Western Water Use Regulation: Diverse Approaches

by Glen Dake, FASLA

Imperial Dam on the Colorado River near Yuma, AZ, where Colorado River water is diverted to the Imperial Irrigation District. / image: Glen Dake

Western states face new struggles to match water use with water supply. Landscape architects are finding a wide range of regulations and incentives to drive landscape water use down and support a growing population.

The 2019 Colorado River Drought Contingency Plan committed each of the Colorado Basin states to reduce the amount of water they take from the Colorado River during drought conditions. The junior water rights holder, Arizona, committed to a 7% reduction in annual water use starting in 2020. That state is home to the second-fastest growing city in the U.S., with a 56.6% increase in population since the last census: Buckeye, AZ. This is one of several dynamics that are impacting water policies in the Colorado Basin states: Arizona, California, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, Wyoming, and Utah.

To reduce water use states are turning to the remaining area of conservation potential: water that is consumed in urban landscapes. In past years, urban water use per capita was reduced through promotion of low-flow bathroom fixtures and water-wise clothes washers that have been replacing old models. A sampling of many approaches that Western cities and counties are applying to meet their water conservation goals follows.

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