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“Someone with a lot of money comes in and puts in a dump ground, or a subdivision, they don’t care, and there’s not enough votes in the area to stop them.” This exchange and others like it reflect a growing concern with adequate underground water protection and the increase in political conflict when aquifers are threatened. With more than two dozen bills dealing with groundwater management pending in the current session of the legislature, it also appears that elected officials are starting to perceive a strong constituent interest in the groundwater issue. As population and economic growth deplete groundwater resources, and as more incidents of contamination come to light, the pressure is likely to increase. current laws and programs dealing with these threats. Protecting Texas Groundwater, a report growing out of the working group’s investigation, was released by Hightower in April 1987. The report concludes that Texas needs a comprehensive approach to groundwater protection, with stronger action at both the state and local levels, and proposes a groundwater-protection strategy with 18 specific recommendations for change. The groundwater working group found that some things are generally agreed upon that groundwater is a precious natural resource, a limited resource, vulnerable to depletion and contamination from a variety of human activities. And because large-scale contamination results in large-scale ex groundwater contamination in Texas. Most private water wells are not tested to determine whether the water is safe to drink. There has been no requirement that even public drinking-water supplies be tested for the great majority of toxic industrial and agricultural chemicals currently in use, though with the stronger standards required by the federal Safe Drinking Water Amendments of 1986 this situation should improve somewhat over the next several years. A list of major potential pollution sources in Texas would probably include landfills, industrial surface impoundments, illegal waste dumping, disposal wells, underground gasoline storage tanks, pipelines, abandoned and unplugged oil wells, pesticide and fertilizer Toxic waste disposal at aeration pond “We have for a long time overemphasized water quantity and underemphasized water quality,” says Sierra Club legislative director Ken Kramer. “This is a real lack in this state. “There is a problem of groundwater contamination, especially from toxics, and we don’t know the full extent because we don’t have enough monitoring. That’s what’s concerning people around the state.” The Sierra Club has made groundwater legislation a high priority in the current session. In a year-long series of meetings throughout 1986 the groundwater working group of the Rural Water Task Force, a 29-member panel chaired by Agriculture Commissioner Jim Hightower, examined the threats to groundwater quality in Texas and evaluated near Robstown penses, and can be nearly impossible to clean up, the only reasonable way to maintain the quality of groundwater is to keep it from being polluted. We know that about 60 percent of all fresh water now consumed in Texas, including ‘about half of the drinking water supply, is pumped from underground. Groundwater is used for drinking and other purposes in every region of Texas in nearly every county. We know that nowhere is groundwater more important than in rural Texas, where about 3 million people depend on either private water wells or on small community water systems. About 70 percent of the water used in agricultural irrigation on millions of acres of Texas cropland comes from the aquifers. We do not know the full extent of applications, mining activities and septic tanks. Even with limited monitoring there is growing evidence of groundwater contamination from some of these sources. For example, the Texas Water Commission has documented groundwater contamination at dozens of operating, regulated hazardous-chemical waste disposal facilities. Water Commission staff estimate informally that about 100 of these facilities will be found to be leaking as more data become available. This is in addition to contamination at the 26 Superfund sites in Texas, the abandoned chemical dumps that have been designated dangerous enough to be eligible for federally funded cleanup. Oil industry brine-disposal wells and saltwater evaporation pits, and abandoned, unplugged oil wells have also 10 MAY 15, 1987