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Why Cloudy Cities Are Good for Us

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The 10 most water-sustainable cities have, on average, 160 cloudy days and 93 days of full sun. The 10 least water-sustainable cities are nearly the mirror image: 90 cloudy days and 168 sunny days per year. (For those who like statistics, let’s just say the differences in these averages are highly significant.).

While the bottom five cities for water sustainability (the very sunny Las Vegas, Phoenix, Mesa, Tucson, and L.A.) grew by an average of 37 percent from 1990 to 2000, according to Census data, the five most water-sustainable cities actually lost population, with an average loss of 3 percent.

In fact, of the five most water-sustainable (and cloudy) cities, only Chicago grew. The other four—Cleveland, Milwaukee, Detroit and New Orleans—all lost population.

There are two reasons for concern here.

First, rapidly growing populations threaten to outpace water supplies in many cities. Even in the relatively wet Southeastern United States, recent droughts have revealed that booming populations are straining water supplies in places like North Carolina and Atlanta.

These trends will be worsened by climate change, which is predicted to increase drought risk throughout the United States. And the regions most at-risk for climate-change-induced drought encompass the cities that today have both the lowest water sustainability and rapidly growing populations.

In short, Americans are collectively moving from the places that are best equipped to deal with climate change to those that are least equipped.

The second reason for concern is that supplying water to regions that lack abundant local supplies requires intense manipulation and alteration of rivers. Massive dams store water for diversion into long canals—artificial rivers for cities that lack their own. The result is blocked rivers, decimated populations of salmon and other native fish, and parched deltas and estuaries (where rivers meet the sea).

For example, dams on the Colorado River provide the water to support the rapid growth of cities from San Diego to Las Vegas to Phoenix. But as a result, the Colorado River rarely flows to the sea and its delta has now been reduced to 5 percent of its original size.

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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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