What Droughts Say About Planners and Water Officials

When water policy and land use planning operate in separate spheres, it's more difficult to design for efficient resource use. Better communication is needed in the drought-stricken southwest.

1 minute read

May 13, 2015, 12:00 PM PDT

By Philip Rojc @PhilipRojc

Water Dripping

Vinoth Chandar / Flickr

In this piece for Next City, Rachel Dovey explains why land use planners and water district officials "don't speak the same language" when it comes to designating resources efficiently. The first culprit is sprawl itself: "Lawns for single-family homes; paved-over green space along an expanding border; parking lots that funnel storm water into disposal drains [...] and a subterranean network of mains and pipes that becomes costlier as its footprint grows."

Lack of coordination between the two types of planning also takes its toll: "For example, water agencies often project a city's future consumption based on current gallon-per-household-per-month figures. But if planners are up-zoning a city for mixed-use, thereby cutting water demand, everyone ends up with inflated data."

The southwestern regions hit hardest by the current drought "also happen to be the regions that built cities for cars, garages, lawns and single-family homes." The article cites an expert who believes that most officials understand the need for infill, but smart growth and actual water savings don't always go hand-in-hand. 

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