Tucson Water Wars

Tony Davis had a story last week on Tucson’s approach to meeting (or not meeting) the water needs of new developments on its perimeter:

A city water policy that had been described as “trick-or-treat” for new developers has been replaced by a tougher stance in which City Hall has denied service to four projects in unincorporated areas.
The new policy denies water to developments outside existing city service areas. It triggered a recent legal claim for $46.25 million by the developer of a saguaro-rich property in the Tucson Mountain foothills.
The problem here is that, under Arizona law, pretty much anyone can drill a well and pump as much water as they want. They’ve got to pay the full cost of extraction, but there is no scarcity pricing attached, which encourages exploitation of the resource. I was at a conference a year ago in Tucson where I heard stories of people angered by city water rates just drilling their own wells. Makes managing a scarce and dwindling resource difficult.