An interesting issue may be emerging in the race for Texas governor.
Is it OK for a leading candidate for governor to talk about water conservation when he has drilled a well on his property to collect all the water he can use — and avoid municipal fines in the process?
Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott has sunk a well on his property in an exclusive Austin neighborhood. Austin, as is much of the state, is snagged in a punishing drought. It has imposed restrictions on lawn-watering. Abbott — along with other well-heeled residents — has gotten around that drilling his own well.
Abbott is using the time-honored “rule of capture” doctrine in Texas that enables property owners to use whatever they can from under the ground. The courts have upheld this practice, even though it might deplete groundwater supplies for others.
“To me it’s just unconscionable. It’s a total disregard for the resource,” said Andrew Sansom, executive director of the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University and the former head of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department. “What we should be doing is reducing our consumption of water.”
The drought has had its impact on West Texas. Remember what used to be known as Lake Meredith? A recent survey of all the state’s surface-water reservoirs shows the one-time “lake” at 0 percent of capacity, meaning that it’s virtually empty.
The Hill Country also is in serious trouble with its water. So, what about the leading Republican candidate for governor digging his own well? Does it become an issue for his major GOP primary opponent, Tom Pauken? Will the likely Democratic nominee, state Sen. Wendy Davis of Fort Worth, make it an issue?
Should they? Certainly they should.
Leadership requires leaders act the part, not just talk about it.
From my vantage point way up yonder in the water-starved Panhandle, I believe the attorney general might have dug himself into a bit of a political hole.