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Why Cloudy Cities Are Good for Us

The Colorado Delta was once one of the world’s great desert estuaries. Legendary conservationist Aldo Leopold fell in love with the place, enraptured by its labyrinth of channels and ponds fringed by lush vegetation, teeming with birds and haunted by the nocturnal screams of jaguars.

I don’t mean to pick on any one city here. But I do want to raise awareness of the implications of our choices about where to live.

If you live in a place where it’s rarely cloudy (e.g., Las Vegas), or where it never rains during the warm half of the year (e.g., California), understand that getting water to your tap requires a massive reworking of natural systems and that water is particularly precious in such places.

And if you live where you wish you saw more of the sun, remember those clouds are water-delivery trucks lining up to keep your city sustainably watered and more resilient and prepared for climate change.

Jeff Opperman is The Nature Conservancy’s senior advisor for sustainable hydropower. He works to promote ecologically sustainable water management in river basins with hydropower infrastructure. Through this work, Jeff has provided strategic and scientific assistance to environmental flow assessments for several rivers in the United States and for the Yangtze River and the Patuca River (Honduras).

(Top image: A sunny day at the beach on Lake Erie. Though blessed with plentiful freshwater, such blue-sky days are less common in Northern Ohio than in much of the country. Image credit: Jeff Opperman. Lower image: on left, the parched Colorado River Delta in Mexico, showing the maze of twisting channels that once were filled with water and surrounded by lush forests and wetlands; on right, Phoenix, AZ, with lawns, golf courses and pools sustained by Colorado River water. Image credit: Google Earth).

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53 comments

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8:24AM PDT on Jun 19, 2014

..however, if too many cloudy rainy days people will move to the sunnier drier ones...... too many wet cloudy days this "spring and summer" in MN

11:10PM PDT on Mar 15, 2013

Thank you

4:18AM PDT on May 20, 2012

Good information - thank you.

I lived in a city where there were almost no clouds ever and I felt it affected my moods too, and not in a good way. We need clouds for many, many reasons it seems.

6:49PM PDT on Apr 22, 2012

Hmm, people living in dry cities should look up greywater systems. ^_^

2:58AM PST on Mar 9, 2012

Canada has an abundant supply of water, but people waste it - so there are water restrictions in summer. Where I live the infrastructure was cheaply built and the water usage is almost double that of any other areas as a result of all the wastage and leaking pipes. Many of the rivers have new power supply developments, so the natural flow is affected and the salmon runs are detrimentally affected. Water quality is not always up to par.

I was born in a sunny country and the main difference in people is that in sunny countries people have sunny personalities and seem to enjoy life a lot more. They also have greater respect for their resources, so do not waste water.

1:50AM PST on Mar 7, 2012

Interesting info...

7:59PM PST on Mar 5, 2012

but cities draw the rain to themselves, when you really want it to fall on the water catchment/agricultural land outside. Changing cities to CATCH and USE more of their own water, instead of just letting it go down the drain is a good idea!!

7:13PM PST on Mar 5, 2012

I understand the science behind the author's article and he makes some good points. But I also know that I prefer living in an area that gets much more sunshine than Northeast Ohio (Cleveland) does. And, fortunately water isn't an issue here in Minnesota-the land of 10,000 lakes.

3:36AM PST on Mar 4, 2012

I always think I don't like grey skies, but I miss them when I'm somewhere sunnier. I love the days here in England when the sky is a beautiful soft grey, and the sun shines through onto the green fields... it's wonderful.

11:15PM PST on Mar 3, 2012

I will stay where I am at.
I live in a varied seasonal area
I am lucky

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Disclaimer: The views expressed above are solely those of the author and may not reflect those of
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