Phoenix, Arizona — The population of Arizona’s Maricopa County — which includes the Phoenix metropolitan area — skyrocketed by 15% in the last decade. But now, the county could see a troubling flatline.
New construction that relies on groundwater will stop in some parts of the state after a report from the Arizona Department of Water Resources released earlier this month revealed Arizona’s booming population will outgrow its drought-stricken water supply if action isn’t taken.
Specifically, Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs announced earlier this month that the state will put the brakes on new home construction in the area surrounding Phoenix, but not within the city of Phoenix itself.
“This pause will not affect growth within any of our major cities,” Hobbs said in a news conference following the report’s release.
The new state plan will immediately impact the surrounding suburbs of Phoenix, which includes towns like Queen Creek, where a plan for 9,000 new homes has been halted.
“It’s been an issue that we’ve been dealing with in Arizona from the very beginning,” carpenter Rick Collins told CBS News of the water supply. “It’s how it works here. If we don’t have water, we can’t build these communities.”
In Maricopa County alone, an estimated two billion gallons of water are used daily, according to numbers from the U.S. Geological Survey. That’s nearly twice as much use as New York City, which has about double Maricopa County’s population of approximately 4.5 million people.
“Of course we have concern, our council has been looking forward into the future knowing that this day was going to come,” said Paul Gardner, wastewater director for Queen Creek.
Gardner doesn’t see the region as in decline, but instead as “a community that is evolving.”
That evolution means relying more on reclaimed wastewater projects and spending tens of millions of dollars to buy water from the Colorado River.
However, climate change and growing demand across the West are also shrinking the Colorado River, which means the river as a water source could be cut off down the road. Last month, California, Arizona and Nevada that would significantly cut their water use from the river over the next three years.
Meanwhile, Kathryn Sorensen, director of research at the Kyle Center for Water Policy, said Arizona’s own plan to limit construction ensures there is enough water for all, as Arizona adapts to a world with less of it.
“It is a proactive plan,” Sorensen said. “It is not reactive.”