

Under a 1980 state law designed to protect the state’s aquifers, Phoenix, Tucson, and other Arizona cities set limits on the amount of groundwater that can be pumped. However, in rural areas there are few restrictions on its use.

Hobbes and other state officials, long pumped with little oversight by Arizona’s farmers and rural residents, recently vowed to take further steps to protect the state’s groundwater supply.

While in fast-growing suburbs of Phoenix such as Queen Creek and Buckeye, developers have relied on unallocated groundwater to prove they will have enough water supplies for the next 100 years, Arizona has some areas. require it for a building permit in .

Nicole Krobus, chief counsel for the Arizona Department of Water Resources, said: “Developers are relying on groundwater because, frankly, it’s cheaper, easier, and allows the process to go faster. There is,” he said.

Under the new restrictions it becomes impossible.


“It closes the door,” says Kathryn Sorenson, director of research at Arizona State University’s Kill Water Policy Center.

Since the rule will primarily affect cities and cities outside of Phoenix, as well as metropolitan metropolitan areas, developers will have to “continue to buy relatively cheap land…whether they will bear the cost of developing an entirely new water supply.” will be considered,” Sorenson said. Purchasing land that would probably be more expensive if it didn’t have an ordinance-designated city boundary. “

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