Water Conservation & Efficiency Protects Rivers and Lakes
– Bart Miller, Healthy Rivers Program Director
Water is Scarce in the West and Past Water Development Has Had High Environmental and Recreational Impacts
The West is defined by the limited supply of water in our region. The scarcity of this essential resource makes its intelligent use critical to the future of our communities. For more than 150 years, farmers, miners, and cities have competed for water. Today, increasing demands on our limited water supplies are more intense than ever as the region’s population continues to grow. As many as seven million new residents are expected to arrive in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah in the next 25 years, creating ever greater demands for water. The climate is also changing, with higher temperatures and less rainfall depleting existing water supplies.
An outdated approach to meeting new water demands is to pull more water from already-stressed river systems and aquifers, imposing significant additional taxpayer and environmental costs. Large dams and diversions alter river hydrology, obstruct fish migration, and increase water temperature. Dams and water diversions also have negative impacts on water-based recreation (e.g., boating and angling) and the multi-billion dollar economic boost this recreation provides to our local communities. In addition to this large water footprint, many new pipeline projects are energy intensive, burning carbon-based fuels to move water sometimes hundreds of miles, thus contributing to climate change.
States, Cities, and Water Providers Should Adopt a Goal of Decreasing Per Capita Water Use 10% by 2020
Water conservation measures are every bit as reliable as new diversion structures, dams, and pipelines; and conservation is faster and cheaper to implement than these large structural projects. It is important for water utilities, administrative agencies, legislatures, and home builders to commit to, and plan around, utilizing our existing water supplies in smarter ways. Western Resource Advocates encourages our states, cities, and water providers to adopt a goal of reducing per person (per capita) water use 10% by 2020.
There are many examples of successful, cost-effective water conservation programs in the West that have resulted in significant water savings. Indoors, we can replace fixtures with water efficient models, fix leaks, and use water-efficient appliances to help reduce water usage. In the outdoors, we can cut down on water lost to evaporation through landscaping with plants that need little to no additional watering and using drip irrigation. Businesses can do their part to conserve water by fixing leaks and installing low flow devices or upgrading water fixtures, such as sinks, toilets, and even spray nozzles for dish washing. Developers can design new homes and office buildings that incorporate low water-use design, drought tolerant landscaping, and water-efficient fixtures, plumbing and appliances.
Western Resource Advocates Helps Water Leaders Stretch Existing Water Supplies
Western Resource Advocates’ staff work with water leaders to meet community water needs while ensuring there will be enough water left to sustain the region’s rivers, lakes, and aquifers. Through our research and advocacy, we provide pathways for water providers to stretch their existing water supplies using efficiency measures, water conservation, and water re-use. Our reports, presentations, membership on advisory boards, and one-on-one work with water utilities and other key decision-makers have helped many cities move toward a more sustainable water supply future and ushered in a new ethic of water efficiency in the West.
Our Case for Conservation fact sheets present some of the most well-researched water conservation efforts whose lessons can be transferred to other western communities. These include program information on water savings, costs, and implementation options for consideration when developing a water conservation program. Understanding the components of successful water conservation programs makes for better-informed water management decisions.
Case for Conservation Fact Sheets