More Southwest cities may limit development as groundwater dries up

By Mark Brodie
Alex Hager/KUNC
Published: Monday, June 5, 2023 - 8:51am
Updated: Monday, June 5, 2023 - 11:11am

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Dry cracked earth
Alex Hager/KUNC
A sprawling swath of the West is in drought, with more than 20 years of dryness in the Colorado River basin. Researchers say nearly every indicator of drought is heading in the wrong direction.

In a major announcement June 1, Arizona officials halted new housing on the edges of the Phoenix metro area. The issue? Not enough groundwater.

The shortage is made more complicated by the shrinking Colorado River.

The pause on development only affects certain areas on the fringes of suburban sprawl around the Valley. It comes after a new report found those areas won’t have enough groundwater to keep taps flowing for the next 100 years.

Sarah Porter directs the Kyl Center for water policy at Arizona State University.

“This is the system working,” Porter said. “You have to have a model like this to take the steps you need to take to protect the groundwater supplies that are being managed for future urban use.”

Porter said the groundwater issue is fairly unique to Arizona, but other cities around the Southwest will also have to rethink urban growth as the Colorado River dries up.

For more on what the restrictions mean for the future of Phoenix’s water supply, The Show spoke to Sharon Megdal, director of the Water Resources Research Center at University of Arizona.

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