As water shortages will become more severe as both droughts and floods become more intense, with less rain and snow falling during dry seasons and more falling during wet ones. Capturing the excess precipitation and saving it for dry periods will also only get more challenging.

Water recycling programs are already helping Southern California reduce its reliance on imported water, due to its perennial water shortages. The Orange County Water District, which manages the groundwater basin underlying north and central Orange County, operates a world-leading water recycling plant that purifies wastewater and injects it back into the groundwater basin, eventually withdrawing and further treating it for household use.

Cities can also collect rainwater that falls on streets and parking lots through stormwater capture. “These innovations are not cheap, and they require sophisticated ways of approaching both harvesting of the water and land use practices. But they can be very fruitful means of augmenting our water supply,” Feldman says.

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