Commentary

Water, water everywhere, nor a drop to drink

Liv ing things can sur v ive without a lot of things. Water isn't one of them.

Many people say Texas w ill face severe water shortages in 40-50 years. Moving from east to west in the state, the distinction between water haves and havenots becomes clearer. Additionally, the abundance of both surface water and groundwater decreases from east to west, drawing lines even more distinctly.

If you can negotiate all the websites concerning water plans and policies in Texas, you begin to get some idea of the enormity of the problem and of the proposed answers to it. The key word there is "begin."

Under the broad umbrella of the Texas Water Development Board, some fairly intense efforts led to the development and adoption of the 2007 State Water Plan.

In the TWDB process, 16 Groundwater Management Areas were designated, each coming up with an individual plan. From those 16 plans, TWDB crafted the final statewide version. Given Texas' growing population, it's just about a certainty that this is not the final plan.

What you won't find very much of in this blueprint is a thing called conservation. But you will find usage projections such as a 50 percent depletion of existing groundwater sources by mid-century.

One likelihood, other than there will be a shortage of water, is that rural area residents will get shortchanged in the process. Other than the overall enormity and seriousness of the Lone Star State's water problems, there are some particularly worrisome aspects (including the lack of conservation measures) that keep cropping up.

On the surface, the f lurry of activity to create groundwater conservation districts just a few years ago seemed like a good idea. Under the enabling legislation, these districts — single county or multicounty — have some regulatory power over new water-well drilling but little if any over existing wells. That would seem to be beneficial to those who have wells drilled prior to the creation of the districts.

However, it does little to regulate well-owners and operators that are in the commercial water business. If one of these operators is adjacent to your land, and their well is just barely within their property borders, there is little you can do to keep them from pumping water out from under your property. The rule of capture still favors such moves. There is a fee per gallon for big producers who established wells after the creation of the districts, but it hardly seems restrictive enough to keep some big bottled water concern from pumping all they want.

Over the past couple of years, there has been some activity by T. Boone Pickens to pump water out of the Panhandle through a pipeline that would be built across lands, using eminent domain, to the extremely consumptive Dallas- Fort Worth Metroplex. He hasn't, to my knowledge, gained legal approval for the use of eminent domain, but no one should sell him short in that quest.

So, despite the groundwater conservation districts, there still doesn't appear to be enough protection for rural Texans to keep their water well sources intact.

If you want to learn more about the problem and the plan, a good starting place might be the Texas Water Information Network website— www.TexasWaterInfo.Net. There are links to other related websites.

A non-partisan group, the League of Women Voters Amarillo chapter, has done one of the better plan assessments. Their website, www.lwvtexas.org/Amarillo. htm, offers information and source materials. The LWV uses terms like "morality" and "ethics" in their report. They are critical of a long-prevailing mentality in Texas that favors development and developers over conservation measures and long-term life sustainability. LWV's website also provides links to other sites with additional information and different points of view.

Maybe there will be some improvements to the plan and some protection for those who live in rural areas and depend on water wells, but we'd all best keep a wary eye on the TWDB and the Legislature. If we don't we may develop a bigger thirst than anyone expects.

wwebb@wildblue.net


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2009-06-11 digital edition



The burn ban for Milam County has been lifted. Burning is always prohibited in the county's municipalities.


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