Design for a water-scarce future

Sarah Rich:

More than a century after Powell challenged the government to design infrastructure and territorial boundaries in accordance with existing landscapes, the task for designers, architects, engineers and planners can no longer be only to follow some of Powell’s logic, but to find ways to undo much of the detrimental development that has occurred in the meantime.

The West faces a perilous future if it can’t find solutions to its water problem. Rich rightly steps through the basics of the West’s hydrologic history—without context, you can’t understand the current situation.

For those who haven’t lived in the West, water is probably a bigger deal than you might imagine. I know I was shocked at just how dry the Bay Area can be—and how reliant it is on water from the Sierra Nevadas. If you want a taste for how water has and continues to shape the West, read Cadillac Desert by Marc Reisner. A friend of mine loaned it to me just before I left Minnesota, saying, “It should be required reading for anyone moving out West.” I couldn’t agree more.

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