Arizona Returns to the Desert

This weekend, I ran across a terrific piece Matt Jenkins wrote for High Country News back in 2005 about Phoenix’s water problems. It holds up well: much of the core issues he’s describing are still problems, especially the quirky loopholes in the water laws that were intended to ensure groundwater sustainability. But there’s a new variable in the equation that Jenkins could not have possibly foreseen:

That’s monthly housing starts in the greater Phoenix area. The water shortage we’ve all been expecting to serve as the southwest’s come-to-Jesus moment isn’t responsible for the shape of that curve. It’s the collapse of the housing market Ponzi scheme.

Just for grins, here’s Las Vegas:

(data courtesy St. Louis Fed)


  1. Very, very interesting. There’s a parallel situation with respect to worldwide energy use.

    Of course, in both cases, this is just a pause. once the economy rebounds, those graphs will change.

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