Saturday, March 24, 2012

Texas Water Wrongs

"We decide in this case whether land ownership includes an interest in groundwater in place that cannot be taken for public use without adequate compensation guaranteed by article I, section 17(a) of the Texas Constitution. We hold that it does."

The Texas and Southwestern Cattle Raisers Association hailed the ruling, saying it means property owners will have a reliable source of water, ignoring the fact that ground water can at times be a finite resource, and that wells can and do get pumped dry.  This decision literally turned water into oil, making it a private land owner's property, rather than a communal good.  The problem with the decision as the conservationist in me sees it, is that water doesn't exist in pockets section off in relation to barbed-wire fencing.  The water table exists at different levels in different areas, but is most often one large overlapping entity, called aquifers.    

This ruling basically said that you get to use as much water as you always have, and that you can't be denied water directly under your land without proper compensation.  The problem as I see it, is that the decision doesn't assist newly created water districts in 'conserving' the amount of water that can be captured in Texas.  In fact, the decision exacerbates the problem Texas has now that you are allowed to capture as much water as you can get to the surface.  Shallow wells have been going dry, as the recent droughts have forced farmers and ranchers to dig deep and drill more wells, just to keep water tanks from drying up.  

Compound the problem with what corporations like Eron Oil and Gas are allowed to do with dozens of industrial depth wells within a few acres that supply their frack sand mining operations.  The last operational numbers I saw for a single plant were 3,700 gallons per minute or about 2 billion gallons per year.    That's about an average sized swimming pool every 7 seconds.  

This decision was made by conservatives, for conservatives, who have no wish what so ever to 'conserve' anything.  There are two truths herein that need to be addressed.  One, we are using more water than wells can produce, forcing us to dig deeper, and two, Texas lawmakers seem bent on sending us even deeper, abandoning all notion of conserving our most valuable natural resource.  Who knew the establishment of water rights could turn out so wrong.

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