A New York Times article offers a glimpse of the future as climate change batters the West. Arizona has determined that there is not enough groundwater for housing construction already approved in the Phoenix area and will stop developers from building some new subdivisions. The state said it would not revoke building permits that have already been issued and is instead counting on new water conservation measures and alternative sources to produce the water necessary for housing developments that have already been approved.
The announcement of a groundwater shortage means Arizona would no longer give developers in some areas of Maricopa County new permits to construct homes that rely on wells for water. Phoenix and nearby large cities, which must obtain separate permission from state officials for their development plans every 10 to 15 years, would also be denied approval for any homes that rely on groundwater beyond what the state has already authorized. The decision means cities and developers must look for alternative sources of water to support future development.
A groundwater shortage would likely not derail the planned growth in the short term in major cities like Phoenix, Scottsdale and Mesa. The new restrictions would be felt hardest and most immediately in small towns and unincorporated swaths of desert along the fringes of the Phoenix metro area — where most lower-cost homes tend to get built.