Owned and published by UMHB, The Bells is a biweekly publication. This content was previously published in print on the Opinions page. Opinions expressed in this section do not necessarily reflect the views of the staff or the university.
We Texans play in it, pray in it and bathe in it. But we’ve got to start looking ahead to preserve our most precious resource–water. If we don’t, we leave future Texans high and dry.
Texas is home to 14 major rivers and more than 100 lakes. Below our feet are 23 aquifers, underlying nearly three-fourths of the state. We have plenty of water to sustain our state for now.
The Trinity Aquifer stretches into parts of western Bell County and is doing well. A representative of The Clearwater Underground Water Conservation District, which is responsible for the management of groundwater in Bell County, told the Associated Press that the Trinity and Edwards aquifers have already received 80 percent of their average rainfall of 33 inches. The Edwards is the source of drinking water for more than two million Central Texans, and that’s good news, but it’s not the whole story.
Austin, the nation’s fastest growing city, saw its water use triple from 1970 to 2010. That usage is expected to continue to rise in Austin and several other large cities. Experts predict that in the years between 2050 and 2060, the state’s population will double.
Clearwater employee Todd Strait told the Temple Daily Telegram that “aquifer levels are being depleted by 30-plus feet per year,” and that will cost Texans–literally and figuratively. As water is for a waterwheel, so it is for our economy. No water, no energy. No energy, no production.
Plainview is no stranger to this. One of the city’s biggest economic movers, the Cargill plant, was crippled by the drought that’s been sucking more than 90 percent of the Texas landscape dry since 2010. The beef processing plant left the city, taking with it 2,300 jobs and an annual payroll of $55.5 million.
It’s had a trickle-down effect on the town of 22,343; add to it the fact that the drought has caused the prices of hay and feed to rise, and you’ve got a bad situation.
Dried-up pastures and high prices to maintain their operations have forced ranchers to sell their herds. Many people are leaving town. Plainview is a depiction of what can happen to the rest of the state if water conservation isn’t taken seriously.
This month, more than 73 percent of Texans voted to approve the constitutional amendment Proposition 6. The amendment will transfer $2 billion dollar from the states’ Rainy Day Fund to create a low–interest loan program for water projects.
It will help in the long term, but there’s one immediate solution that all Texans should take part in: use water wisely. For homeowners, that’s moving your lawn mower up a notch or two because a taller lawn holds moisture better. For UMHB, that’s installing a rain sensor so that irrigation systems aren’t running when it’s raining. For me, that’s not running the water the whole time I’m washing dishes. Go to texaswatersmart.com to find information and tips on water conservation.
It’s crucial to act now. The state’s well-being rides on our decisions. So, what’s it going to be? With the grace of God and some common sense, Texas can thrive in the years to come.