The impending urban water crisis


There’d be plenty of water, if only our fastest-growing cities weren’t in deserts. We’ll need creative fixes, fast

(Credit: iStockphoto/Davel5957)

In January, the town of Spicewood, Texas, ran out of water. It’s a scenario virtually unheard of in modern America, but the state’s worst drought in half a millennium changed that. Now, four times a day, a 7,000-gallon truck rolls into town, a sort of liquid life-support system that’s the only thing preventing a full-scale evacuation.
That’s not going to work in Las Vegas. Nevertheless, Vegas’ main water source, Lake Mead, is nearly tapped out. The water level there will soon drop below one of the city’s two pipelines. So they’re building a third pipe, except this one will come up from underneath the lakebed, like a drain. Even that may not be enough — Lake Mead could be empty as early as 2021. So the city has hatched a scheme for a 300-mile pipeline that will siphon water from the eastern half of the state to the Strip. And if that plan doesn’t work …