by Cole Lauterbach
Despite warnings about water shortages and a new edict from the state, one of the fastest-growing cities in the nation says the new rule won’t have a significant effect on its future.
Arizona Gov. Katie Hobbs announced last week the latest results of the state’s 100-year groundwater research. Most notably, it found the Phoenix area would fall short of the demand for water by 4% if nothing is done.
“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,” she said in a news release. “I will not bury my head in the sand, cut corners, or put short-term interests over the State’s long-term economic growth.”
To that end, the Department of Water Resources announced it would no longer certify building plans for water security in the Phoenix Active Management Area if they solely rely on groundwater as a source.
“Developments within existing Certificates or Designations of Assured Water Supply may continue, but communities or developers seeking new Assured Water Supply determinations will need to do so based on alternative water sources,” the DWR said in its announcement.
While a stoppage of new development sounds ominous, the scope of the stoppage isn’t as significant, according to those seeing some of the fastest growth.
The latest U.S. Census population estimates had two Arizona cities in the top ranks for population growth by percentage. Queen Creek, in the southeast Valley, grew by 6.7%, increasing in total population to 70,734. That put it among the top ten in the nation in terms of cities with more than 50,000 people.
A representative from the town said the department’s announcement would have “minimal impact” on growth there.
“All current Town of Queen Creek residential water customers have a certificate of 100-year assured water supply,” said town spokeswoman Constance Halonen-Wilson. “The Town has been working proactively to diversify its water supply to reduce reliance on groundwater and is committed to ensuring a safe, reliable supply of water today and into the future.”
Halonen-Wilson added that the announcement impacts a small number of undeveloped properties in Queen Creek that do not have an assured water supply.
Rep. Tim Dunn, R-Yuma, responded to Hobbs’ announcement with similar optimism.
“…the Phoenix Metropolitan area is experiencing rapid growth is a good thing. It’s good for our economy and tells us that people want to live here. We have one of the fastest growth rates in the nation,” he said. “But the updated groundwater model is going to have an impact. It tells us we need to check our speed and ensure we have enough water for (the) future. But it’s nothing we can’t handle. We’ve dealt with this before.”
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Cole Lauterbach is a managing editor for The Center Square covering the western United States. For more than a decade, Cole has produced award-winning content on both radio and television.