Soft water path

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The concept of the soft path was first used for energy resource management and was developed by Amory Lovins shortly after the shock of the 1973 energy crisis in the United States.[1] This concept has now been refined and applied to water, most notably by water expert Peter Gleick[2] and David Brooks.[3] The soft path is often framed as a more integrated and effective alternative to supply-side water resource management. Supply-side water management focuses on meeting demands for water through centralized, large-scale physical infrastructure, and centralized water management systems. In the 20th century, this approach focused on constructing bigger dams and drilling deeper wells to access more water to meet projected demands of consumers. More recently, a focus on demand-side management has emerged in regions where water supply is increasingly constrained (see, for example, Peak water), and it focuses on managing demand and making current practices more efficient. The soft path integrates both supply and demand concepts but in a broader context by recognizing that water is a means to satisfy demands for goods and services and asking how much water, of what qualities, is actually required to satisfy those demands efficiently and sustainably.[4] Soft path water planning also requires broader institutional approaches to water management including the application of smart economics, the potential for distributed rather than centralized water systems, and more democratic participation in water policy decisions.[5] Others have described the soft path as "unleashing the full potential of demand-side management.",[6][7]

Critics of the soft water path argue that we cannot conserve enough to provide for an ever-growing population. Conservation for cities that get their water from storage, either a dam or water tanks, is great but it only gets us a little more water. And the reported amounts of water conserved by some cities is misleading. A January 15, 2015, article in the Sacramento Bee reported that the Sacramento region cut its water use 25.6% in November 2014 compared to 2013. Sacramento does not get its water directly from any water storage. Sacramento gets its water from the Sacramento and American Rivers. The water is already in the rivers, it is going to the ocean. If the water is not used, it is not saved. If you do use the water inside your home the water goes down a drain and ends up at a sewage treatment plant where it is treated and goes back into the river. If you use the water outside your home the water goes into the ground and helps replenish central valley groundwater stores that have been depleted partly because of the extreme water restrictions. The amount of water that is released into the Sacramento and American Rivers is not based on down river use, it is based upon the amount of water in storage.

Also by not building more dams we are not providing more flood control. It is just a matter of time before a 500-year flood destroys some large metropolitan areas like Sacramento, Stockton, Fresno, and Bakersfield. The entire California central valley will be inundated with water just like the Great 1862 flood did if we don't develop more flood control.

Dams provide flood control, water storage, clean energy, habitat for marine life, and recreation. Dams in California collect water in winter and release it during the dry summer. In California the rivers flowing out of a dam have more water in summer because of the dams than they would without a dam.


See also[edit]


  1. ^ "Energy Strategy: The Road Not Taken?" published in Foreign Affairs, in October 1976
  2. ^ P.H. Gleick, 2002. Nature, Volume 418, pg. 373, July 25, 2002
  3. ^ Making the Most of the Water We Have: The Soft Path Approach to Water Management, Edited By David B. Brooks, Oliver M. Brandes and Stephen Gurman, Earthscan, 2009
  4. ^ Page 4. The Soft Path for Water in a Nutshell. 2005. Oliver M Brandes and David B Brooks. Friends of the Earth and POLIS Project on Ecological Governance. University of Victoria, Victoria, BC.
  5. ^ G. Wolff and P.H. Gleick, "The Soft Path for Water" in The World's Water 2002-2003 (Island Press, Washington D.C., pp. 1-32.[1]
  6. ^ [Quote] [Oliver M Brandes water expert]
  7. ^ Page 4. Thinking Beyond Pipes and Pumps. (2006) Oliver M Brandes, Tony Maas and Ellen Reynolds. POLIS Project on Ecological Governance. University of Victoria, Victoria, BC.