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Francis Wilkinson

How California Can Survive Another Historic Drought

Farms will get smaller, urban areas will get more efficient, and the state’s $3 trillion economy will cushion the blow.

The California Aqueduct can do only so much.

The California Aqueduct can do only so much.

Photographer: Mario Tama/Getty Images North America

There is no end in sight for California’s drought. The state’s 39 million people are growing accustomed to the reality that there is not enough water for everyone — agriculture, industry, homeowners, fish and wildlife. Small water systems are in crisis. With groundwater supplies collapsing, many wells in rural areas have run dry, requiring water to be trucked in. A paucity of rain has made wildfire a persistent menace up and down the state.

Political fights over access to water will surely intensify as drought continues and shortages are prolonged. But according to Jay Lund, a professor of civil and environmental engineering at the University of California at Davis, the direction of those contests is becoming clear. In addition to his work on flood control and environmental water usage, Lund is an expert at modeling and optimizing California’s water supply. I spoke to him via email this month and last. A lightly edited transcript follows.