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How are Western Cities Dealing With Drought and Climate Change?

As the world becomes increasingly affected by drought and climate change, many cities all around the globe are finding themselves in a precarious situation. With less water available, the agricultural industry is struggling to sustain itself and provide food for the growing population. But while some cities are feeling the effects of climate change more than others, it’s not all doom and gloom. In fact, some cities in the western world are finding innovative ways to combat the drought and climate change. How is that possible? In this blog post, we will explore how Western cities are dealing with drought and climate change.

Where Do Cities in the West Get Their Water From?

While cities in the western world are not immune to the effects of drought, they are in a much better position than many others around the globe. The cities of Phoenix, Las Vegas, San Diego, Los Angeles, Denver, Salt Lake City, Tucson, Albuquerque, and other western cities get the majority of their water from the 1,450-mile Colorado River for their residential and commercial needs.

The Colorado River is one of the most important rivers in the American West. It stretches from Wyoming all the way to Mexico, and provides water for nearly 40 million people. It is also one of the most threatened rivers in the world, as it is constantly under strain from the demands of a growing population.

However, despite the challenges, the Colorado River is still a reliable source of water for many western cities. In fact, thanks to a series of canals and aqueducts, it is possible for water to be transported from the river all the way to cities like Los Angeles and San Diego.

Agriculture remains to be the single-largest consumer of the Colorado River. In fact, it is estimated that agriculture uses up to 80% of the river’s water. But due to the overuse of the river, hot, dry summers, and climate change, the water flows in the river have greatly reduced by an average of 20% since 2000. This has led to a number of challenges for the agricultural industry, as well as the cities that rely on the Colorado River for their water needs.

How are Western Cities Dealing With these Challenges?

With the challenges posed by drought and climate change, western cities have had to get creative in the way they deal with their water needs. One of the most common ways that cities are dealing with drought is by investing in water recycling and desalination plants. Water recycling involves treating used water so that it can be reused for other purposes. This includes using it for irrigation, or even for drinking water. Desalination, on the other hand, is the process of turning seawater into fresh water. This is usually done through a reverse osmosis process, which uses a semi-permeable membrane to remove salt and other impurities from water.

The federal and state governments have also been working together to invest in water infrastructure projects. These projects include things like building new reservoirs, repairing existing ones, and investing in canals and aqueducts. All of these investments are designed to ensure that cities have the water they need to cope with the effects of drought and climate change.

In addition to these physical infrastructure investments, cities are also working on creating policies and regulations that will help them conserve water. For example, many cities have implemented water usage limits, which restrict the amount of water that can be used for things like watering lawns and washing cars. Some cities have even gone as far as to ban the use of lawn sprinklers altogether. In addition to these restrictions, cities are also working on educating their residents about the importance of conserving water. By doing this, they hope to change people’s behavior so that they use less water overall.

Another way that cities are dealing with drought is by investing in alternative sources of water. This includes things like rainwater harvesting and greywater systems. Rainwater harvesting involves collecting and storing rainwater so that it can be used later on. Greywater systems, on the other hand, involve using wastewater from things like showers and laundry for irrigation.

Different Actions being Taken in Different Cities

While all western cities are facing the challenges of drought and climate change, they are all taking different actions to deal with these problems.

Los Angeles

The city of Los Angeles is one western city that has been especially hard hit by drought and climate change. But due to the billions of dollars that have been invested in water infrastructure, the city has been able to weather the storm.

The majority of Los Angeles’ water is imported through an extensive delivery and storage network. The Colorado River in the east, the Sacramento and San Joaquin rivers, and the Sierra Nevada mountains in northern California serve as its water sources. Additionally, some groundwater and recycled water are used. “Los Angeles is less vulnerable,” Peter Gleick, president emeritus of the Pacific Institute, said, “because they do have this very broad, diverse set of options.”

Las Vegas

The Colorado River provides a majority of Las Vegas’ water needs. 90 percent of the water used by the organization that supplies the 2.4 million-person city, its suburbs, and 40 million annual visitors comes from rivers, and 10 percent comes from groundwater. As a result of reductions announced by Reclamation, Nevada lost 7% of its share of water from the Colorado River this year, but Las Vegas was spared the consequences due to water reuse and conservation. According to Anne Castle, a senior fellow at the University of Colorado’s Getches-Wilkinson Center for Natural Resources, Energy and the Environment, “Las Vegas has taken the most significant steps to reduce its dependence on Colorado River water.”

San Diego

San Diego receives two-thirds of its water from the Colorado River, but since the early 1990s, it has looked for alternative water sources. Ten percent of the city’s water comes from a $1 billion desalination plant that cleans seawater of salt and other impurities. While its population has increased, it has also increased water conservation and decreased per-person usage.


Phoenix, the fifth-largest city in the country, also uses imported Colorado River water. According to Sarah Porter, director of the Kyl Center for Water Policy at Arizona State University, it also receives water from the Salt and Verde rivers, which are located within the state but aren’t nearly as troubled as the Colorado River. Phoenix also uses sterilized wastewater for a few restricted applications, including park maintenance and groundwater recharge in some aquifers.


Arizona was the Western state losing the most water from the Colorado River this year, with 18% of its supply gone. Cities, however, were exempt from those cuts. Due to diversified supplies, water saved and stored underground, and other factors, officials in Phoenix claim they will have enough water to withstand future cuts.

Final Thoughts

With climate change and extreme drought becoming more prevalent, it is important for all cities, not just those in the West, to invest in water infrastructure and conservation. These measures will become increasingly important in the years to come and will help to ensure that cities are able to weather the storm.

If you’re a farmer, rancher, or running an agricultural business, you know that water is essential to your success. If you’re having problems with your water supply, or are concerned about the impact of drought and climate change on your business, Farm Plus Financial can help. We offer a variety of agricultural loans, including those for water infrastructure and conservation. Contact us today to learn more about our products and how we can help you meet your financial goals.