Environmental consequences of rapid urbanization in warm, arid lands: Case study of Phoenix, Arizona (USA)

L. A. Baker, A. T. Brazel, Paul Westerhoff

Research output: Contribution to journalConference articlepeer-review

18 Scopus citations


The Phoenix metropolitan area (Arizona, USA) provides an excellent case study for examining the sustainability of a rapidly growing urban ecosystem in an arid region, having grown six-fold in population in 50 years (to 3 million in 2000). The example is important, because the world's urban population will nearly double in 30 years, and most of this growth will occur in warm, arid regions. Urbanization has warmed the city by 3°C, increasing heat stress to humans (doubling the number of "misery hours per day"; hours over 37°C), with generally negative impact on humans and their support systems. Water and land management practices have resulted in the accumulation of salts (> 70% of input) and nitrogen (15-20% of input). Accumulation has increased salt and nitrate concentrations in groundwater and may have increased the salinity of soils in the urban area. Under normal hydrologic conditions, humans may adapt to gradual environmental degradation. However, we hypothesize that the resilience of the system has declined, making it vulnerable to disturbances such as severe droughts.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)155-164
Number of pages10
JournalAdvances in Architecture Series
StatePublished - Oct 11 2004
EventThird International Conference on Urban Regeneration and Sustainability, THE SUSTAINABLE CITY III - Siena, Italy
Duration: Jun 16 2004Jun 18 2004


  • Drought
  • Groundwater
  • Resilience
  • Sustainability
  • Urban ecosystems
  • Urban heat island
  • Water policy

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Engineering(all)


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