That’s the argument made in a recent study of urban water supplies released by the Nature Conservancy:
A new study [PDF] led by Brian Richter of the Nature Conservancy suggests that the key to replenishing city water supplies is forming urban-rural partnerships designed to decrease regional consumption:
A major conclusion is that considerable untapped potential exists for cities to form partnerships with agricultural water users to reduce water consumption on farms, thereby freeing up additional water supply for urban use while potentially reducing the water-related costs of farming, as well as farming’s vulnerability to water shortages.
Agricultural irrigation accounts for the vast majority of water consumption — in the area of 90 percent, according to Richter and company. At the same time, city residents certainly contribute to the situation, since they’re the ones consuming most (perhaps two-thirds) of the food produced in the countryside. A shared problem deserves a shared solution, write the researchers.
Of course, this is not exactly a new idea. The diagram to the right (click on it to enlarge it) doesn’t come from the Nature Conservancy study. It was concocted by Patrick Geddes to show the interdependence between urban and rural areas for planning purposes in 1909.
You can read the Atlantic Cities piece about the study here.