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Thousands Will Live Here One Day (as Long as They Can Find Water)

Surrounded by miles of creosote and ocotillo in the Sonoran Desert, state officials and business leaders gathered in October against the backdrop of the ragged peaks of the White Tank Mountains to applaud a plan to turn 37,000 acres of arid land west of Phoenix into the largest planned community ever proposed in Arizona. The development, Teravalis, is expected to have 100,000 homes and 55 million square feet of commercial space. But to make it happen, the project’s developer, the Howard Hughes Corporation, will need to gain access to enough water for its projected 300,000 residents and 450,000 workers.

Why is the Colorado River Drying Up?

The Colorado River’s water levels are the lowest they have been in a century. Scientists fear the reservoirs the river feeds into could reach deadpool level in the next few years. That would mean the water level would be too low to flow downstream from a dam or to drive turbines to generate power. And these reservoirs are integral for surrounding water supply.

Much of U.S. Southwest Left Parched After Monsoon Season

Cities across the U.S. Southwest recorded their driest monsoon season on record this year, some with only a trace or no rain.

The seasonal weather pattern that runs from mid-June and ended Wednesday brings high hopes for rain and cloud coverage to cool down places like Las Vegas and Phoenix. But like last year, it largely was a dud, leaving the region parched.

‘Borrowing From the Future’: What an Emerging Megadrought Means for the Southwest

It’s the early 1990s, and Park Williams stands in the middle of Folsom Lake, at the base of the Sierra Nevada foothills in Northern California. He’s not walking on water; severe drought has exposed the lakebed.

“I remember being very impressed by the incredible variability of water in the West and how it’s very rare that we actually have just enough water,” said Williams, who went on to become a climate scientist at Columbia University. “It’s often the case there’s either too much or too little.”

Williams is the lead author on a report out this month in the journal Science detailing the extent of drought conditions in the American West.