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Climate, geography, demography, and water resources of Texas

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Texas covers a very large area in the southern United States on the Gulf Coast. The eastern portion has ample moisture from the Gulf but western and norther portions have a progressively arid continental climate with desert areas in the southwest. Agriculture in arid areas such as the Texas Panhandle is dependent on underground aquifers such as the Ogallala Aquifer. There is also demand by the large cities in Texas for water.

The Texas Water Development Board is the state’s water planning agency. In 2011 Texas engaged in a debate regarding ground water management with support in the legislature for a provision which would give "vested" ownership of underground water to surface owners, the so-called "rule of capture". This proposal would have bypassed a system of 96 locally controlled ground water management districts which have been established since 2005 in Texas.[1][2]

The drought on the southern plains influenced by the 2010-2011[3] La Niña pattern resulted in water shortages in west Texas. Cities such as Odessa, Texas and Midland, Texas in the Permian Basin served by the Colorado River Municipal Water District (CRMWD) were particularly affected. Ample underground water is available but the infrastructure to exploit it is not in place.[4] The three reservoirs Colorado River Municipal Water District draws from were nearly empty in the spring of 2011.[5]

Lower Colorado River AuthorityEdit

The Lower Colorado River Authority, a state agency, regulates and operates facilities on the Colorado River of Texas which drains the Texas hill country near Austin, Texas. The authority has constructed 7 dams on the river which store water and control flooding. The authority provides water to cities such as Austin and also to rice farmers near the Gulf of Mexico. The severe drought of 2010-2011 in Texas has focused attention on conflicting demands for water in the Colorado River Basin: rapid growth of metropolitan areas such as Austin, recreation needs, agricultural needs, and industrial uses such as a proposed power plant near Bay City, Texas. Farmers pay less for water, but are subject to restrictions in the case of shortage as is contemplated in 2011.[6]

Water managementEdit

Water use in Texas is regulated by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) according to the Texas Water Code.. Riparian owners have the right to use as much as 200 acre-feet for domestic purposes and watering of livestock without applying for a permit. Livestock water may be stored on the riparian owners' property in stock tanks. They may also, if their land is "on qualified open-space land, as defined by Section 23.51 of the Texas Tax Code," build a reservoir with a capacity of up to 200 acre-feet for "wildlife management. Rainwater may be collected for domestic use as a matter of right. Other exempt uses include using water to drill and extract oil and gas. Permanent and temporary appropriated water rights also exist and are assigned priority, but all fall behind "D&L," domestic and livestock riparian rights.[7]

An article in The New York Times July 18, 2013 about the San Saba basin illustrates poor regulation of the waters of that basin. The San Saba river has creased to flow for 3 years depriving downstream riparian users of water for domestic use and livestock watering. Vain calls were made to limit upstream irrigating. Meanwhile groundwater pumping upsteam was in progress with groundwater users denying any connection between their pumping and stream flow. With no state agency regularly administering water, the option presented to water rights owners was to hire a watermaster.[8]

Notes and referencesEdit

  1. "Two Bills Highlight Debate Over Who Controls Groundwater: Landowners or the State" article by Kate Galbraith in The New York Times March 3, 2011
  2. "Water Policy in Legislature Rode on One Word" article by Joe Nick Patoski in The New York Times June 9, 2011
  3. "Cold and Warm Episodes by Season" National Weather Service, updated regularly, accessed April 22, 2011
  4. "A City Built on Oil Discovers How Precious Its Water Can Be" article by Kate Galbraith in The New York Times April 21, 2011, accessed April 22, 2011
  5. Website Colorado River Municipal Water District (Website is updated regularly to show conditions at the three reservoirs)
  6. "Amid Texas Drought, High-Stakes Battle Over Water" article by Kate Galbraith in The New York Times June 18, 2011
  7. Rights to Surface Water in Texas PDF file published by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality
  8. "Concerns About a Shrinking River Are Beginning to Heat Up" article by Reeve Hamilton in The New York Times July 18, 2013

External links and further readingEdit

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