Debates about water in California, the western U.S., and indeed, worldwide, have traditionally focused on the question of how best to further expand water supply to meet some hypothetical future increase in water demand. And the solution frequently offered is to build massive new infrastructure in the form of dams and reservoirs, drill more groundwater wells, or expand water diversions from ever-more-distant rivers, in order to “grow” the supply available for human use.
“Build more traditional water infrastructure” is increasingly the wrong answer to the wrong question.
Except for basic needs like drinking, cooking, and washing, we don’t want to “use” water – we want to grow food, produce semiconductors, generate electricity, and provide other goods and services society demands. These activities and products often require water; but they almost always can be done with less water than we currently spend on them.
The question we should be asking is: how can society satisfy its demands for goods and services with less water – in other words, how can we improve the efficiency and productivity of water use.
Source: Peter Gleick and Heather Cooley from the Pacific Institute for the Huffington Post, July 9, 2015