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How dry we are

Rain, rain, please don’t go away. Texas is too dry to play.

Pedernales Falls, for the most part, doesn’t.

Lake Travis is becoming a lake in name only, regressing in some areas almost to the old Colorado River channel and in others leaving hundreds of yards of dry, cracked lake bed strewn with discarded fishing rods, beer cans and golf balls, and boathouses and docks to nowhere.

“We should leave a bottle down here saying, ‘We walked here in ’09,” Austin appliance repairman Bill Cosby said, as he picked his way through what used to be the lake’s Hurst Creek section.

In New Braunfels, visitors preparing to tube down some stretches of the Comal or Guadalupe rivers — especially those of a certain size and girth — are advised to take particular caution.

“If you’re not careful, there are several places where your butt could hit the bottom,” said J.R. Perez of New Braunfels.

Across Austin and Central Texas, the great drought of 2009 and its accompanying record high temperatures are taking their toll on recreational activities. Only one public boat ramp remains open on Lake Travis, and fewer than a dozen trailers were parked Saturday morning near the Mansfield Dam.

The good news, as the story indicates, is that for the most part businesses that depend on the tourist trade have been able to ride this out and are doing well. That wasn’t the case the last time a big weather event affected lakes and rivers in Central Texas. That time, the problem was too much rain, and I’m sure some day that will be the problem again. In the meantime, the bad news is that the drought this year is affecting non-touristy places as well.

Jim Stinson, general manager of The Woodlands Joint Powers Agency which oversees 11 municipal utility districts in the community, has proposed permanently implementing a two-day weekly watering schedule in The Woodlands. He also is promoting the idea as a director of the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District, a county-wide group charged with managing the county’s underground water supply.

“We know the scientists have told us that we have tapped out our water supply,” Stinson said. “The environmentalists have told us we can’t build any more reservoirs. We’ve got to learn to live responsibly with the water we’ve got.”

Montgomery County relies solely on three underground aquifers for its water supply and its water providers face a deadline of 2015 to reduce the use of that water by 30 percent. The aquifer can replenish about 64,000 acre feet annually through rainfall and runoff, and the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District has issued permits to pump 78,000 acre feet annually.

A three-year study is currently under way by the U.S. Geological Survey to determine what the impact has been on the aquifers and whether water levels are declining.

Needless to say, that’s not sustainable, and it’s not going to be fixed by some El Nino-affected weather that’s expected later this year. Just something to keep in mind, because problems like that are going to become more common as our population increases.

By the way, all this drought has contributed to this being one of the hottest years on record for Texas. I’m sure that comes as no surprise.

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2 Comments

  1. Kent says:

    “Jim Stinson, general manager of The Woodlands Joint Powers Agency which oversees 11 municipal utility districts in the community, has proposed permanently implementing a two-day weekly watering schedule in The Woodlands. He also is promoting the idea as a director of the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District, a county-wide group charged with managing the county’s underground water supply.

    “We know the scientists have told us that we have tapped out our water supply,” Stinson said. “The environmentalists have told us we can’t build any more reservoirs. We’ve got to learn to live responsibly with the water we’ve got.”

    Two day weekly watering schedule? And that is supposed to conserve water? The good Republicans of Montgomery Co. really ought to be considering market-based solutions rather than command-and-control approaches.

    A progressive pricing scheme would solve the problem quickly and without the need to have a whole fleet of water cops patrolling around looking for violators. Figure out the average water needs of a typical family without pool and watering and price that amount of water at the lowest price tier. Then ramp up the price dramatically for water use in excess of that baseline amount. If people want to pay $2 grand/month to keep their lawn looking like velvet then that is their choice.

    As for the last paragraph. Since when have environmentalists EVER had the power to tell anyone they couldn’t build something in this state? I want to know about all those Montgomergy Co. reservoir projects that were squelched by environmentalists.

  2. Baby Snooks says:

    No doubt Mr. Stinson is a Republican. When you can’t blame the Democrats, blame the environmentalists.

    We are facing a crisis at some point, possibly in the near future, with regard to water supply. Unfortunately we have a governor and a legislature, including some Democrats, who turn on the faucet and see water coming out and don’t believe there is a problem.

    Water comes from faucets, you see, not from aquifers and reservoirs.