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Arizona will limit some new construction due to projected groundwater shortfalls

Arizona will pause approvals of some development projects in areas where groundwater would be the only water source. The announcement comes after a new report projects shortfalls in water supply in the Phoenix area.

To build a new home in most of Arizona, developers must prove the property has enough water supply to last 100 years. But a  new study by the Arizona Department of Water Resources shows groundwater in the Phoenix area will be 4% short of demand within a century.

In a press conference Thursday, Gov. Katie Hobbs said that means the state can’t continue approving new development where groundwater is the only option. But she said the plan will not mean an end to all growth in the state.

“Phoenix has a designated assured water supply, this is not going to affect any growth in Phoenix. This is not going to affect existing homeowners, existing businesses,” Hobbs said.

She also said more than 80,000 projects that have already been approved in the region will not be canceled. New development projects that would use other sources of water, would also not be impacted, said Arizona Department of Water Resources Director Tom Buschatzke.

"There are other ways they can meet the certificate requirements," Buschatzke said. "They can bring in non-groundwater resources from outside [Active Management Areas], they can utilize long-term storage credits, they can use reclaimed water."  

Hobbs said the plan is not an indication that the state is running out of water, but a necessary step toward sustainability.

“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 that we face with integrity and transparency,” Hobbs said.  

Along with the announcement, Hobbs directed $40 million in federal American Rescue Plan Act funds toward water conservation efforts.

Katherine Davis-Young is a senior field correspondent reporting on a variety of issues, including public health and climate change.