San Antonio, Texas, long struggled with its dependency on the Edwards Aquifer — until the Sierra Club filed a lawsuit against the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in 1991 arguing that the city was pumping too much water and threatening seven endangered aquatic species.
The environmental nonprofit won in court, forcing Texas to create a system limiting withdrawals from the aquifer.
Today, San Antonio is considered "best in class when it comes to water conservation," said Richter. According to the nonprofit Texas Living Waters, San Antonio has grown by 80% in the past 30 years but has decreased its per-person water use by 40%.
The city offers rebates for residents who install pool filters or convert grass into patios, along with other conservation efforts involving irrigation, landscaping, and water flow sensors. The Southern Nevada Water Authority, which serves almost three quarters of the state's population, took a similar approach by offering cash to residents who replace grass with desert landscaping.
Cape Town, South Africa was forced to confront its water use after nearly running dry in 2018.
The city was able to reduce its water consumption by almost 60% during a major 2018 drought and has kept it low since, said Xanthea Limberg, a local appointed official and a mayoral committee member for waste and water in Cape Town.
She said the city cut water use during the drought by installing water meters that could enforce water restrictions, instating tariffs, and creating targeted campaigns.
The city now consumes about 38% less water than it did before the drought, according to Limberg.
"I definitely think that there has been a permanent behavior shift," she said. "There's definitely been a greater awareness to conserve water, and how incredibly finite this resource is, and how vulnerable we are if we face a shortage of water."©2021 Los Angeles Times. Visit latimes.com. Distributed by Tribune Content Agency, LLC.