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Can Water Supply Keep Up with the Need to Build More Housing?

Population growth creates a collision course in the American West.
March 16, 2018, 7am PDT | James Brasuell | @CasualBrasuell
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San Diego County, California
Sweetwater Reservoir, located in in San Diego County.
Sherry V Smith

Ry Rivard writes from California where the state seems poised to enter another drought amidst a historic housing crisis. In searching for models for water supply planning in development regulations, Rivard also examines the example of Arizona.

"In California, major new developments with more than 500 units must prove they have access to enough water for at least 20 years," writes Rivard. "Most water agencies, including the San Diego County Water Authority, have water already set aside for population growth, so this is usually a pretty simple thing to do." Still, as the state continues to deal with persistent droughts, the pressure to build homes to meet the needs of a growing population comes into conflict. Rivard suggests that the day might soon come to make water regulations more stringent.

There's already a role model for more stringent water regulations relative to new developments. "In Arizona, new subdivisions in certain areas — including all the state’s biggest cities — must prove they have enough water for 100 years," explains Rivard. Still, the state has been considering rolling back those regulations out of "concern that new businesses may be scared away." Meanwhile the state is exploring unconventional and expensive methods of acquiring new water supply.

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Published on Monday, March 12, 2018 in Voice of San Diego
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