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Think Globally, Drink Water Locally

L.A. and other desert cities exist by importing vast quantities of water, but Peter and Hadley Arnold of the Arid Lands Institute have a different idea.
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Richard Vogel/AP

In a sense, municipal water systems are infuriatingly inefficient. They maintain an extensive network of pipes and pumps to bring fresh water into the city—along with a sewer system that flushes rainwater down the drain.

One egregious example is Los Angeles, which imports the large majority of its water, at great cost, from hundreds of miles away in the Colorado River Basin, the eastern Sierras, and the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta. Yet according to Southern California's Metropolitan Water District, 82 percent of the city's water needs could be met locally, through recycling, conservation, and the strategic harvesting of rainwater.