New Study: Population Growth is Damaging Arizona's Environment

ARLINGTON, Va., Jan. 26, 2021 /PRNewswire/ — Since 1982, Arizona developers have paved 1.1 million acres of natural habitat and farmland — an area more than triple the size of Phoenix — to clear way for the state’s rapidly growing population. That’s among the key findings of a new study on Arizona’s environment published today by NumbersUSA

Arizona has experienced more urban sprawl than any state except Nevada,” said Leon Kolankiewicz, an environmental planner and co-author of the study. “As of 2017, there were almost 3,300 square miles of developed land in Arizona, a 114 percent increase since 1982. This sprawl — which is overwhelmingly driven by rapid population growth, rather than increases in per-capita resource consumption — is fragmenting habitats, exhausting water supplies, and exacerbating climate change.”

The study, titled “Population Growth and the Diminishing Natural State of Arizona,” examines how the state’s soaring population — which jumped from 2.9 million people in 1982 to over 7 million in 2017, a 144 percent increase — has strained everything from aquifers to Arizona’s unique desert biome.

“If we’re serious about protecting wildlife, conserving scarce water resources, and preserving open spaces for future generations, we must have a serious conversation about population growth,” said Eric Ruark, director of research at NumbersUSA and a co-author of the study. “Overdevelopment is a problem not just in Arizona but nationwide.”

The study finds that Arizona has experienced:

  • A 27 percent decrease in cropland — from 1.2 million acres in 1982 to 906,000 in 2015.
  • Depleted aquifers and reservoirs due to growing demand, reduced water flows in the Colorado River, and drier weather.
  • The endangerment and near-extinction of several species, including the Colorado pikeminnow, Yuma clapper rail, and ocelot.

Nationwide, developers have paved over 43 million acres of natural land since 1982 — an area the size of Florida — to accommodate our growing population.

“Formerly pristine open spaces are now strip malls, housing developments, and paved roadways,” said Kolankiewicz. “Unchecked growth is already harming Arizona’s environment — and could have dire consequences unless state and federal leaders take action.”

A link to the full report can be found here. Additional studies on sprawl can be found at

To request an interview with Leon Kolankiewicz or Eric Ruark, authors of “Population Growth and the Diminishing Natural State of Arizona,” please contact Elyse Sheppard at 202-471-4228 ext. 127 or

About NumbersUSA

NumbersUSA Education & Research Foundation educates opinion leaders, policymakers and the public on immigration legislation, policies and their consequences. We favor reductions in immigration numbers toward traditional levels that would allow present and future generations of Americans to enjoy a stabilizing U.S. population and a high degree of individual liberty, mobility, environmental quality, worker fairness and fiscal responsibility.

Media Contact:
Elyse Sheppard
202-471-4228, ext. 127