The ground was hard and cracked. The silence was broken by the sound of a stick snapping beneath my boot. Months before that sweltering summer day, the ground we were standing on was submerged beneath several feet of water.
This scene took place during my visit to the Canadian River Municipal Water Authority in July of 2012, at what was left of Lake Meredith in Sanford, northeast of Amarillo in the parched Texas Panhandle. The drought of 2011 had taken its toll on Lake Meredith and other water sources like it across the state.
Drought conditions have improved some in the last three years, but climatologists say we should expect to experience drought into the foreseeable future.
In the midst of climate challenges, our state’s population is growing rapidly, increasing the demand on our limited water resources.
With this knowledge, it would be unconscionable to do nothing to combat the drought that afflicts our state. We must take action.
Having traveled across the state visiting groundwater districts, river authorities and municipal water systems, I’ve seen that the greatest challenge we must combat when it comes to water planning is the Balkanization of our state along arbitrary boundaries.
To meet our ever growing need, it is imperative that we begin working toward transporting water from the areas of the state that have an abundance of the resource, moving it to our water-insecure communities.
That’s why we filed House Bill 3298, calling on the Texas Water Development Board to study the viability of developing markets for water in Texas, including the potential construction of a water grid within and across regions of the state.
The study would result in the creation of a master plan for the most efficient conveyance of water throughout Texas.
Unfortunately, critics of this bill have argued that we should instead study conservation strategies to tackle our water shortage.
We know that conservation works. It is one of the key strategies addressed in the State Water Plan to help Texas meet its water needs. But, conservation alone is not enough.
While the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club disagrees with the concept of moving water, several sophisticated environmental organizations actually support water markets in the Western states, including the Environmental Defense Fund, Natural Resources Defense Council and The Nature Conservancy.
To secure Texas’ water future, we need a blueprint for a hydrovascular network that enables sharing water supplies between communities. That is what HB 3298 aims to accomplish.
Stakeholders must not block thoughtful strategic planning because they fear what might come next. Hoarding water and refusing to let it outside of arbitrary political boundaries must end.
As Texans, we’re all in this together, and we need to start acting like it.
State Rep. Lyle Larson is a Republican from San Antonio. HB 3298 has been scheduled for a House vote on Thursday.