Monday, October 15, 2007

Water Shortages Aren't Just Tomorrow's Problems

'Capture' is a word that probably has different meaning to most of us from the one it has where ground water is concerned. In Texas, the owner of any property has 'rule of capture' rights to anything they find - even if it cuts off water to neighboring property owners. Dig a well, finders keepers.

In a world with increasingly strained resources, it is past time to play a more controlling role in managing them, and the state has been coming to its senses as we hear about how possible it is to run dry. The population of some Dallas suburbs were leading the nation in percentage increase. The water supply was not.

It is the 'rule of capture' principal that has been put to use by Ross Perot for his EDS campus (no longer in his direct possession), an immense corporate spread that also has cattle. He paid the farm tax rate for it, because of a few head of really magnificent longhorns. But I digress.

In northern suburbs of Dallas, drought was at the worst level, "exceptional", for the three years preceding 2007. Wells were dug in many instances because of the scarcity of water. So much use is being made of the local aquifers that there is the real prospect of running out of water. In case you haven't thought about not having water, we take for granted our green lawns and clean cars, not just assume we'll get that glass of good water when we turn on the tap.

When Children's Medical Center Dallas decided to build a hospital in Plano, leaders envisioned a campus of trees, plants and shrubs that would soothe patients.

The city was under water restrictions because of drought, so the hospital turned to a centuries-old tool to meet its irrigation needs: a well.

Only a handful of wells have been built in Plano since the city established well permits in the 1960s. But years of dry weather and sprinkler restrictions have ushered in a new era of drilling.

The hospital's well is one of seven being built this year, including four for large-scale users that together will pump millions of gallons daily.

A few farms, golf courses and homeowners have long relied on wells to supplement their water supplies. Now, the strategy appears to be a burgeoning practice among corporations, schools and hospitals seeking to irrigate large campuses and fill retention ponds. The objectives range from saving on water bills in the long term to gaining autonomy from city watering rules.

Environmentalists fear the movement foreshadows what could be a rush to tap North Texas' aquifers, which are unregulated and showing the first signs of strain.
A June report by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality concluded that increasing use of groundwater by homes and businesses has put pressure on the Dallas area's two primary aquifers, the Woodbine and Trinity.

Both aquifers measure as much as thousands of feet down in the deepest spots and stretch from the Oklahoma border into Central Texas.

"The past and continued overdevelopment of aquifers ... threatens water supplies for rural domestic, municipal and small water providers who depend on groundwater," the report found.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality will have a hearing Oct. 23 in Fort Worth to discuss possible regulations and fees on groundwater use in North Texas.

The state's long-term goal is to shield the region's aquifers from overuse.

In high rent Plano, I kind of doubt there is any dreadful quaking in their shoes by residents contemplating water shortages. Even watering restrictions have only been a nuisance.

In Georgia, a disaster is happening.

Atlanta is expected to tighten its grip on municipal water, enacting restrictions on businesses that some say will be more severe than at anytime in any U.S. city in 30 years, according to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution.

Already, Georgia has been battling neighboring states and the federal government over the flow of water from Lake Lanier, Atlanta’s main water source. Georgia Gov. Sonny Perdue has threatened to sue the Army Corps of Engineers if it doesn’t hold back more water in the reservoir, as an historic drought tightens its grip across the region.

Farmers have been losing their farms in North Texas for the past several years, this year from flooding while the previous three was from drought. Georgia farmers are facing ruin now, along with many other areas of the Southeast.

Water management has crept up on us and demands attention we don't like to give to our natural world.

A Nobel Peace Prize given Al Gore for taking steps now against global warming may soon prove what price we are going to pay for carelessness with natural resources now.

Hauling water from the well used to be commonplace. When the tap doesn't bring water in your house, where will you look for that cool drink?

I heard you say 'buy a beer'. Tch, tch.

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Anonymous Anonymous said...

Excellent post, but I have to say the only people that water management (and for that matter, land management) has "crept up" on are the ones who haven't been paying attention.

Become a Watershed Steward!

3:20 PM  

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