home is being built in in Rio Verde Foothills, Arizona, U.S. on January 7, 2023.
The Washington Post | Getty Images
Developers planning to build homes in the desert west of Phoenix, Arizona, do not have enough groundwater supplies to move forward with their plans, a state modeling report found.
Plans to construct homes west of the White Tank Mountains will require alternative sources of water to succeed as the state grapples with a historic megadrought and water shortages, according to the report.
Water sources are dwindling across the western US and mounting restrictions on the Colorado River are impacting all sectors of the economy, including homebuilding. But amid a nationwide housing shortage, developers are bombarding Arizona with plans to build homes even as water shortages worsen.
The Arizona Department of Water Resources reported that the Lower Hassayampa sub-basin that encompasses the far West Valley of Phoenix is projected to have a total unmet demand of 4.4 million acre-feet of water over the 100 year period. The department therefore can’t approve the development of subdivisions solely depend on groundwater.
“We must talk about the challenge of our time: Arizona’s decades-long drought, over usage of the Colorado River, and the combined ramifications on our water supply, our forests, and our communities,” Governor Katie Hobbs said in a statement last week.
Developers in the Phoenix area are required to get state certificates proving that they have 100 years’ worth of water supplies in the ground over which they’re building before they’re approved to construct any properties.
The megadrought has generated the driest two decades in the West in at least 1,200 yearsand human-caused climate change has fueled the conditions. Arizona has experienced cuts to its Colorado River water allocation and now must curb 21% of its water usage from the river, or roughly 592,000-acre-feet each year, an amount that would supply more than 2 million Arizona households annually.
Despite warnings that there isn’t enough water to sustain growth in development, some Arizona developers have argued that water supplies isn’t a problem, adding that new homes will have low flow fixtures, drip irrigation, desert landscaping and other drought-friendly measures. More than two dozen housing developments are in the works around Phoenix.