“Why are we building houses if we don’t have enough water?”: Towns react to scarcity

Some cities in Western US are restricting development to save their supply of H2O

National Weekend Edition /
Jul.July 25, 2021 12:00 PM
Towns and cities have begun restricting housing construction to save their supply of H2O. (iStock)

Towns and cities have begun restricting housing construction to save their supply of H2O. (iStock)

The increasingly scarce supply of water is starting to have an impact on real estate development in some parts of the Western U.S.

Towns and cities have begun restricting housing construction to save their supply of H2O, according to the New York Times.

This spring, a small town in Utah imposed a moratorium on new homes connecting to its water system after the municipal supply of spring water began to dry up, according to the report. Officials of Oakley — population around 1,500 — said the problem arose from increased demand brought on by full-time and part-time residents. It’s one of the first towns in the country to institute such a measure.

“Why are we building houses if we don’t have enough water?” Oakley Mayor Wade Woolstenhulme said. “The right thing to do to protect people who are already here is to restrict people coming in.”
Woolstenhulme and others backing the move want to preserve the town’s supply of water for its farmers and ranchers, some of whom are letting fields dry up and selling off livestock they can no longer graze, according to the Times.

Utah’s reservoirs are less than half full and 99.9 percent of the state is under “severe drought,” per the U.S. Drought Monitor. But Utah was also the nation’s fastest growing state from 2010 to 2020, during which the population grew by 18 percent.

There are similar dynamics in parts of Arizona. The state water authority announced last month it would reject any development applications in one stretch of mostly agricultural land between Phoenix and Tucson.
Local developers said that will lead to a shortage of housing to meet demand. Nationwide, a recent survey found the housing market needs nearly 4 million single-family homes to meet current demand.

[NYT] — Dennis Lynch


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