January 06, 2021 Feature

Rationing Water, Changing the Landscape: California’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act

Shani Harmon Alexander and Lauren Estell

During the 20th century, California faced increasing demand for water from expansion of irrigated crops and growing urban areas. California responded to the mounting demands for water through the creation of dams, reservoirs, and canals to increase and redistribute surface water. In his book Cadillac Desert, which chronicles the history of water in the West, Marc Reisner explained that “to easterners, ‘conservation’ of water usually means protecting rivers from development; in the West, it means building dams.” California is now facing combined water scarcity and demand to an extent that dams can no longer provide the sole solution. Water management in California now must include water conservation.

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