Water availability is a global issue. Although the United States is positioned better than many other countries, there are plenty of water-challenged regions. Important lessons are available to us all when we consider sustainability efforts implemented by desert cities, such as Phoenix and Tucson. With already scarce water resources available, these cities also face continued population growth, predicted temperature increases and heightened drought likelihood. Furthermore, the region’s water sources are strained due to the Central Arizona Project (CAP), a canal that takes water from the Colorado River to central and southern Arizona.
People in these areas have lived with this reality for decades and have planned accordingly. Dr. Ladd Keith, an Assistant Professor in Planning and Chair of Sustainable Built Environments at The University of Arizona, stated, “In many ways, Phoenix and Tucson are on the cutting edge of sustainability because they were forced to confront water scarcity decades ago.” In an article published by Jstor Daily, Ladd suggests several key ideas these cities are using to manage the water challenges.
First, cities must reconsider urban planning and think about the impact of “heat islands,” which the EPA defines as built up areas that are hotter than nearby rural areas. Ladd recommends that cities utilize building materials and vegetation to lessen urban heat island impact (UHI). Second, cities must conserve water and encourage their citizens to do the same through education and incentives. For example, the Tucson Electric company gives water rebates to its customers who practice passive water harvesting through rainwater collection and has a tree planting program geared toward UHI reduction. Third, Ladd suggests that cities consider ways to achieve water efficiency by encouraging wastewater reclamation and aquifer recharge. Another recommended strategy is to implement innovative management approaches such as water banking, which The Colorado Water district defines as “a voluntary, market-based tool [that facilitates] water transactions between willing sellers and buyers.” Perhaps the most effective way to manage water challenges is related to attitude. Cities must consider ways to foster a culture of conservation. Phoenix’s water usage proves the point: even in the face of tremendous growth in recent decades, its water usage has remained largely the same. Conservation is a way of life for these areas, and it begs the question as to why we all don’t follow suit.
 Patel, Rudri. “What Desert Cities Can Teach Us about Water.” Https://Daily.jstor.org, 8 Oct. 2019, daily.jstor.org/what-desert-cities-can-teach-us-about-water/.
Photo Credit: Jerry Ferguson, Flickr
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