Most Subdivisions in Metro Phoenix Are Growing on Groundwater? Think Again

Metro Phoenix can no longer build residential subdivisions solely on groundwater.

And that has major implications for places like Queen Creek and Buckeye, where most development has occurred in that way.

But that’s not where most new subdivisions are popping up.

Roughly two-thirds of subdivisions that are ready to begin selling lots in metro Phoenix have secured their water from a designated provider — mostly, from city water departments that have proven they have enough supplies on hand to accommodate a certain amount of additional use.

That’s important.

Most new subdivisions aren’t on the outskirts

Because while the state has paused issuing certificates of assured water supply — which developers typically used to grow on groundwater — subdivisions that are served by a designated provider can continue building as they had before.

And that’s where the bulk of new subdivisions in the Phoenix groundwater Active Management Area (AMA) were appearing in the months before the state tightened its stance.

An Arizona Republic analysis of subdivision public disclosure reports filed with the Arizona Department of Real Estate through June 1 this year found that more acres of new homes (423) would be served by Queen Creek than by any other water provider.

But it and other undesignated providers were on the hook to serve only about a third of the 1,767 acres of subdivisions that had filed reports.

The rest would be served by designated cities.

Groundwater will drain from the edges first

I know. We often read about how Buckeye and Queen Creek are among the nation’s fastest-growing municipalities.

But clearly, not all of our housing growth is materializing on the outskirts.

Even if that’s where a new groundwater model — the impetus for the state nixing construction on those supplies — has found the most unmet demand.

That makes sense, because the Phoenix AMA is like a bathtub (albeit one larger than Connecticut):

The deepest part is at the center, where most of the designated water providers are operating, with shallower bits on the edges — ironically, where those who are most reliant on groundwater are located.

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