Phoenix mayor clears confusion about order to halt construction relying on groundwater

It’s been a national story, and the mayor says there are misconceptions about the impact on the city of Phoenix itself.
Published: Jun. 5, 2023 at 8:07 PM MST
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PHOENIX (3TV/CBS 5) -- Phoenix Mayor Kate Gallego wants to clear up confusion about the recent Arizona groundwater study that prompted new restrictions on construction in parts of the Valley. It’s been a national story, and the mayor says there are misconceptions about the impact on the city of Phoenix itself.

The city tweeted Monday, “Fact: the city’s water security remains intact.” They are trying to clear up confusion regarding a study from the Phoenix Active Management Area, or AMA. Because Phoenix is in the name, it led to some people thinking there are water concerns with the city itself. However, the mayor says there are no issues, and the study covered all of Maricopa County and even parts of Pinal County.

“The local coverage has been pretty responsible, but there has been some national coverage that really confuses the issue,” Gallego said. “It’s much broader than Phoenix but the national media is sometimes covering it in a way that implies Phoenix does not have that water supply we do.”

Gov. Katie Hobbs said last Thursday the state is pausing new construction on the edges of metro Phoenix that rely on groundwater. Essentially if the land isn’t water-assured for the next 100 years, developers can’t get approval for their projects unless they find their own water source. “The city of Phoenix is not in that situation,” Gallego said.

Due to a sobering water report, Gov. Katie Hobbs announced new approvals for construction that would rely on groundwater are paused for certain areas.

The Phoenix Active Management area model shows a groundwater shortage of 4.9 million acre-feet over the next 100 years. The confusion at hand here is that Phoenix is in the name of that model, but the city itself says its water supply is intact. Instead, outlying areas across the county could feel the impacts. “We actually store more groundwater than we use, so we are making bank deposit accounts in case we need to withdraw it in a time of a very severe drought,” Gallego explained.

She added that groundwater accounts for only 2% of the city’s yearly usage. However, she does not want Phoenix water customers and stakeholders to worry. “We have a 100-year water supply,” Gallego said. “We are actually planning on a much longer timeframe than most communities, and our residents should feel good about that.”

While places on the outskirts of the Valley like Buckeye and Queen Creek would be impacted with new build restrictions, Gallego says Phoenix is working with other cities on a solution. “There are federal dollars that might help us expand the storage on the Salt and Verde water system, and that could help provide a new water supply for some of the communities that don’t have the surface water they need,” the mayor said.

The Town of Queen Creek released a statement regarding the building restrictions, saying a small number of properties would be impacted.

City officials say most of Phoenix’s water supplies come from renewable resources such as the Salt, Verde and Colorado rivers. Gallego says Phoenix reuses more than 95% of its reclaimed water.

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