An excellent summary article about the issues surrounding water use and supply in California basically comes down to the understanding that there's currently not enough water to supply farmers, cities and environmental preservation needs in this state as of right now. Written by Matt Jenkins, a High Country News contributing editor based in the Bay Area who has been covering Western water politics for nearly a decade, it's a concise description of the battle that has been playing out into the current crisis.
This way of viewing the necessity of water use in a sustainable fashion is clearly illustrated in the EarthTrends analysis of the problem which uses mapping to show how the actual need for water to remain in the natural environment constrains the amount of water that can be demanded by agriculture and urban areas. A global overview of the bleak picture of excessive water demands is shown, and identifies the key water-stress indicators in watersheds across the globe. We're clearly consuming water far beyond the ecosystem's ability to replenish it, and at the same time the demands keep increasing in the areas with the highest stress, including California and the western United States.
It's critical for the State to take a position on science-based investigation and base its ultimate water policy on realistic water consumption in the face of climate change. Which means, as the High Country article lays out, a reduction in demand because the ecological systems are experiencing failure. Once they go, there's nothing left. So actually the decision is easy, demand will be reduced because to do otherwise will mean extinction of food resources and an implosion of industry. Bay Delta collapse (which is very close) would be the end of California regardless of the politics involved. The question is simply how to reduce demand and recycle water so that the ecosystem survives.
The State needs to face this problem directly and unfortunately with rather draconian strategies, since the overreach has gone so far."Limits to Growth" is a reality now.