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Promoting Water Conservation

By the Numbers

  • 34: Number of communities in the West with conservation & efficiency programs WRA reviewed (AZ: 15, CO: 13, UT: 6)
  • Thousands: Number of wells in Colorado that will undergo baseline water testing & monitoring because of WRA's work crafting the nation's first mandatory testing requirements for drilling sites

The West is defined by the limited supply of water in our region. The scarcity of this essential resource makes its intelligent use critical to our sustainable future. For more than 150 years, farmers, miners, and cities have competed for water, and often united to support dams and trans-basin diversions with little regard for environmental impacts. Today, competition for water is more intense than ever as the region’s population grows and climate change threatens to raise temperatures and decrease water availability.


It is important to secure commitments from water utilities, administrative agencies, legislatures, and home builders to utilize our existing water supplies in smarter ways. WRA's Smart Water Project helps all of these entities develop approaches that are faster to implement, less expensive, and less damaging to the environment than the traditional approach of building more dams and pipelines.

The West’s urban areas are growing rapidly.  Seven million new residents are expected to arrive in Arizona, Colorado, Nevada, New Mexico, and Utah in the next 25 years—creating ever greater demands for water.  The conventional approach to meeting new water demands has been to pull more water from already-stressed river systems and aquifers, imposing significant additional taxpayer and environmental costs.  Large dams, pipelines, and diversions alter river hydrology, obstruct fish migration, increase water temperature, and lower dilution flows for municipalities’ waste water treatment plants.  They have negative impacts on water-based recreation (e.g., boating and angling) and the economic boost this recreation provides through increased product and food sales, lodging, guiding, etc.  They also cause lower flows that decrease the quality of life in many small western towns and limit future economic development.  In addition to this large water footprint, many new projects are energy intensive, burning carbon-based fuels to move water sometimes hundreds of miles, thus contributing to climate change.

Western Resource Advocates' Smart Water Project helps urban water providers meet human water needs in fast-growing communities while ensuring there will be enough water left to sustain the region’s rivers, lakes, and aquifers.  Through our research, we have found smarter and more cost-effective means to provide water to growing cities, without the environmental costs of new water projects.  We find ways for water providers to stretch their existing water supplies through efficiency measures and incentives for conservation, water re-use, and other common-sense strategies.

wasteful sprinklers

Progressive conservation measures – including steeper water rate structures, landscape ordinances, and more efficient indoor water fixtures – are every bit as reliable as new diversion structures, dams, and pipelines; and are often faster and cheaper to implement than most supply-side approaches.  Our reports, presentations, membership on advisory boards, and one-on-one conversations have helped many water providers move toward a more sustainable water supply future and ushered in a new ethic of water efficiency in the West.