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Report: Proposed Interstate 11 Would Worsen Arizona’s Water Crisis

Tucson Alice.— Plans for Interstate 11 through Arizona will cause dramatic population growth and unsustainable increases in water demand, according to a new report.

deadpool highwayA report released today by the Center for Biodiversity analyzes seven growth areas using government population and water use estimates. Future development officials say it justifies building a 480-mile north-south highway through the desert.

“This proposed interstate is based on growing without enough water,” said Russ McSpadden, a Southwest conservationist at the Center for Biodiversity and a co-author of the report. Stated. “Highways will cause unsustainable suburban sprawl and exacerbate water scarcity in the midst of a mega drought with no end in sight. should be shelved.”

Some of the report’s findings include:

  • The growth region’s population will surge more than tenfold, from about 220,500 to more than 2.8 million, and Arizona’s population will increase by one-third.
  • Water usage will increase more than tenfold from 33,593 acre-feet to 396,400 acre-feet per year. This equates to 2,774,800 acre-feet every seven years, nearly the entirety of Arizona’s annual Colorado River quota.
  • At least one area, the West Valley in the Phoenix metropolitan area, lacks enough water to support the planned development of Interstate 11.
  • Environmental analyzes of highways do not take into account how much water demand highways can induce and whether there is enough water to support these growth areas.

Warming and drying due to climate change, and over-allocation of water from the Colorado River, are causing dangerously low water levels in Lake Powell and Lake Mead. In 2023, Arizona will experience a phase two supply shortage, with the federal government cutting the supply of the Colorado River by 21%.

Groundwater is also over-allocated in the state, with cities, farms, developers and other groups claiming the right to use more water than there is. As a result, groundwater extraction is outpacing recharge, and wells and water supplies for agriculture and desert cities are being depleted.

Recent Arizona Department of Water Resources report The West Valley, which includes the city of Buckeye, is projected to fall short of 4.4 million acre-feet for projected growth based on future pumping and recharge estimates. State law requires the area to have a reliable water supply for 100 years, so authorities cannot approve new development here.

“Despite years of research, officials have not been able to analyze whether there is enough water to justify this multi-billion dollar highway,” McSpadden said. “This threatens to be a huge waste of public money, and it would be foolish to proceed. Instead, Arizona will promote smart growth, get rid of polluting highways, and switch to green transportation. should be promoted.”

Background
A July 2021 environmental analysis identified a priority corridor for Interstate 11, which runs between the border town of Nogales and Wickenburg, Arizona, northwest of Phoenix. One of two alternative routes through Pima County is Saguaro National Park, Ironwood Forest National Monument, Tohono Ordum Nation, Sonoran Desert National Monument, the pristine desert along the Nature Reserve, and Tucson and Pass through the suburbs and countryside of Phoenix.

In April 2022, conservation groups filed a lawsuit against the Federal Highway Administration challenging the authorization of Interstate 11. The lawsuit alleges that the Federal Highway Administration failed to consider other modes of transportation, such as railroads, and evaded a required environmental review.

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