California’s water problems will never be solved Faith Kerns and Doug Parker argue, because cities and farms will always expand to the edge of available supply, overshoot, and then face trouble during the dry times:
There are other arenas where this phenomenon is well understood. For example, when it comes to freeways, congestion leads to demand for more lanes to be built. More lanes temporarily reduce congestion and lead to increased housing construction, and over time, that increased housing construction leads to more congestion. That, in turn, leads to demand for more lanes. This is also true with flood control: better levees lead to safer communities, which cause communities to expand and demand even better levees.
Accepting this fundamental paradox doesn’t mean that we should throw our hands in the air and do nothing — and in fact, we aren’t. We should be, and are, looking at augmenting supplies and increasing conservation efforts. We need to pursue all of these options in order to have healthy communities, healthy agriculture and a healthy environment.
We also need to recognize, however, that these options will never fully eliminate future scarcity.
This generalizes across the arid West. The full piece is worth reading.
Update: Forgot the best pull quote:
If it were simple, it would already have been done.