As a fifteenth year of drought persists in several Western states, cities like Las Vegas and Denver are contemplating costly new dams and pipelines to meet water demand.
Those projects come from a brand of old solutions, ones that shaped the Western U.S., allowing cities to spread across dry plains and sandy deserts. But they may no longer be the go-to answer to the complex set of challenges facing water utilities today.
The old way of dealing with water needs is based on the assumption that demand will continuously rise as populations grow. But data shows a different story. Implausible as it many seem in a region defined by growth and expansion, municipal over the last two decades.
This trend is evidence that water deliveries do not simply track population, says Sharlene Leurig, a water-financing expert at Ceres, a Boston-based nonprofit that advocates for business leadership on climate change.
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