Laura Bliss is CityLab’s West Coast bureau chief. She also writes MapLab, a biweekly newsletter about maps (subscribe here). Her work has appeared in The New York Times, The Atlantic, Sierra, GOOD, Los Angeles, and elsewhere, including in the book The Future of Transportation.
Patricia Mulroy lays out your moral obligation to save water in a new video.
For 25 years, Patricia Mulroy served as Las Vegas' water czar. In that time, she reshaped the political course of the Colorado River, so that allocations were more equally distributed across the Southwest. She developed an underground water bank with the state of Arizona, to save drops for dry years. In the world's most famous desert city, she made a limited water supply go further than ever, cutting Southern Nevada's water consumption by a third as the population grew between 2002 and 2012. That was also when a major water shortage locked the region.
Which is all to say: Nevada's "water empress" has something to say about the current drought sweeping the American West, and the alarming ways some citizens are putting their heads in the sand. Now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution's Metropolitan Policy Program, Mulroy features in a short video about the lessons she learned fighting climate change and water scarcity in one of the nation's driest regions.
"We identify ourselves as citizens of a community," she says in the film. "And we identify ourselves as citizens of a state. And we identify ourselves as citizens of a nation. But we never identify ourselves as citizens of a watershed."
Every person should. The resources and energy that go into getting safe drinking water into every American household are vast. And as the bathtub rings get higher on crucial reservoirs in the West—and around the world— it's every person's ethical duty to do their part.
"Water is a basic human right, because you need it in order to live," Mulroy says. "But if you want it treated and delivered to your house on a guaranteed 24/7 basis, then you have an obligation to defray those infrastructure and operating costs"—and conserve.
Top image: AP Photo/Lennox McLendon