Science isn’t enough

Smart Mark Lubell on why a better scientific understanding of our groundwater foibles – even “perfect science” – isn’t enough:

But there are many policy-makers and citizens who will take that perfect science (even when presented in a very simple manner) and flick it away like a bothersome mosquito because they don’t trust the scientists, or because the science reflects negatively on their current behavior(for example, groundwater extraction), or does not agree with their basic ideology. Second, even if the policy-makers believe the science, they usually have to figure out a way to cooperate with other water users, and why should Water District X stop withdrawing groundwater if Water Distrct Y will not? Such cooperation problems are barriers to sustainable water management from the local to global scale. Third, let’s say a bunch of policy makers believe the science and come up with some new policies to govern urban and agricultural water use, or non-point source pollution. These policies might be asking or requiring farmers, citizens, factories, and cities to change their behaviors. So we need to know exactly how these targeted decision-makers will respond to different types of policy tools.


  1. Agree with you, David and Lubell but with the question: Was Famiglietti necessarily saying we’d change our ways if only we knew, ahem, how little we know? As I read his post, it was kicked out there to scare people into paying some semblance of attention, like a city auditor demanding to see the books in San Bernardino. Once we have some idea of fresh water reserves, Lubell is clearly right that every tool imaginable will be needed to manage it. Looking at how hard it is to talk limits, it makes you realize what an accomplishment the Colorado Compact and the Boulder Dam agreement were. Too bad they were whack assessing the river flows and rightful users. Anyway, thanks for highlighting the Lubell post. Good points, smart guy.

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