Global environmental challenges
Cities in U.S. Southwest face thirsty times
The fast-growing U.S. Southwest has a problem: too many people, not enough water.
But then, what do you expect when you build cities like Las Vegas in the middle of a desert?
My colleagues Tim Gaynor and Steve Gorman have done a story on this, looking at the water woes of Los Angeles and Las Vegas. You can see their report here and other stories from our water package here.
Tim joined the “water warriors” of Las Vegas, city investigators who enforce restrictions on usage; Steve looked at the dire situation in Los Angeles, America’s second largest city.
Tim accompanied waste water investigator Dennis Demera as he followed a tell-tale trickle of water up the dusty concrete gutter to a house in suburban Las Vegas, the United States’ driest big city.
This is one of the violations that we look for,” Demera said, pointing to a broken sprinkler head in the sparse lawn of the detached home in residential Surfline Drive.
A water cop employed by the Southern Nevada Water Authority, it is Demera’s job to claw back wasted water one gallon at a time — and it’s a job for our times.
Most of the U.S. Southwest’s fast growing cities are built either in the scalding deserts or on their fringes, where H2O has always been a scarce resource.
Now as the area is hit by droughts and higher temperatures, possibly linked to climate change, water scarcity is driving those desert cities to respond to scarcity in a variety of ways.
It begs the question: should cities of such size exist in such places in the first place? Is this kind of urban growth really sustainable into the future? What do you think?
Photo credit: Reuters/David Becker (Las Vegas water sleuth Dennis Demera looks for leaks, February 2009)