In this era of climate change and continued drought, Southwestern cities face great threats to our economic prosperity and livability. In Phoenix, we’re tackling these challenges head on by finding innovative ways to preserve the “lifeblood” of our economy – our water supply.

For decades, Phoenix leaders have been smart and planned ahead for water shortages. But water managers tell us that shortages on the drought-stricken Colorado River—which is not only vital to Arizona, but to Nevada and California as well—are more and more likely. When we face those shortages, it will impact cities, farmers and businesses across central Arizona, and some will see the price of water dramatically increase.

Rather than waiting for hard times to hit, we’re planning ahead and innovating. As a result, Phoenix has established itself a leader on protecting water supplies through three groundbreaking initiatives.

First, we partnered with Tucson water providers on an innovative effort that leverages Tucson’s existing infrastructure to make it easier and less costly for both of our cities to access water in times of shortage. This partnership is the first of its kind: a joint effort between our two cities to store and recover Central Arizona Project and Colorado River water supplies in times of need.

Second, we created the Colorado River Resiliency Fund so we can continue to ensure a reliable supply of water for our residents—even as we face times of prolonged drought. Think of it as an insurance plan for our future.

And most recently, our City Council entered a three-year partnership with the National Forest Foundation and Salt River Project to further protect our water supply and support watershed improvement projects on National Forest lands in northern Arizona. In other words, we’re not just making an effort to use water wisely in our own back yard, we’re actually working on forest and watershed restoration to ensure the long-term viability of our high-elevation water sources.

This is important because most of the water we actually use in Phoenix is run-off from our mountains and streams – the rest we bank as groundwater. This public-private partnership will not only help secure the water we rely on here, it will also reduce wildfire risk, enhance wildlife habitat, restore native plants and limit erosion into streams, rivers and reservoirs.

In just the past year, Phoenix has shown that when it comes to shaping a more sustainable future for the next generation, cities can lead the way.