By Kiah Collier
Posted April 10, 2010
San Angelo Standard-Times
SAN ANGELO, Texas — The San Angelo City Council didn’t take action on much last week but provided direction on a variety of important issues.
One item on the agenda caught my eye when it was posted Friday afternoon: Discussion of future steps for a long-term water supply.
I immediately thought, “future, future.” With a population that is expected to double between now and 2060 and available groundwater becoming more and more scarce, the state’s water needs are set to increase exponentially and the search for it will become more and more competitive — and more expensive.
Every city official I’ve talked to has said water supply is one of the top issues — if not the top one — facing San Angelo in the immediate and long-term future. Everyone can agree that a city’s stability is shot without a stable supply of H20, but what does that stability cost?
It turns out the discussion on Tuesday was about ways to fund the $120 million Hickory Aquifer project, which is scheduled to bring water into the city by 2014. Long story short, the city has owned rights to Hickory since the 1970s and is finally getting around to tapping into it. Good plan. But, the project is still largely unfunded. Before it’s all said and done with, City Manager Harold Dominguez said, there would most certainly be an increase in base water rates, but the city is trying to figure out ways to “minimize” that impact.
There has been $14 million dedicated to the project from the half-cent sales tax, but that leaves $106 million unaccounted for. There were various options presented Tuesday on how to chip away at what’s left, and your half-cent sales tax dollars appeared to be the best solution that came out of the council meeting.
But Hickory is not the end of the story.
With the city likely to face stricter usage restrictions on Lake Ivie Reservoir, its primary water supply, all Hickory is going to be doing for the first 11 years is making up for that loss — at least until 2025 when the city will see a 40-something percent bump in the amount of water coming in from the aquifer (Much like the usage restrictions on Ivie, the staggered increase from the Hickory supply was set up as part of the permit approval process through the Hickory Underground Water District to help preserve the life of the aquifer). The main reason the city hasn’t yet faced usage restrictions on Ivie is that it has started using much less water, thanks to public education and conservation efforts, says the city’s Water Utilities Director Will Wilde.
Because of those potential usage restrictions as well as the city’s estimated population growth, Wilde says the city “most definitely” needs to be looking beyond Hickory for another supply — a “plan B,” as city council member Charlotte Farmer has called it. But Wilde told me that Hickory is the only available supply within a 50 miles radius of the city. It’s not until at least 100 miles to 150 miles out that there is something else to work with. What does this mean?
“Those costs could be double and triple for what we’re seeing for the cost of the development for the Hickory,” Wilde said of the cost of bringing in water to the city from that far away.
In the Hickory funding discussion at Tuesday’s meeting, Dominguez noted that O.C. Fisher Lake and Twin Buttes, San Angelo’s main water supply before Ivie, were never meant to be water supplies — they were built primarily for flood control. Dominguez also said these two sources were nearly dried up when he first began working for the city in 2003. And we’re still technically in a drought, Wilde reminded me. Moral of the story: San Angelo really, really needs access to groundwater and needs to get moving on Hickory as soon as possible.
The economy is apparently a reason for the rush, too.
Dominguez said Tuesday the city needs to take advantage of the low bids contractors are making because they are short on work while the economy is still recovering (also, interest rates are low). Dominguez said this could save the city anywhere from $30 million to $40 million dollars on the project.
The other options Dominguez and city Finance Director Michael Dane presented involved taking advantage of certain tax rate reductions and/or the possibility of asking voters if the city can extend the “sunset” on the half-cent sales tax from 20 years to 30 years, which could provide an additional $20 million for the project.
The sunset was put in place when the half-cent sales tax was established so that any debt acquired for a sales tax-funded project must be paid off in 20 years or less. I wonder if we will find another supply before Hickory is paid off?
I’m also interested to know what the city is thinking about for its plan B. Options I’ve heard about include a regional partnership (we already share Ivie with Abilene and other surrounding communities). How much is securing that plan B going to cost, both purchasing rights and getting it to the city?
The good news is that the water in San Angelo may soon be tasting better. The water coming in from Hickory by 2014 will be mixed in with Ivie water at the water treatment plant, but it’s a softer, better quality water. Treatment will cost about the same, Wilde said, but you are likely to notice a difference in the taste.
Kiah Collier is a multimedia journalist who covers city hall and local and state politics. Contact her at firstname.lastname@example.org.
(Midland, Arsenic issue) Revamped water plant part of future scenario (Posted By Mike Mecke)
by Bob Campbell ( my bolding emphasis added….mm)
Published: Saturday, April 3, 2010 5:08 PM CDT
Advancing Midland’s water supply system into the modern era has been an expensive, grueling task, but $21.5 million and 2 1/2 years later, the city’s purification plant at Midland Drive and Bluebird Lane is near completion and ready to boost pressures on the north and west sides of town.
A key element in answering water questions for at least the next 20 years, the plant features a new pump station, chlorine facility, electrical switchgear, computer system and such esoteric equipment as scrubbers and a sludge dewatering facility…………….
However, an $8 million filtering system may be added next year to lower arsenic and fluoride levels from the Paul Davis Wellfield 30 miles north of Midland, he indicated………………..
“This should serve us for the next 20 years or longer,” said Purvis. “People ought to see their water pressure increase in June or July as pumps come up to meet the summer demand.”
Having raised arsenic and fluoride limits, the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency requires the city to take no more than 25 percent of its supply from the Davis Wellfield with the rest coming from Colorado River Municipal Water District lakes at Ballinger, Robert Lee and Snyder, Purvis said.
Read more: http://www.mywesttexas.com/articles/2010/04/03/news/top_stories/water_plant.txt#ixzz0kvUZ3AO4
A border runs through it (the Rio Grande) (Posted By Mike Mecke)
(maybe in the end, more volatile and important to border region Texans than the current drug war – the legal division of the Rio’s waters is sometimes like Solomon’s decision! Read on……
Mexico unable to provide promised water to Texas
It’s caused international incidents with border flair. A Mexican governor has villified Texas leaders for playing politics with it and U.S. lawyers have threatened to sue for violation of international treaties related to it. Steeped in the annals of America’s symbiotic relationship with Mexico is the two countries’ long-standing and sometimes tense agreement over an issue more far-reaching than border security and immigration: water.
The Treaty of Feb. 3, 1944 — also called the “Treaty of the Utilization of Waters of the Colorado and Tijuana Rivers and of the Rio Grande” — directs Mexico to deliver water to the U.S. from six tributaries that feed into the Rio Grande, in exchange for water from the Colorado River. But the Mexican government’s inability to meet its current water obligation has some Texas businesses, agricultural leaders and state lawmakers keeping a close eye on their southern neighbor.
The treaty, which runs in five-year cycles, mandates that Mexico deliver an average of 350,000 acre-feet of water to the U.S. annually from the waters that flow into Mexico’s Rio Grande, known there as the Rio Bravo. In exchange, Mexico is entitled to 1.5 million acre-feet of water annually from the Colorado River, which drains into Mexico at the Arizona-California border. (An acre-foot of water is 325,821 gallons.) But in the first year of the treaty’s current cycle, which ended Feb. 28, Mexico delivered just 189,371 acre-feet of water to the U.S. — well short of the expected annual average.
Sally Spener, public affairs officer with the El Paso-based International Boundary and Water Commission (IBWC), said this doesn’t present a crisis yet; the treaty was authored in a fashion that allows Mexico to make up the difference. Mexico could make up last year’s deficit by releasing about 510,600 acre-feet by the end of February 2011. “The reason the treaty did this is, that particular region is affected by highly variable conditions, so that you can have low flow one year and you can have a hurricane the next,” Spener said. “That’s why it is a five-year average that is required rather than an annual delivery amount.”
Some critics have less confidence. They point to Mexico’s past delivery troubles, including a feud the country settled with U.S. farmers in 2005, after Mexico fell behind in its delivery by more than 700,000 acre-feet. At the time, Mexican authorities said their own water needs were preventing the release. After Mexico agreed to expedite delivery the dispute ended — but the aftereffects still linger.
The treaty directs water use in Texas from Fort Quitman to the Gulf of Mexico, and has a huge impact on Texas agricultural producers and municipal water suppliers who rely on the river or their water. The majority of water delivered to the U.S. comes from two main tributaries that feed into the Rio Grande: the Conchos, which enters the river in Presidio and in Ojinaga, Mexico; and the Salado, which enters the Rio Grande at the Falcon Dam reservoir, which sits on the Starr/Zapata county line south of Laredo.
At a recent interim committee hearing of the Texas Senate’s International Relations and Trade Committee at the Capitol, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality officials explained that Mexico is not in violation of the treaty — yet. “It is something that we have brought to the attention of the IBWC and have scheduled a meeting with the State Department,” testified Carlos Rubinstein, a TCEQ commissioner. “Anything that impacts the delivery of water to the Rio Grande ultimately impacts the delivery of water to all of the residents and could also impact the colonias.”
Ken Jones, the director of the Lower Rio Grande Valley Development Council, explained that Mexico holds the cards in the situation, at least geographically. “Seventy-eight percent of the watershed that feeds into Falcon and Amistad that supplies the water for the U.S. side is actually physically in Mexico,” he said. “That’s why the compliance thing is so important to us because it’s limited access to the U.S. side in terms of inflow to the reservoir system.”
What do the Mexicans say when asked about their shortfall? “They say they need if for their side, too,” said Jones.
Most of the Mexican water is used for irrigation in Texas. Rio Grande Valley Water Master Erasmo Yarrito, who calculated water use percentages for this story, said since at least 2007, the majority of the area’s water was used for irrigation — about 72 percent that year, rising to about 80 percent in 2008 and 2009.
Jones said reservoir levels are monitored on a regular basis to check the inflow of water from Mexico. The situation with Mexico was dire last time, not only because of the backlog, but because of the simultaneous drought experienced by the region. But the reservoirs are currently at greater than 80 percent capacity this time around — a good sign. Jones said it isn’t until reservoir levels reach the 50 to 55 percent capacity range that municipalities initiate local water restrictions.
Rubenstein said the impact of the Mexican water shortfall is “primarily to agricultural users, but that then translates into an economic impact to the Valley as well.” Because 100 percent of water-supply corporations and municipalities in the Rio Grande Valley get their water from the Rio Grande, Rubinstein added, “if the river is short-changed, it will affect just about every sector of the Valley.”
“We are continuing to work with them,” Rubenstein said. Mexico “fully caught up [in the past] and were actually able to close two cycles.”
Texas crops, weather – March 23, 2010 (Posted By Mike Mecke)
‘Wheat looks 100 percent better than last year’
March 23, 2010
COLLEGE STATION – - More moisture came to the state in the form of rain or snow or both. The added moisture was bad for those wanting to plant spring crops but good for wheat, according to Texas AgriLife Extension Service personnel.
“It’s hurt us a little bit from a topdressing standpoint, for some producers not being able to get their fertilizer out as they would have liked,” said Dr. Todd Baughman, AgriLife Extension agronomist based in Vernon. “But as a whole we’re still in pretty good shape – from a wheat standpoint – and definitely look 100 percent better than we did last year.”
Of course, there are always exceptions to the rule. There’s some late wheat whose growth was hurt by the colder-than-usual weather, and some acreage didn’t get planted because of a wet fall, he said.
“There may have been a few more acres that didn’t get planted in Central and maybe South Texas, but as a whole most of the Panhandle and Rolling Plains got most of the acres they wanted in,” he said.
All of Texas has had an unusually wet winter, which has created problems for producers with all crops. North Texas has been particularly hurt by the wet winter, which not only affected the acres planted last fall but hurt those fields that did get planted, according to AgriLife Extension agents. Winter wheat there was in poor to fair condition going into spring.
Throughout the state, producers are now pulling cattle off winter wheat grazing in hopes of making a grain crop. Wheat prices are only one factor affecting their decision, Baughman said.
“Actually, wheat prices have been up and down; not necessarily where we would like them. The main thing is that in some cases people had those contracted for delivery, and typically part of their management strategy,” he said.
Regardless of the moisture situation, growers have to take cattle off winter wheat because it’s at the jointing stage. If cattle were left to graze, they would be hurting yields, he said.
“The biggest thing from the wheat cattle situation is that cattle are coming off wheat a bit light because of all the mud they’ve been dragging around,” he said.
About 75 percent of Texas wheat acreage is in the Rolling Plains and Panhandle regions, Baughman noted. The following summaries were compiled by AgriLife Extension district reporters:
CENTRAL: Fair weather greatly improved condition of rangeland. Spring green-up helped improve the condition of cattle. Some producers began planting, but rain late in the reporting period slowed field operations. Some fruit trees may have been injured by a freeze, but the extent of damage, if any, had yet to be determined.
COASTAL BEND: Cool temperatures and rain slowed planting. Winter pastures improved with the rain and warmer weather.
EAST: Warmer daytime temperatures improved winter forages and greened up pastures. Most producers were completely out of hay, and the new forage growth was welcomed. There were a few rain showers followed by snow. Creeks and river bottoms remained flooded, driving feral hogs to the higher ground of pastures and other property where they did damage. Livestock were in fair to good condition. Calving continued with some cases of pneumonia and scours.
FAR WEST: The region received only trace amounts of precipitation. High winds dried out soils. Growers were preparing land for planting chiles and cotton. Some cotton acreage was already furrowed and pre-irrigated. Fall-planted onions were at fourth-leaf stage and growing. Alfalfa came out of dormancy. Fall planted wheat was at the fourth- to six-leaf stage. On Pawnee pecans, the hard outer-bud shell developed. Forbs were emerging on rangeland, most of which were not useful for livestock grazing, and in some cases, they were poisonous species, such as locoweed.
NORTH: Soil moisture levels ranged from adequate to surplus. Sunny and windy days helped dry things out and greened up pastures, but the favorable weather was followed by more rain and snow. As much as 10 inches of snow were reported in some areas. Cool nights slowed the growth of winter annuals. Though fields dried out some, most remained too wet for access. Farmers were trying to get land ready to plant corn, but were successful only on well-drained fields. The window of opportunity for planting corn was about to close. Those farmers who were not able to plant corn will try to plant grain sorghum in April. Soil temperatures remained fairly cool which may affect germination and early growth. Winter wheat was in poor to fair condition. Hay supplies were running very short and of low quality. Many producers ran out of hay and were looking for some to buy, but there was little available. Many had to go out of state to purchase hay at very high prices just to sustain cattle until grass greens up. Peach trees were blooming.
PANHANDLE: Rain early in the reporting period was followed by snow and high winds. The rain helped pastures and wheat, but conditions remained too wet in most areas for fieldwork. Some producers pulled cattle off wheat pastures in hopes of having a good grain crop. Producers continued to provide supplemental feed to cattle but were cutting back. Overall, cattle were in good condition.
ROLLING PLAINS: Warmer days caused wheat to rapidly grow. were in fair condition with rye grass holding its own. Producers began to slow down supplemental feeding. Weeds were becoming a major problem in most pastures. Soil levels were is in great shape throughout the region. Cotton producers were preparing for spring planting. Spring calving and foaling was in full swing. Cattle on wheat and rangeland were doing well.
SOUTH: High winds and temperatures in the 40s moved into the region late in the reporting period. Soil moisture levels were mostly adequate to surplus. Precipitation, sunshine and warmer temperatures kept rangeland and pastures in good condition. With cattle grazing on better pastures, there was little supplemental feeding. Corn and sorghum planting continued, and potato crops emerged in the northern parts of the region. Low soil temperatures and the lack of heat units prevented cotton planting in the eastern part of the region. Dryland wheat and oats made good progress; cabbage and spinach harvesting continued. Additional fields of cabbage were planted earlier but had yet developed. Farmers were actively planting corn, cotton and sorghum planting in the western part of the region. Corn and sorghum crops in the southern part of the region progressed very well. In the southern part of the region, spring planting continued and fall onion crops were being prepared for harvesting.
SOUTH PLAINS: The region received from 1.5 to 2.5 inches of rain, followed by nearly 1 inch of snow on the first day of spring. Most producers were behind on fieldwork due to wet conditions. However, subsoil moisture levels were good. Wheat was in fair to good condition. Some wheat reached the jointing stage, and stems were beginning to elongate, but more consecutive days of warm weather were needed. Pastures and rangeland were in fair to good condition. Cattle were mostly in good condition with occasional supplemental feeding.
SOUTHEAST: Range conditions improved with warmer weather, but damage from last summer’s drought was still visible. Bermuda grass began to green up despite cool nights. Winter forages responded to sunshine and warmer temperatures too. Legumes showed better growth than ryegrass. Overall, pastures remained poor, and cattle were in poor condition. In some areas, there were reports of some cattle bloating because of rapid growths of winter annuals. A small fraction of corn and grain sorghum acreage was planted. Some fields were too wet to plant or still needed to be worked before planting could be done.
SOUTHWEST: Spring arrived, accompanied with as much as 0.75 inch of rain. Year-to-date rainfall remained at about twice the long-term average. The region was rapidly greening-up, but a late-winter cold spell with frost slowed growth progress. Large numbers of bluebonnets and Indian paintbrushes were blooming along roadsides for the first time in about four years. Forage availability improved significantly, and ranchers increased stocking rates. Corn and sorghum planting was complete. Fields showed good stands, but there was some leaf damage from frosts. Spinach, cabbage, potatoes, onions, wheat and oats made excellent progress. Cotton, cantaloupe, watermelon and cucumber planting was expected to start soon. The harvesting of spinach, cabbage, broccoli and carrots continued.
WEST CENTRAL: Most of the region received precipitation accompanied by cool temperatures and a few days of sunshine. Wheat and oats were doing very well with all the moisture. Producers were applying herbicides to control spring weeds and preparing fields for spring planting. Livestock producers continued supplemental feeding of livestock. Rangeland greened up.
Deer, geese may add to Lake Granbury’s E. coli pollution woes (Posted By Mike Mecke)
Comment: this also refers to many town park areas on creeks or rivers with way too many domestic ducks and geese eating up the riparian grasses and pooping in turf and water, don’t do it – catch and eat or take home. Nasty and bad for walking, swimming, fish or drinking water supplies. Mike
March 17, 2010
Robert Burns, 903-834-6191,email@example.com
Contact(s):Brent Clayton, 979- 845-4116, firstname.lastname@example.org
GRANBURY – - Whether bears poop in the woods remains a rhetorical question, but it’s a fact that wildlife poop adds to E. coli woes in Lake Granbury, according to a Texas AgriLife Extension Service expert.
“Humans desire to have nature in their lives,” said to Brent Clayton, an AgriLife Extension assistant working closely with Lake Granbury water quality issues. “We go on trips to parks, plant flowers and put out birdseed to attract the wildlife. Unfortunately attracting wildlife, though it may seem beneficial, can be detrimental to our resources when done in an urban setting near water supply sources like reservoirs.”
Lake Granbury is an 8,300-acre impoundment of the Brazos River. It is named for the town of Granbury, which is 33 miles southwest of Forth Worth. Runoff from thousands of acres drain into this lake, including all or parts of Erath, Hood, Palo Pinto and Parker counties.
As the area has become more urbanized, levels of E. coli and fecal coliform bacteria, as well as incidences of algae blooms, have risen dramatically in the lake, according to Clayton.
Watershed protection plans have focused on sources of pollution from livestock and the estimated 9,000 private septic systems bordering the lake and the streams that feed it. But waters tests show that wildlife also contributes to the problem, he said.
Specific strains and concentrations of E. coli and other bacteria differ depending upon where the lake is tested, Clayton said. But according to a draft of a watershed protection plan, tests at one location showed that septic tank sewage contributed about 21 percent of E. coli, livestock sources about 15 percent, and avian and other wildlife sources about 25 percent. More than 40 percent came from “unidentified” sources.
“One adult Canada goose can excrete one pound of feces every day,” Clayton said. “You can only image the poundage involved with a large gaggle of geese.”
Humans are accomplices to pollution resulting from wildlife waste in several ways, he said. One is by feeding of wildlife, including deer and geese.
Given a free lunch and lacking predators to keep their population in check, wildlife can become more numerous than is typical of the area.
Feeding draws wildlife to a specific location and makes them more reliant on food supplied by people. Wildlife will naturally forage for food over a broad landscape, but supplemental feeding can concentrate them in a smaller part of the landscape and thus concentrate the amount of waste, Clayton said.
There are many side effects of wildlife overpopulation, and pollution of lakes and streams with feces is one.
“Though reducing wildlife waste in itself may not make the lake’s water perfect, it is one of the essential small things that everyone can do,” Clayton said. “We do not want to eliminate wildlife from our lives. They provide a bit of nature that most of us crave. However, with the health of Lake Granbury in jeopardy, it is important that we maintain numbers of wildlife at a sustainable level to provide a good environment for both animals and people.”
Water News Briefs–March 2010 RRL (Posted By Mike Mecke)
Following are news briefs as published in the March 2010 issue of Ranch & Rural Living. There are a few extra news items that didn’t make it into the magazine.
Language of Water Politics Often Murky
Feb. 17, 2010—Scott Stroud—San Antonio Express-News
If you’re out of the habit of talking to folks who study water policy for a living, meetings on its future in Texas can feel like they’re unfolding in a language you do not speak. You study people’s faces for signs: the knowing nods at phrases like “rule of capture” and “prior appropriation.” You hope no one asks you a question. But you can learn things if you’re patient, though you might have to do your own translating. And some of what you learn is alarming. Such was the case at a two-day symposium on water at Trinity University, sponsored by Trinity, the San Antonio Peace Center and the Texas Drought Project.
Battle Over Water in Pecos County
Feb. 16, 2010— Eddie Garcia—CBS 7 News
Over the past 50 years, Pecos County and businessman Clayton Williams have been fighting a war over water.
“We have 32 wells, that averages about 2,000 gallons per minute.” Williams explained. That’s millions of gallons used to water his hay and alfalfa crops, steady work but no longer a cash cow.
“If you can’t make money then you have to do something else.” Williams tells us.
And Williams has a plan of grand proportions. He says, “I visualize a 30 inch pipeline that would take most of the water, not all of the water, to more less a spot between Midland and Odessa and we’ll divert it to whoever wants to buy it.”
According to Williams, it boils down to one thing, property rights.
California Reluctant to Declare Drouth Over (Posted By Gary Cutrer)
Despite plenty of rain and snow coming in from the Pacific this winter, the California Department of Water Resources is reluctant to declare an end to the state’s three-year drouth. Although a lot of wet stuff has fallen, the state’s biggest source of drinking and irrigation water is still only at 40 percent capacity. Lake Oroville provides drinking water to 25 million Californians and irrigates 700,000 acres of farmland. If the melting snowpack in the northern Sierras fills the reservoir, the state’s drouth may well be over–for now. See article here.
Texas’ Groundwater Rights in Supreme Court (Posted By Mike Mecke)
Courtesy: Public Strategies, Inc., Texas River Systems Institute. 2/24/10
“Texas Supreme Court to Decide on Groundwater Pumping Rights Case
The ownership and control of groundwater pumping rights in Texas are now in the hands of the state Supreme Court. Last week, the nine justices heard arguments in a case that pits the right of a landowner near Von Ormy to pump from the Edwards Aquifer against the government’s authority to regulate the use of ground and surface water. For more than a decade, the Edwards Aquifer Authority has argued that in order for it to regulate pumping, landowners cannot own the water in the Edwards Aquifer. It was first time the state’s highest court considered that argument. Scores of landowners, private organizations, cities and state agencies that disagree with the EAA packed the courtroom and formed a line outside. “Any ruling by the Court that in any manner destabilizes groundwater ownership rights could have dire consequences for Texans and the Texas economy,” wrote Texas Comptroller Susan Combs. The EAA was created by state law in 1993 to ensure a future water supply for the region and protect endangered species by limiting pumping from the aquifer. Instead of allowing landowners to continue to pump as much water as they wanted as long as they put it to some beneficial use, the authority issued pumping permits and put a cap on the total amount that could be pumped. The EAA argues that if the groundwater is owned by the landowners, then it and the roughly 95 groundwater conservation districts in the state would be open to a lawsuit every time they tried to limit pumping or be forced to compensate landowners.”
Right or Wrong?
What is your feeling on this case? I spent about ten years working on the Edwards Aquifer region with pumpers, towns and irrigators……….. before and after the EAA was created and users were obligated to observe new pumping rights and permits. I feel it was necessary to control over-use by any very large or uncaring users and to maintain adequate water use and irrigation pumping for all users. And also,of course, under the earlier Federal Endangered Species lawsuit, maintaining springflow at Comal and San Marcos to preserve the habitat for those ES…….. while helping to maintain adequate river flow in the rivers below the springs on the way to healthy bays and estuaries.
Going back to my earlier post – Whose water is it? Urban or Rural? Should a city or a wealthy individual be able to buy or take water from a smaller, agricultural community just because it has the money or can? Do urban lawns and golfcourses count for more than food or fiber crops, livestock or small town’s viability? Do you want to have to buy more and more of your family’s food from foreign markets? Not me! Or if you live in a city, would you rather have the financial help to your city’s economy and taxbase from a healthy surrounding agricultural region? Yes!
Water is Life! – it is not a commodity like oil or gas.
The Texas Drouth Has Officially Ended (Posted By Gary Cutrer)
“Texas Should Study Climate Change” (Posted By Mike Mecke)
By Jay Banner, Charles Jackson, Katharine Hayhoe, Gerald North and Liang Yang
Special to The Galveston Daily News
January 15, 2010
The natural landscape is becoming increasingly urbanized.
At the same time, our demand for water, land and other natural resources is increasing. All of these issues raise concerns about what our future may hold.
Projections of future climate can be made using computer models of the climate system that take into account both natural and human effects on our world. The models predict a much drier Texas, particularly in the western half of the state, on par with or even exceeding 10- to 30-year “megadroughts” of past centuries.
These changes carry potentially enormous implications for Texas’ agriculture, wildlife, water, infrastructure, public health, businesses and energy use.
Consequences include lower stream and lake levels, water shortages and growing competition between urban, rural and industrial users.
During the 1950s, Texas experienced a seven-year drought that was part of a larger dry spell that gripped the Great Plains and the American Southwest. As a result, 244 of the 254 counties in Texas were declared federal disaster areas.
During the last ice age about 20,000 years ago, mineral deposits — forming from water dripping deep into Texas caves — typically grew 10 to 100 times faster than they do today, indicating that Texas was a much rainier region during the last ice age.
In the more recent past, trees in central and West Texas leave a record in their rings of multiple megadroughts since the 13th century. Scientists link the rainy ice ages and megadroughts of the past to cyclical shifts in Earth’s orbit and natural cycles such as El Niño.
Our ability to predict changes in Texas’ future climate will meet continuing challenges, and there will be uncertainty about how the state should plan for the changes.
The likelihood of some effects is becoming clear, however, with improved consensus from the scientific community.
For example, projections are consistent that the American Southwest likely will become drier throughout this century, marking a transition to a new average climate for the western part of Texas similar to the drought of the 1950s.
We propose Texas needs to take three key steps in the near future to address the risks associated with future change. First, assemble the best climate change information that currently exists. Second, improve this information through further research. And lastly, identify information gaps and uncertainties, and determine how to use the best information to plan for the changes.
There is currently no coordinated effort in the state of Texas to fill these needs.
This is in contrast to the global consortium of experts that constitutes the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change; state-level efforts such as in California, which has a branch of its Energy Commission dedicated to quantifying climate change impacts and possible adaptation strategies; and municipal efforts such as in Chicago, which has a citywide Climate Action Plan that includes estimates of future costs.
A climate consortium for Texas could conduct the following essential functions:
• Bring together leading experts and stakeholders to determine the top concerns about how climate change could affect Texas.
• Quantify uncertainties of future changes, so the state can determine how to best plan investments for adaptation and for research to reduce uncertainty.
• Prioritize areas for new research; for example, generation of high-resolution climate projections for regions within Texas, and the response of aquifers, streams, soils, and air quality to changing climate.
• Summarize the latest scientific data for policy makers with accurate quantification of uncertainties.
• Compare the costs to Texas of acting versus the costs of not acting.
As world leaders work to build global accord on climate change, and as other states and regions are enacting their own legislation regarding greenhouse gas emissions, Texas needs to lead in determining what climate change will mean for Texans and what we should do about it.
We are fortunate to have leading researchers, planners and policy makers in our state’s institutions, agencies and businesses, and we should take advantage of these resources by bringing them together to help address this important challenge.
Banner and Yang are professors and Jackson is a research scientist, all in the Jackson School of Geosciences, and Banner is director of the Environmental Science Institute, University of Texas at Austin. Hayhoe is a research associate professor in the Department of Geosciences, Texas Tech University. North is a professor in the Department of Atmospheric Sciences, Texas A&M University.
I do not see this as Al Gore-ism, but rather recognizing that climate does change – it always has – and it seems to be warming in the Southwest and elsewhere. We have had in Texas and elsewhere, many intense and short-termed droughts in the past few decades. The past decade in San Antonio was the warmest on record. The past summer set all kinds of heat records in central Texas. Worldwide, man has produced some negative effects upon air, many natural resources and weather over the past few hundred years – we can do much better for our health and for the health of our world. If you are proud of Houston’s #1 rank as the US city with the most polluted air, then open your windows on the crowded freeways and breathe deeply.
It only makes good sense to gather all the good data, historical weather trends and informed scientists together to plan wisely for our future. Since the late 90′s we have started doing just that for Texas water planning. So, why not tie water to projected weather changes and how that may affect rainfall patterns, watersheds, rivers, aquifers, food production and our growth patterns? Mike