Bozeman, Montana, recently restricted lawn watering to two days a week. Mexico is releasing silver iodide into the clouds to stimulate rain. Maui County announced it will fine those who irrigate, water their lawns, wash their vehicles or otherwise use water for "nonessential activities."
It's too soon to know if these recent efforts will work.
The current drought has also added a sense of urgency to find longer-term plans to conserve water.
In Arizona, the state department of water resources has long been trying to reduce use of groundwater — which supplies about 39% of the state's water — so that water returns to the aquifers at the same rate it is withdrawn. That effort is especially important this year, because drought is diminishing the state's other main water source, the Colorado River.
But where to cut groundwater use has been a source of conflict.
In April, the state proposed rules that would require urban golf courses using groundwater to lower their use by a little over 3% — a "relatively modest reduction" in the words of the department director, Tom Buschatzke.
In a public meeting, the president of Arizona's golf course superintendents chapter pushed back, calling the proposal "the biggest issue we've ever faced." He urged the state to not rush its decision and pointed out that the golf industry had already made strides in water conservation.
Conservation advocates say that while cities are worthy targets for cuts, any effective strategy must also include agriculture, which the USDA says accounts for 80% of the nation's water consumption.
"We cannot get out of water scarcity and the threat of water shortages if we can't reduce how much water we're using on irrigated farms," said Brian Richter, president of Sustainable Waters, a nonprofit based in Utah and Virginia. "You can erase all the cities across the map in the Western U.S. and you'd still have water shortages on farms."
One water dispute over agriculture is playing out in Oregon, where Native Americans hold senior legal rights to the Upper Klamath Lake through a treaty with the federal government.