Showing all posts tagged: water wars
A recent period of rainfall has minimized the acute threat of running out of water for many Texas cities and towns, but the drought goes on. As a result, Texas can be characterized as being confronted with dilemmas, not clearcut problems that can be ‘solved’. The alternatives are all bad: it just a question of how bad.
Time for West Texas to Face Long-Term Water Needs - Kate Galbraith via NYTimes.com
This drought has forced local officials in West Texas to make agonizing decisions. At San Angelo’s City Council meeting on Sept. 27, before all the rain, officials voted to continue to allow carwashes to operate and swimming pools to be filled despite the looming shortages.
“We’re dealing with people’s jobs,” said Paul Alexander, a councilman, amid a debate about when to enact tighter restrictions. Another Council member, Charlotte Farmer, argued that the city should not cut off water for fountains at the San Angelo Visitor Center and an internationally known water lily display.
“We’re experiencing a drought, but I don’t want to experience people stopping to come to San Angelo,” Ms. Farmer said. (The Council voted to maintain water for those purposes, as she had urged.)
Throughout West Texas, a consensus has emerged that cities need new water sources to prepare for a dry future. Traditionally, West Texas cities have relied heavily on huge surface reservoirs, many built in the wake of earlier droughts. But the hot, dry air generally means that more water evaporates from the reservoirs in a given year than people use.
“Our biggest enemy is actually evaporation,” said Mayor Alvin New of San Angelo.
The city is building a $120 million pipeline project southeast of town that will tap an aquifer called the Hickory. It should be operational next summer, officials say, and will initially be able to carry two-thirds of the city’s basic wintertime needs, with deliveries increasing over time. The catch is that the aquifer water contains higher levels of radium than federal standards allow, so it must be diluted with reservoir water until a treatment plant can be built.
Another major new West Texas pipeline, costing $135 million and running 42 miles from the Odessa area to water well fields to the west, is also moving along. Next week workers should finish laying the main pipeline, according to Mr. Grant of the Colorado River Municipal Water District, which is overseeing the project. The water should be available in December, he said.
Some cities close to salty aquifers are looking toward desalination; Odessa is aggressively pursuing this, although the process is expensive. The concept of water reuse is also catching on quickly in West Texas, including the prospect of turning human sewage into drinking water. A $12 million water reuse plant is scheduled to begin operating in February in Big Spring, pumping well-scrubbed sewage into the drinking-water systems of Midland, Odessa and Big Spring.
Brownwood, about 130 miles southwest of Fort Worth, is also beginning to pursue a similar reuse plant, with help from a state grant. And San Angelo is in the early stages of contemplating such a plant, according to Will Wilde, the city’s water utilities director.
All of those options are expensive, and water rates around the region have soared. But if the state is to solve its long-term water woes, the costs will be high. The state water plan, finalized in January, contains a $53 billion wish list of projects to meet the needs of the growing state.
Next year Texas lawmakers will decide whether to support financing for the plan, and they could also consider a range of water-infrastructure and conservation questions. Speaker Joe Straus of the House, Republican of San Antonio, told a cattle raisers’ group last month in Austin that water would be a key part of his agenda.
“I don’t want to reach a day where a Texas company announces it’s moving to Florida or Ohio because of water issues,” Mr. Straus said.
Diluting radium-saturated water to meet restrictions on radiation limits? Desalinating water, which is hugely expensive? These may not lead people to move their businesses out of Texas, but they sure would stop any sensible person from moving into Texas, which is the beginning of the end.
I’m all for reusing wastewater, and processing human waste for that, but continuing to allow car washes and swimming pools to continue is madness.
Obviously, those living in drought-stricken areas will want people living elsewhere to pay billions to construct financially irresponsible water infrastructure. $50B sounds like a lot of money to me.
And if they get it and spend it, they will be back asking for another check in a year or so, because the drought is not going away. Endemic drought is projected through the next year, and many believe — like Rup and Mote , Did Human Influence On Climate Make The 2011 Texas Drought More Probable? — that drought like this is increasingly probable.
The real answer is to start to spend money to move people to wetter parts of the country, like the Ohio River valley, Pennsylvania, and the Northwest. But people will fight to stay in Texas and the other blighted areas in the plains, even as they turn to dust.