The drought in california continues to intensify as reports indicate that, cheap and abundant, water has turned an inhospitable desert into a Garden of Eden — something it was never meant to be and may not remain, even as tens of thousands of new homes are planned. Ordered by the state to cut water use by 36 percent, residents in this vast sweep of sand — which stretches from the San Bernardino Mountains to the Salton Sea and includes world-class resort cities such as Palm Springs and Rancho Mirage — have adopted tough conservation measures. And the valley’s forward-looking main utility is busy seeking and securing supplies for the future.

But the region’s trajectory — a growth-based economy dependent upon shrinking resources — represents California’s fate writ large: a place with a never-say-never frontier spirit, as it rushes into a hotter, drier and more crowded future. “When will water start to run out? We need to start worrying — 10 years ago,” said geologist, archaeologist and local historian Harry Quinn, 76, who as a boy climbed on sand dunes now covered by housing tracts with shimmering backyard swimming pools. CONTINUE