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5th October 2015
...continued from PART ONE

The critics argue that the district's projections are based on outdated and overly optimistic information.

"It looks like speculation built on assumptions, ignoring current conditions, let alone what has happened over the last 15 years," said Conner Everts of the Southern California Watershed Alliance.

Longtime residents worry: What if this four-year drought turns into a megadrought that lasts decades?

"I have lived in the California deserts most of my life, and it seems nothing in the desert can last very long," said Ruth Nolan, an author, conservationist and associate professor at the College of the Desert. "You can build a paradise and the sand eventually reclaims it. ... Whatever people build to make permanent, the desert can bury with wind and sand.

"How long can this be a viable place to live?" she asked. "If there's not year-round green grass, faux lakes, swimming pools and air-conditioning, will people want to stay? We are right on the edge of what can be sustainable."

Then the reach of Coachella and California, may have exceeded its grasp, threatening an economy based on abundance, expansion and artifice.

"The economy is built on never-ending growth," said Jeff Morgan, 71, who leads the valley's Sierra Club chapter. "But you can't grow water."

Contact Lisa M. Krieger at 650-492-4098. Follow her at M. Krieger.