Conclusions

Water conservation is a powerfully effective short-term drought mitigation tool that is also an equally credible approach to better managing long-term water demands. Conservation-minded water systems have demonstrated that the efficient management of public, industrial, and agricultural water use during drought is critical to controlling and minimizing the adverse effects of reduced precipitation on water supplies. If we understand where and how much water is used and apply appropriate efficiency practices and measures to reduce water waste we can more easily endure—economically, environmentally, and politically—drought and projected water shortages. The lessons of effective drought management strategies—the implementation of comprehensive conservation measures—show that conservation can also be tapped to help overcome current and projected supply shortfalls that occur during non-drought times as well. The implementation of water waste reduction and efficiency measures can lessen the adverse impacts of excessive water demands on the natural water systems (rivers, aquifers, and lakes) and the ecological resources on which they depend. The notable demand reductions achieved by water efficiency-minded cities and water systems prove the significant role conservation can play in not only coping with drought but overcoming supply limitations and bolstering drought resistance through the preservation of water supply capacity. Like any savvy investor, efficiency-minded public officials and water managers who minimize their system water losses and invest in conservation will yield a treasure trove of "new" water to protect it from future shortages. Human activities play a key role in our experience of drought. A water-rich or water-poor future will be determined largely by our water waste and water efficiency actions now.

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