Commentary: Central Texas water – past, present and future
Thursday, September 27, 2012 |
By Brad Stutzman
Austin Community Newspapers
The rancher in Bastrop has something in common with the suburban homeowner in Round Rock, and they each share common ground with the marina owner on Lake Travis. Just like the rest of us, they all want – and need – water.
Here in Central Texas, most of us are fortunate in that we can depend on safe, reliable and affordable water supplies. In good times, we don’t even think much about water. After all, we turn on the tap, and there it is.
And yet – as the worst drought in at least the last 60 years has shown – we should never take water for granted.
Consider some sobering facts: In January, Spicewood Beach, located on the shores of Lake Travis, became the first Texas town to run out of water. In March, the Lower Colorado River Authority put an emergency water-management plan in place, shutting off – for the first time in history – water that had gone to southeast Texas rice farmers.
While droughts seem to be cyclical in nature – coming every 20 years or so – the state’s population only increases.
Texas, home to some 27 million people, is predicted to grow by more than 80 percent in the next 50 years.
Add to that the wild card in the deck – increased heat, due to climate change – and it becomes clear that we Texans need to be talking steps, today, in order to ensure our children and grandchildren have water tomorrow.
During the next five weeks, reporters and editors from the Austin Community Newspapers team will present our readers with a series of articles examining Central Texas’ water resources; where the past has brought us to, today, and what the future might hold.
We talked with policy-shapers, decision-makers and other water experts, as well as that Bastrop rancher and Lake Travis marina owner.
While in the days of the Old West it might have been true that “whiskey’s for drinkin’ and water’s for fightin’ over,” today it seems clear that we must be smarter in our approach to this previous natural resource that binds us all.
Yes, water might seem abundant, ubiquitous and easy to take for granted. After all, it covers about 70 percent of the Earth’s surface.
But 97 percent of that is in the salty oceans, with another 2 percent in glacier and ice caps.
That leaves us only about 1 percent fresh water, for human consumption, out of the world’s entire supply.
A person can potentially live for up to one month without food – but no more than one week, at most, without water.
There is no way of overstating water’s importance, which is why we bring you this series of articles.
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