Who cares about water in Texas?
By Mike Barnett
So who cares about water in Texas? Farmers and ranchers, obviously. The rest of the state? Not so much.
At least that’s the conclusion faculty members at the University of Texas made after examining public opinion polls of issues that matter most to Texans.
The economy, immigration and education are top of mind for most. Yet water—that life-giving resource—registers as a top issue with only 4 percent.
That’s a real concern.
Rural Texans understand burn bans, dry wells and short pastures. Drought is not a word. It is a reality they live with every day.
For most urban Texans, water is something that comes out of the tap. Every time. There’s plenty to keep the lawn green. There’s plenty to keep the pool brimming. Urban areas are an oasis in a sea of Texas brown. And that’s a dangerous mirage for our future.
How long this lack of concern continues is a $53 billion question.
That’s the amount the Texas Water Development Board estimates it will take to fund the State Water Plan, a roadmap to meet the needs of a booming Texas population for the next 50 years.
Fortunately, the Texas legislature is paying attention, and both Texas House and Senate leadership has expressed the need this session to kick start the plan with revenue from the Rainy Day Fund.
And that’s good. But there’s also a danger. Agriculture—with a stellar record of improving efficiency and conservation and doing much more with less over the last two decades—is still the top water user in the state.
And as water gets more expensive and sources disappear, a clamor could arise to take agriculture’s water—drying up livelihoods, a rich agriculture heritage and ultimately, the food supply.
That’s why water needs to be a top concern of all Texans. Conservation and planning for future water needs is a conversation all Texans need to be engaged in now.
Waiting until the tap runs dry is far too late.