Booming Arizona Must Confront its Water Problem

Even as more people and companies flock to the state for its climate and economic opportunities, Arizona's water supplies are facing historic shortages.

March 22, 2022, 11:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction


Irrigiation Channel

Tim Roberts Photography / Shutterstock

"Arizona’s annual gross domestic product, nearing $380 billion, has more than doubled since 2000. New solar installations, electric vehicle makers, computer chip manufacturers, data centers, and corporate farming companies are piling into the state." Meanwhile, Phoenix is now the fifth largest city in the country. But as Keith Schneider writes, the state's booming growth is threatened by strained water supplies and dire projections for the future.

Climate change is disrupting the rules of the development game. Drought and extreme heat are emptying rivers and reservoirs, fallowing tens of thousands of acres of farmland, forcing thousands of homeowners to secure water from trucks and not their dead wells, and pushing Arizona ever closer to the precipice of peril.

The Colorado River, which provides over a third of the state's water supply, is 20 percent lower now than two decades ago. And, as we have covered in Planetizen previously, the two largest reservoirs in the country, Lake Mead and Lake Powell, both bordering Arizona, "now hold less water than at any time since soon after they were opened" at 30 percent capacity.

According to the article, the state is starting to take a harder look at ways to reduce its water usage and conserve for the future, but housing construction continues even as Arizona farmers face water shortages, some forced to reduce the amount of crops they grow.

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