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Growth can continue amid water limits, panel tells County Board of Supervisors

Published: Monday, June 26, 2023 - 4:17pm
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Arizona has set new limits on some development due to projected groundwater shortfalls in the Phoenix area. But experts told the Maricopa County Board of Supervisors on Monday that the rule won’t threaten the economic viability of the region.

In a presentation to county supervisors, Chris Camacho, president and CEO of the Greater Phoenix Economic Council, said national headlines about Arizona putting limits on development didn’t tell the whole story.

“When a headline like that goes out, panic ensues," Camacho said. "Over that Friday, Saturday, Sunday, I had 250 calls to me directly about ‘what does this really mean?’” 

Camacho said water is a critical concern, but he said businesses looking to come to Arizona should be reassured that the state is taking action manage its resources. He said he points out to clients that the state's 1980 Groundwater Management Act was the first of its kind in the nation.

"We've set forth this policy to ensure that we have future water supply. Other states across the country have not done so," Camacho said. 

Camacho added that the advanced manufacturing companies and semiconductor plants that have been bringing job growth to the region are able to recycle the bulk of the water they use.

Sarah Porter, with ASU’s Kyl Center for Water Policy, told the Board of Supervisors that municipal water users also recycle about 95% of their water. She pointed out most Valley cities have diverse water portfolios and are required by the state to reevaluate the sustainability of their water supply at least every 15 years. 

“This should be gratifying for you to see," Porter said. "Almost all of the cities in the greater Phoenix area are doing a very good job of demonstrating that they have long term water supplies to meet current and projected demand."

Porter added that with efficient management, population growth within cities is possible. 

“We don't need that much water for growth, there’s quite a bit we can do," Porter said. 

Porter said the new limits on development are likely to be the biggest challenge for suburbs like Buckeye and Queen Creek. But she said even those communities will have options for securing new water rights.

"Developing those supplies in alignment with the pace of real estate development — that becomes a bigger challenge," Porter said. 

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