California’s remarkable resilience in the face of drought

We’ll be analyzing lessons from California’s drought for a while yet. But what I view as the most important lesson is already clear.

The L.A. Times’ Bettina Boxall, one of the state’s most experienced and respected water reporters, summed it up thus:

[O]n the whole, this intricately plumbed state proved to be surprisingly resilient in the face of what, by some measures, was the worst drought on record.

“We did remarkably well,” said Jay Lund, director of the UC Davis Center for Watershed Sciences.

Despite water shortages, agriculture — the state’s biggest water user — enjoyed record revenues in 2012, 2013 and 2014 thanks to soaring nut and dairy prices.

Though drinking supplies had to be trucked to some rural communities, the effect in most metropolitan areas was mainly limited to people boasting about every drop they saved, tsk-tsking at wasteful neighbors.

The water shortages barely put a dent in the state economy.

“How much reduction in the gross domestic product of California occurred because of a 25% reduction in urban water use? Almost nothing!” Lund exclaimed. “Nobody has even bothered to calculate it, it’s so small.”