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'Clever' Water Management Has Goodyear Set For Future Expansion

Just off Exit 126 on westbound I-10 is a tan sign accented with hickory-colored steel welcoming you to one of America’s fastest growing cities. 

Goodyear was a small town with a population of under 20,000 when this century began. Now, it is projected to reach a population of almost 300,000 by the year 2050.

For City Council member and Goodyear resident since the mid-1990s Sheri Lauritano, the expansion has been awe-inspiring. 

“I can just say everything’s changed. It’s been kind of miraculous to watch it grow like that,” Lauritano said.

Just 200 yards away from where traffic roars by that welcome sign, construction is underway on an entire neighborhood, where whole streets feature only the wooden frames for the future homes of Goodyear residents.

Home prices out here have rocketed up 26% since last summer. This city has plenty of room, and incentive, to grow.

“They want to continue to not just grow their population but through providing higher quality jobs nearby, attract a more diverse workforce and population base," said Eric Anderson, who is the executive director of the Maricopa Association of Governments.

That does not mean the city won't face challenges in this era of expansion. One of those challenges is how Goodyear will find enough water in a desert climate to support such massive growth for its neighborhoods and parks. 

The city has relied on groundwater for almost a century. Director of Public Works Javier Setovich says that will have to change. 

"At some point in the future and it’s hard to say when, this Valley is going to have to import water from somewhere else, and there’s already talks about that," Setovich said. "We feel in Goodyear certainly, we feel pretty secure about the next 20 to 30 years.”

And the reason for the city’s confidence comes down to two factors. 

Water from the Colorado River has been distributed through the Central Arizona Project to central Arizona communities for 30 years. 

Up until 2017, Goodyear had no ability to access its allocation of CAP water, then a landmark deal was struck with the SRP or Salt River Project. 

“The SRP is helping us, we have an agreement with them to what we call in the water world, 'wheel' that water through their canals to our city,” Setovich said. Since water from the CAP was first allocated in the 1970s, Goodyear has been on the books for an annual allotment of 17,000-acre-feet of water. For reference, an acre foot of water is the equivalent of over 325,000 gallons. 

“To bring that CAP wet water was a big deal and that will help out a great deal,” Lauritano said about the deal she believes will help to secure Goodyear's boom.

 

Another factor is advancements in water technology that have allowed communities like Goodyear to become more efficient in managing its water resources.

"We’ve had in the three-county CAP service territory, we’ve had 45% growth in municipal population in the last 20 years. And yet we’ve only seen a 14% increase in demand," said Sarah Porter, the director of the Kyl Center for Water Policy at ASU. 

The terms of the SRP agreement allow Goodyear 8 million gallons of water per day, which will increase to 16 million gallons around 2035. Porter says that can’t be guaranteed, but she still thinks Goodyear is well prepared.

"I think Goodyear, compared with some other places that are fast growing, Goodyear is in pretty good shape," Porter said. "But, that’s because it was lucky enough to get a lot of CAP water, and get it delivered through SRP, which is just crazy. I mean, that’s very cool and clever."

Groundwater, CAP water and a new surface water treatment plant under construction are all part of Goodyear’s long-term plan.

The infrastructure for the new deal has to be in place by December in compliance with state guidelines and development agreements. 

The CAP recently announced its first ever water shortage, which will primarily affect farmers in Pinal County. Goodyear’s allocation is high priority, and therefore has a buffer from this first round of cuts. Should a future shortage affect the growing city, Porter says Goodyear has taken significant steps toward diversifying its water portfolio for better long-term resilience.

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Jack Johnson joined KJZZ as an intern in May 2021. He is currently a senior at the Walter Cronkite School of Journalism and Mass Communication at Arizona State University.At ASU, he has hosted three radio shows on Blaze Radio, the student radio network. Johnson has written for multiple media outlets associated with the school. He works with the Pac-12 livestream crew and does the lead football commentary for Gilbert's Highland High School. He also is the host of the Trail Mix Podcast with Jack Johnson, which can be found on Spotify and Apple Podcasts.He enjoys spending time with his family and being by the ocean, which is not too far from where he was raised in the Bay Area.