Although droughts have long plagued the western United States, rapid population growth and climate change are making the American West increasingly water insecure. In some western states, including Arizona, Colorado, and California, decisionmakers are responding to these changes with innovative water conservation-focused land use policies. In other states, however, water and land use policies are lagging decades behind. Improving water security in western cities is an enormous task, requiring extensive social, legal, and policy reform. Additional federal funding for western water security initiatives could do much to drive that reform, but state and local governments should also play a leading role. An important first step in this effort is to better integrate water and land use policy through laws that require greater collaboration among policymakers and involve relevant stakeholders in development decisions. Integrative water and land use policy creates opportunities for policymakers to efficiently promote urban water conservation in a variety of ways, including ensuring land users internalize the water costs of their actions, eliminating obstacles to water-saving land use practices, and better incentivizing household-level water conservation. These strategies, set within a broader framework of integrative planning, could help western communities preserve water supplies, promote sustainable and equitable development, and better prepare the region for the challenging years ahead.

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