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Title:Arizona’s water troubles show how climate change is reshaping the West

Jay Famiglietti moved to Arizona this year after a career using satellites to study how the worst drought in a millennium was sapping groundwater beneath the American West.

He has documented that the decline of groundwater in California’s Central Valley accelerated dramatically in recent years, and that states along the Colorado River were losing their aquifers far faster than the more visible shriveling of the nation’s largest reservoirs.


It was not a satellite but an airplane, however, that was on Famiglietti’s mind as he picked up his wife at the airport earlier this year: a charter flight of people arriving in Phoenix as part of a major expansion of Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co., one of Arizona’s premier economic development jewels. This symbol of Arizona’s future brought home the stakes of this moment.

In one of the fastest-growing metropolitan areas in the country, it’s a boom time - water-intensive microchip companies and data centers moving in; tens of thousands of houses spreading deep into the desert. But it is also a time of crisis: Climate change is drying up the American West and putting fundamental resources at ever greater risk.

“I’m incredibly concerned,” said Famiglietti, an Arizona State University professor who is leading a multiyear effort to assess the water supply the state has above and below ground. “I don’t think that people, and this is everyone, the general public, but right up to our water managers and elected officials, really understand now that groundwater is the key to our future.”

“There’s just not enough for all the things we want to do,” he said.

The decision by Arizona in the past week to limit residential construction in some parts of the fast-growing Phoenix suburbs is another major warning about how climate change is disrupting lifestyles and economies in the West. Throughout the region, glaciers have receded, wildfires have expanded, rivers and lakes have shrunk. It...

Organization:Washington Post - Climate and Environment
Date Added:6/4/2023 6:38:29 AM