Watching water

Study is first step to find out how much pumping aquifer will take
It’s been called an underground ocean and its prolific waters have helped settle many generations of Texans who have lived, farmed and established towns and businesses with its resource.

The Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer reaches into Louisiana and Arkansas and stretches southeastward into northern Mexico. The aquifer serves about 12 million Texans in 60 counties. It is prolific and massive and during times of ample rain produces enough pressure to provide artesian wells to some landowners.

Post Oak Savannah Groundwater Conservation District directors and manager say there is ample water to supply some pumping, agricultural and historical mining use and still have enough for locals. Conservationists want as little transport as possible, fearing an inequitable water rights situation or, worse, a dry future.

State Senator Steve Ogden deserves credit for appropriating $500,000 to fund the study during a tight budget session in the last legislative session. The bill introducing the study died in committee, but Ogden’s title as appropriations chair allowed him to get the study funded. It sounds like a lot of money, but it’s a “drop in the bucket” (pun intended) and will provide a comprehensive study of what could be said to be the most valuable water source in the state.

At the very least, the study should provide a benchmark for “best practices” for water conservation districts and provide more information on how what one district does affects neighboring districts. It should also give insight, and perhaps a dose of reality, to nearby metro areas — from Bryan-College Station to Austin to San Antonio — who think it is an unlimited resource for their use.

At the meeting to introduce the study, some from rural areas expressed understandable concern about the loss of local control on water rights. No one knows what the legislature is planning to do with information gathered in this study.

In what could be termed the understatement of the meeting, a man new to the issue of water said, “This could turn into a fiery issue.”

Retired Texas Water Development Board executive Bill Mullican, who is leading the study, brought a bit of levity to this very serious issue. “Welcome to the world of water,” Mullican said with a smile.—K.E.C.

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2010-02-04 digital edition

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