Improve Urban Water Management

Municipal water utilities are already strained by decades of underinvestment and aging infrastructure. Now they face a host of new challenges as climate change, growing populations, and over-tapped rivers and aquifers constrain traditional water supplies. Groundwater levels are declining in many parts of the nation, reaching 100 feet below historic levels in some areas. Wells and streambeds are running dry, and water quality is decreasing.

Permeable paving Ekspansio/iStock

NRDC pushes for rapid, cost-effective actions that can save water on a large scale. Our analysis of urban water use in California found that existing technologies and practices—such as drought-tolerant landscaping, water-efficient fixtures, and timely leak repairs by both utilities and consumers—could reduce water use by 30 percent to 60 percent if put into widespread use.

We support the development of local and regional water-management plans that will reduce imports from over-tapped water sources, such as the Colorado River and the San Francisco Bay-Delta, and focus on reducing water waste and protecting local supplies. To help scale up these solutions, we’re pushing for state policies in California and elsewhere that will encourage water efficiency, such as creating performance targets for utilities, consumer rebate programs, standardized reporting of water losses, more accurate water meters, and rigorous standards for plumbing equipment, appliances, and landscape water use.

We encourage policymakers to embrace new approaches to water management by analyzing the technical potential and cost benefits of water-efficient strategies. And we advise consumers on practical ways to save water at home, as well as in commercial and industrial settings.