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A Drought So Dire That a Utah Town Pulled the Plug on Growth

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Tuesday, July 20, 2021

During the coronavirus pandemic, the real estate market in their 1,750-person city boomed as remote workers flocked in from the West Coast and second homeowners staked weekend ranches. But those newcomers need water — water that is vanishing as a megadrought dries up reservoirs and rivers across the West. So this spring, Oakley, about an hour’s drive east of Salt Lake City, imposed a construction moratorium on new homes that would connect to the town’s water system. It is one of the first towns in the United States to purposely stall growth for want of water in a new era of megadroughts. But it could be a harbinger of things to come in a hotter, drier West.“These towns are canaries in the coal mine,” said Paul D. Brooks, a professor of hydrology at the University of Utah. “They can’t count to go to the tap and turn on the water. Climate change is coming home to roost right now, and it’s hitting us hard.”

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