Political and legal conflicts over the water supply are highly likely in seven of the West’s biggest cities by 2025, a federal study found.
The Interior Department identified Las Vegas; Reno; Albuquerque; Denver; Houston; Salt Lake City; and Flagstaff, Ariz., as cities where conflict is most likely over the next two decades. The Rio Grande and the Colorado River also were named “highly likely” sources of conflict.
“It may simply be a situation where people want to water their lawns or irrigate their fields and there simply is not enough water available,” Interior Secretary Gale A. Norton said.
A department initiative would focus money and technology to develop ways to conserve water, improve dams and reservoirs and stretch water resources. The department said a “substantial” possibility of water wars exists among Los Angeles, Sacramento, San Diego, Phoenix and San Antonio. A third level of cities had a “moderate” chance of future conflict, including Seattle; Dallas; Casper, Wyo.; Boise, Idaho; and Salem, Ore.
The study was based on population trends, rainfall records, water capacity and storage and habitats of endangered species, officials said.