A growing body of evidence suggests that climate change will render municipal water resources vulnerable to summer shortages in the coming decades. Urban and suburban population growth projections, combined with the spread of low-density developments, point towards increases in water demand over the same time interval.
The combined effects of climate change, population growth, and land use changesuggest increased long-term vulnerability of municipal water supplies to summer shortage. In this context, water demand management policies such as conservation and water pricing may not, in themselves, be sufficient for controlling water consumption levels.
How vulnerable are urban and suburban water providers
to shortages stemming from existing and future land use/land cover
patterns in the context of a changing climate?
Researchers at Portland State Unviersity (PSU), Arizona State University, and Clark University are examining the interrelationships between water consumption, land use, and climate as part of a collaborative research grant funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Association's (NOAA) Sectoral Applications Research Program (SARP).
This inter-disciplinary program compares historical water use and forecasts water demand trajectories in two Western U.S. cities: Portland, Oregon and Phoenix, Arizona. Portland and Phoenix are both increasingly vulnerable to water shortages from climate variability as well as rapid population growth, although they experience this vulnerability from the perspective of different climatic conditions, economies, public attitudes, and growth-management policies.
Results of this study have broad implications for the potential for integrating land use planning and water resource management as a climate change adaptation strategy.
Planning integration could particularly benefit cities
like Portland and Phoenix, both of which experience stress by
the dual challenges of rapid growth and climatic uncertainty.