Arizona officials have halted certifications for new developments in the Phoenix-metro area because of a diminishing supply of groundwater.
The state will not revoke building permits that have already been granted, but will stop issuing permits for some new subdivisions that require groundwater. Local officials say that the water supply for homes and businesses is currently protected, adding this policy change is about ensuring supply into the future.
“My message to Arizonans is this: we are not out of water and we will not be running out of water because, as we have done so many times before, we will tackle the water challenges we face with integrity and transparency,” Gov. Katie Hobbs wrote on Twitter.
“I will not bury my head in the sand, cut corners, or put short-term interests over the State’s long-term economic growth,” she added. “This proven approach is how we built a thriving Arizona, and I know it’s how we will continue to prosper long into the future.”
Many parts of Arizona rely exclusively on groundwater, which Kathleen Ferris, a former state water official and one of the architects of Arizona’s landmark 1980 groundwater management law, says is akin to a “savings account” for people who live in the desert.
Water conservation in the state has long been a concern, but particularly over the last decade, as Phoenix has become the nation’s fastest growing city.
Arizona’s primary source of water is the Colorado River, which provides for 40 million people across several states. Arizona, California, and Nevada are among western states that have been plagued by recent droughts.
A week before the restrictions on development were announced, governors of those three states developed a plan to conserve water over the next three years to protect the Colorado River system.
“Nevada has long been a leader in regional water conservation efforts, and we’re pleased to continue leading through this agreement with other Lower Basin States,” Gov. Joe Lombardo said in a joint statement. “Through this partnership, we look forward to equitably advancing our mutual goal of conserving our shared water resources. It’s never been more important to protect the Colorado River System, and this partnership is a critical next step in our efforts to sustain this essential water supply.”