How cities in the West have water amid drought

Drought and climate change are holding back the American West, seeing springs, swimming pools, parks and golf courses in cities like Phoenix, Las Vegas, Los Angeles , Salt Lake City, Boise, and Albuquerque can argue the first impression. .

However, Western water experts say they need not worry. Over the past three years, major Western cities – California and Nevada – have changed their water resources, increased local supplies through economics and conservation, and with the proper use of water.

Peter Gleick, president emeritus of the Pacific Institute, has studied water resources for many years. He called everyone’s water reduction “an amazing story” and not widely known.

“That’s a big win in the West,” Gleick said. “Every city in the West has prospered.”

But with little water flowing into the Colorado River, serving 40 million people in Western and Northern Mexico, experts say the actions taken by cities are not enough.

Here is a look at how Western cities prepare for the future with scarcity of water.

Where can water be found in western cities?

Phoenix, Las Vegas, San Diego, Los Angeles, Denver, Salt Lake City, Tucson, Albuquerque and other Western cities use water from the 1,450 miles (2,334 kilometers) of the Colorado River for residential and commercial purposes. professions.

The more use of the river, the higher the temperature, the less melting of the ice in the spring, and the less melting the water flow into the river – in up 20% on average since 2000.

Agriculture is the biggest consumer, using 70% of the water found in the Colorado River, according to the Bureau of Reclamation.

Although rivers are the lifeblood of the land, many cities have other sources of water. That’s because billions of dollars have been spent over the years in a business that hopes to stand in the future with unreliable water sources.

“It’s really related to the new technological wonders of the 20th and 21st centuries,” said Daniel Swain, a scientist at the University of California, Los Angeles. “This is the essence of the eternal history of the West.”

Los Angeles brings in most of its water through a system of storage and distribution. Its water sources are the Sierra Nevada Mountains in Northern California, the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers and the Colorado River in the east. It also uses some groundwater a try again water.

“Los Angeles can’t be bothered,” Gleick said, “because they have this vast space and all kinds of options.”

However, Southern California’s behemoth water supplier last month ordered about 6 million people cut off their outdoor water once a week due to constipated dry conditions. The Metropolitan Water District said it would ban outdoor water in the affected areas in September if the owners did not work.

The lion’s share of Las Vegas ’waterfront comes from the Colorado River. The company that serves the city of 2.4 million, its suburbs and 40 million annual visitors gets 90% of its water from the river and 10% from groundwater.

Nevada lost 7% of its Colorado River water share this year is in the form of cuts announced by Reclamation, but Las Vegas has been spared the consequences due to water conservation and use. again.

“It’s fair to say that Las Vegas has taken the most important steps to reduce its dependence on Colorado River water,” said Anne Castle, a senior fellow at the Getches-Wilkinson Center for Natural Resources, Energy. and the Environment.

The San Diego -based water retailer gets two -thirds of its supply from the Colorado River but has sought other water sources since the 1990s. The San Diego County Water Authority owns 10% of its water from a $ 1 billion desalination plant that removes salt and pollutants from seawater. The city kept more water and cut off individual use as its population grew.

Phoenix, the nation’s fifth -largest city, relies on imported Colorado river water. It gets water from the states of Salt and Verde Rivers, nowhere like the Colorado River, said Sarah Porter, director of the Kyl Center for Water Policy at Arizona State University. Phoenix also uses sterilized wastewater for small -scale uses, such as polluting and refilling some aquifers with groundwater.

Arizona is the hardest among Western states to lose water to the Colorado River this year, with 18% of its supply lost. But the cities were saved from that cutting circle. Phoenix officials said they had enough water to cut off in the future because of the various supplies and the water being stored and stored underground.


Yes. There is no better example than Las Vegas. Sin City’s fountains, swimming pools, and swimming pools use recycled water. About 40% of the Southern Nevada Water Authority’s water supply is for indoor use. When used, much of the wastewater is stored and returned to Lake Mead, the reservoir behind Hoover Dam, before being hauled and reused.

Las Vegas began conserving, reusing and recycling water in 1999. Since 2002, the Southern Nevada Water Authority has reduced its use of Colorado River water by 26% and increased consumption. population of the country is 49%.

In 2003, water authority banned lawns in new areas. Grass was banned in new commercial events. Last year, Nevada keep out so-called ‘non-functional turf’ in the Las Vegas area, or grass used in office parks, on meridian streets and at entrances to buildings. Officials said it could save as much as 10% of its supply to the Colorado River.

Cities and states did not act as fast. Phoenix did not pay for mowing the lawn. Utah just passed a resale test.

In California, urban water use has steadily declined since rising in 2007, according to the Pacific Institute. Much of that success has been due to fixing leaks, replacing foliage and making the land drier, as well as installing detergents, washing dishes. and other necessities.

But more water can be conserved, the Pacific Institute says in a new report. California again uses 23% of its wastewater. The report found that the cities of the state can reduce consumption by 30% to 48% by maintaining additional resources.

One of the authors, Gleick, points out that California’s water use in recent years has shown that population growth is not enough to support the need for new water. more.

“We’re past the point where we can find a place to build a fence that is suitable or any other river to cross,” Gleick said. “We are in this new era of utility and reuse.”

How about climate change?

While Western cities are changing supplies, eating less and using more, scientists say climate change will affect them and could encourage cities to use better technologies, such as such as desalination, and often ordered the cutting of water.

“There’s a built -in concept in these drought -reducing designs and designs and water separations that long -term, long -term drought,” said Swain of UCLA. “Increasingly, it’s a mistake.”

Swain added that the first few steps are much easier to maintain.

“Getting primary care is the easiest thing,” she said. After a while, you need to start going to the fruit that is laying on top. “

Last month, the Southern Nevada Water Authority published The water level at Lake Mead has dropped so low that Las Vegas is drawing water from the depths of the reservoir, from what has been called “three grasses.”

The pipeline near the bottom of the lake was completed in 2015 and was built so that Las Vegas would have access to water if the lake surface fell under two other inlet pipes.

“What we have now is a new reality of reduced flows throughout the entire Colorado River system,” said Castle of the Getches-Wilkinson Center. “The use of every capital in these cities will continue to go down, not just when the governor announces a problem.”


The Associated Press has support from the Walton Family Foundation to cover water and environmental policies. The AP is solely responsible for everything. For AP’s environmental coverage, visit

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How cities in the West have water amid drought Source link How cities in the West have water amid drought

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