Two desert states continue to grow more rapidly than all others. But Arizona can now lay claim to the title of the country's fastest growing state, outpacing Nevada for the first time in nearly two decades.USA Today reported on the new Census figures as well, noting that the South leads the nation in regional growth:
According to figures released Friday by the Census Bureau, Arizona's population grew by 3.6 percent between July 2005 and July 2006. Nevada's grew 3.5 percent in the same period.
But it's not always easy being big - and getting bigger at a rapid clip - in the middle of a desert. The growth that Arizona - and greater Phoenix, in particular - are experiencing has placed a great strain on the use of public land, roadways, and precious natural resources - especially water.
"Historically, water has been the resource that's driven population growth in the state," says Patricia Gober, a geography professor at Arizona State University in Tempe. But whether the supply of "water can keep abreast of the population growth is the issue that will challenge us in the future."
To be sure, Arizona has been booming for decades. Just prior to World War II, the state hosted 499,000 people. Today, 12 times that many people - nearly 6.2 million - call the Grand Canyon state home. In Maricopa County, which includes Phoenix and is the state's most densely populated area, the population grew in the same period from about 400,000 to nearly 4 million.
Planners project that by 2010, the greater Phoenix and Tucson areas will merge. And forecasters predict that the population in that swath of land, dubbed the Arizona Sun Corridor, will top 10 million by 2040.
The South is rising again, this time as a population magnet for immigrants who come for the same reasons that pull Americans there from other states: the warm climate, jobs and cheaper housing, according to an analysis of Census estimates out Friday.
More than half of the population growth in the USA in the past year occurred in southern states. The July 1 estimates also are the first to reflect Hurricane Katrina's devastation: Louisiana suffered a staggering net loss of 219,563 people, the largest annual decline in any state's population since troops were deployed during World War II.
If people don't return, Louisiana will lose a seat in the House of Representatives, according to an analysis by Election Data Services, a consulting firm. Seats will be reapportioned after the 2010 Census.
The South now attracts as many people from other countries as the West, partly because California's appeal is waning.
California needs to assimilate those already here, so a break in the state's surging population numbers should be welcomed. Of course, the dramatic demographic changes seen here are now becoming more common around the nation.
See also this USA Today article, indicating that Arizona, Florida, Georgia, Nevada, and Texas -- the fastest growing states, all leaning Republican -- are likely to pick up seats in Congress after the 2010 reapportionment.