TRINITY GROUP OGALLALA ALLUVIUM EDWARDS-TRINITY EDWARDS CARRIZO-WILCOX GULF COAST Map 1: major aquifers A primer on water Austin “You can tell a Texan who is out of the old rock,” according to J. Frank Dobie, 1 “by what he brags on. He does not brag on how many million miles of barbed wire stretch across Texas, how many millions of barrels of brains operate in the oil business, or anything like that. He brags on the weather, and for his purposes the worst is the best.” An old rock Texan, Dobie said, “wishes for rain but is fortified in spirit and inspired in imagination by droughts. He sings about a home on the range where ‘the skies are not cloudy all day,’ spends if he is a country man a large part of his life looking for clouds, and brags of living in a country where six months are dry and six months without rain. He quotes a jingle about ‘the silvery Rio Grande,’ and blows about having the dustiest rivers in the world. He goes somewhere else in the summer and regales the company with General Sherman’s remark that if he owned Texas and Hell, he’d rent out Texas and live in the other place …” People from East Texas brag on the floods and tornadoes and Texans from the Coast talk about the hurricanes. Texas weather is about as passive as a bag full of tom cats. In 1970, for example, Texas qualified for federal disaster relief in Corpus Christi for Hurricane Celia, for flooding of the San Marcos River in Central Texas, for a major tornado in Lubbock and for a West Texas winter drought. AN AVERAGE of 413 million acre-feet* of water fall in the state each year: it just doesn’t arrive in a very civilized manner. Texarkana, in extreme northeast Texas, averages 49 inches of rainfall a year, while Lubbock, up in the western Panhandle, gets about 18 inches annually. Of the little rain that falls in the western portion of the state, a goodly percentage of it evaporates before it seeps down into the ground where it can do some good. Seventy-five percent of the water consumed in the state comes from ground water. It’s stored in seven major aquifers is not regulated, except in certain cases by underground water conservation districts. Land owners are free to pump their aquifers dry if they so desire, and that’s *An acre-foot is the amount of water it takes to cover an acre of land with a foot of water. That’s 325,851 gallons of water. If you tote up the amount of water used in the state for all purposes for drinking and industry and irrigation and flushing toilets and fighting fires and all then divide the total by the number of people in the state you come up with an average of 100 gallons of water used by each Texan daily. exactly what the irrigation farmers on the High Plains of West Texas are doing. The use of ground water for municipal, industrial and irrigation purposes swelled from 670,000 acre-feet annually in 1937 to more than 10 million acre-feet in 1969. The tremendous expansion of irrigation farming is the primary factor in this increase. During the past 50 years, more than 100 major storage reservoirs and thousands of small reservoirs and ponds have been dug to trap additional surface water. The Army Corps of Engineers alone has built 24 dams and lakes in the state, not counting the partially completed ones that are now tied up in environmental litigation. This extra surface water is more than a drop in the bucket, but it’s nowhere near enough to bail the drier part of Texas out of its climatic predicament. State bureaucrats decided the situation called for a hefty dose of good of American know-how, Texas officially got into the water business in 1957 with the Texas Water Planning Act. A relatively short-termed water plan was unveiled in 1961. It proposed building enough new reservoirs and such to provide an adequate municipal and industrial water supply through the Seventies. Then John Connally was elected governor and Texas water planning took on an Olympian scale. The water plan devised during Connally’s tenure, according to John Graves, 2 was “big enough to scare off dragons.” THE TEXAS Water Development 2020 Texas water needs would exceed its in-state supply by 12 to 13 million acre-feet annually. The water, the planners said, would have to be imported, preferably 800 miles from the Mississippi canal was to deliver the Mississippi water 2,500 feet uphill to the Trans-Texas canals stretching west across the Dallas/Fort Worth area, on out to the High Plains and El Paso and then into New Mexico. Water would also be diverted to Coastal Division canals which would loop along the Coastal Bend from the Orange/Beaumont/Port Arthur industrial area, past Houston, down to Corpus Christi, then through King Ranch country right down to the Rio Grande Valley. The ditches and diverted riverbeds to carry the water would interfere with 3,000 miles of rivers and creeks, usurping water July 26, 1974 3.