Allow me to correct some statements made by Susan Zakin in her article about the central California river delta (HCN, 9/3/02: Delta Blues). California is said to employ "profligate use of water." According to the Los Angeles Times, Southern Californians consume considerably less water, per capita, than people in nearby states (and a lot less than in wetter states).
The Los Angeles Department of Water and Power and its sister agencies have launched public education programs which have successfully cut down on water use. DWP is trying to find ways to return water to Mono and Owens lakes, and just this week decided against an environmentally destructive plan to store water under the Mojave Desert.
None of this sounds "profligate" to me (which my dictionary defines as meaning "utterly and shamelessly immoral").
The article begins with a math "story problem." If Marc Reisner crossed Western desert for 11 minutes, in an airplane travelling at 500 m.p.h., he would cross 91 miles of land. I believe the Western desert is about 800 miles across.