Arizona limits construction in Phoenix area amid groundwater shortage

A new housing development in Phoenix, Arizona.
(Image credit: Justin Sullivan/Getty Images)

Arizona officials have determined there isn't enough groundwater in the Phoenix area to meet housing construction demand over the next century.

During a news conference on Thursday, Gov. Katie Hobbs (D) and state water officials shared the results of a survey that found under current conditions, around 4% of the Phoenix metro's demand for groundwater — nearly 4.9 million acre-feet — won't be met over the next 100 years. Because of this, any developer that wants to build in the Phoenix area will have to show they can provide an "assured water supply" for 100 years that is not local groundwater. Developments that have already been approved won't be affected.

While the groundwater supplies in the Phoenix area are regulated under state law, most of rural Arizona is unregulated, and corporate farms, including some owned by foreign companies, are allowed to use unlimited groundwater for crops. Thursday's announcement wasn't meant to worry people, Hobbs said, adding that the state is "going to manage this situation. We are not out of water and we will not be running out of water."

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The Phoenix metro area is one of the fastest-growing regions in the United States, and experts said the groundwater is disappearing due to years of water overuse and drought caused by climate change. Sarah Porter, director of the Kyl Center for Water Policy, told CNN the new development limitations will make it harder for builders to make houses "on raw desert in the far-flung parts of town," and is a "big, flashing billboard" letting private developers know they need to either find a sustainable source of water or a new place to build.

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Catherine Garcia

Catherine Garcia is night editor for Her writing and reporting has appeared in Entertainment Weekly and, The New York Times, The Book of Jezebel, and other publications. A Southern California native, Catherine is a graduate of the University of Redlands and the Columbia University Graduate School of Journalism.