Water needs state’s serious attention

Rick Perry comes from an agricultural background, which he’s touted in his endless campaigns for governor of Texas.

Thus, he needs to spend some political capital – if he can find any of it tucked away somewhere – on an issue of dire consequence throughout this vast state, and in West Texas in particular: water.

Perry’s State of the State speech this week touched on a lot of key issues: education, transportation, job creation and, yes, water. But the water problem is giving some of us here the most heartburn.

The Texas Tribune reports that lawmakers have proposed taking as much as $2 billion from the state’s Rainy Day Fund for water projects. Given the tight money supply, $2 billion amounts to little more than a nice down payment on what the state ought to spend on water-related issues.

The Ogallala Aquifer is drying up. It’s not at critical stage … yet. But it’ll get there in due course if we cannot find a way to get better yields out of non-irrigated farmland. All those irrigated corn and cotton fields out there are sucking many thousands of acre feet of water out of the ground each year and the aquifer isn’t recharging at nearly the rate it needs to keep pace.

What are we going to do about it?

Lake Meredith – or what’s left of it – is no longer of any use to us. Water authorities no longer pump water out of it. Its depth is about 28 feet, which is about one-fourth of its historic high. While the state is thinking about water management, it ought to examine how it could have built a dam to back up the Canadian River only to watch the water levels drop almost every year since the dam was completed in the mid-1960s.

Someone, somewhere, has some explaining to do on that one.

Meanwhile, officials in cities and towns in the Panhandle are telling us to water our lawns on certain days during the summer, encouraging us to go without washing our cars, fix leaky faucets and do other things around the house to save water. Yes, every little bit helps. But the real culprits are out there on thousands of acres of irrigated farmland.

And the drought? Never mind the wee bit of snow we got here overnight. The drought hasn’t left us and it’s looking like we have another dry year coming on.

Gov. Perry, our water is running out around here. We need some help.

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