How Cities Can Manage Drought Risk and Conserve Water

As climate change and population growth strain fresh water resources, tactics from around the world provide universal lessons for building water-smart cities.

2 minute read

August 6, 2021, 8:00 AM PDT

By Diana Ionescu @aworkoffiction

Water Treatment

Joe Jungmann / Flickr

"A recent United Nations report on drought says climate change is increasing the frequency, severity and duration of droughts, which contribute to food insecurity, poverty and inequality," writes Chris Malloy. Additionally, the report points out, "drought has been the single longest-term physical trigger of political change in 5,000 years of recorded human history."

This, says Malloy, "calls for urgent action and a transformation in governance to manage modern drought risk more effectively." And although "[e]very place is different when it comes to preparing for these challenges … some tactics are universally applicable enough that they can be united into a blueprint for the water-smart cities of tomorrow." These tactics include recycling water, measuring usage–"if you cannot measure it, you cannot manage it"–and getting creative with techniques for collecting, storing, and conserving water, such as desalination, reclaimed wastewater, and futuristic options like Peru's fog-catching machines.

"There are also a host of potential policy changes, including requiring buildings to reuse water, encouraging greywater systems, and pursuing innovative financing, like the Green Stormwater Infrastructure Fee that Tucson charges residents," which "funds rainwater capture systems and the development of green spaces." But while "[c]ities can employ a range of solutions to tackle water scarcity … climate change remains the root cause of many looming water issues." To tackle it, "cities will need to become far more water efficient and invest in related education."

Monday, August 2, 2021 in Bloomberg CityLab

View of Mount Hood at golden hour with Happy Valley, Oregon homes in foreground.

Clackamas County Votes to Allow ADUs, Residential RVs

County officials hope the zoning changes will help boost the housing supply in the region.

June 18, 2024 - Mountain Times

Single-family homes in a suburban neighborhood in Florida.

New Florida Law Curbs HOA Power

The legislation seeks to cut down on ‘absurd’ citations for low-level violations.

June 16, 2024 - The Guardian

Aerial view of intersection in New York City with yellow cabs and zebra crosswalks.

Planners’ Complicity in Excessive Traffic Deaths

Professor Wes Marshall’s provocatively-titled new book, "Killed by a Traffic Engineer," has stimulated fierce debates. Are his criticisms justified? Let’s examine the degree that traffic engineers contribute to avoidable traffic deaths.

June 13, 2024 - Todd Litman

View of Palos Verdes Drive along Pacific Ocean in Palos Verdes, California at sunset.

Erosion Threatens SoCal Road, Lloyd Wright Icon

The city of Palos Verdes is closing parts of a roadway to cyclists, citing safety concerns as the land underneath moves between 7 and 12 inches per week.

3 hours ago - Daily Breeze

Faded image of vacant storefront in rural area with American flag stars painteind on windows.

COVID Isn’t to Blame for the Retail Vacancy Crisis

A drop in demand for retail space began well before the seismic shifts of the pandemic.

5 hours ago - Slate

Heavy New York City traffic headed toward Holland Tunnel in Manhattan.

Judge Rules in Favor of MTA in Congestion Pricing Suit

Advocates of the program are calling on Gov. Hochul to reinstate the program in light of the decision.

June 23 - StreetsBlog NYC

City Planner I

Department of Housing and Community Development

City Planner II

Department of Housing and Community Development

City Planner Supervisor

Department of Housing and Community Development

Urban Design for Planners 1: Software Tools

This six-course series explores essential urban design concepts using open source software and equips planners with the tools they need to participate fully in the urban design process.

Planning for Universal Design

Learn the tools for implementing Universal Design in planning regulations.