West Texas droughts
If anyone is wondering why the Texas Legislature took two billion dollars from the states rainy day fund for water projects, I suggest you drive through west Texas. Starting west and north of Mineral Wells, they are experiencing the worst drought since the 1950’s. And perhaps as bad as the dust bowl of the 1930’s. I lived in west Texas in the 1950’s and remember the dust storms that turned day into night and blew sand up on the sides of our house like snow.
Midland and Odessa are on severe water rationing. The usual source of city water was E.V. Spence Reservoir, near Robert Lee. That lake is now 90 percent below normal levels and almost as salty as seawater. To make manners worse, billions of gallons of ground water are being used in the oil and gas fracturing operations in the Permian Basin. I hope some state or federal agency is monitoring this use of water, considering there is now, and for the foreseeable future, a huge surplus of natural gas in Texas.
The flow in west Texas rivers is near zero. Non-irrigated farming has come to a near standstill. Some restaurants in Midland and Odessa are only serving water when it is asked for by diners. Both cities have thousands of dead trees and bushes and there seems to be no effort to cut them down. The only greenery I saw, in either city, was the super drought resistant mesquite bushes.
Compared to today, there were few people in west Texas during the droughts of the 1930’s and 50’s. In the 1930’s there were counties in west Texas that had fewer people than a city block. In the 1950’s the oil boom used only a small fraction of the water used today and there was a vast underground aquifer, which has since been severely depleted.
We should closely monitor how and where this new state water project money is being spent. If this drought keeps moving eastward, the most important pipeline in Texas may soon be one bringing water from Oklahoma to Texas, instead of the one bringing Canadian oil.
Locally, as one other guest columnist suggested, Weatherford should explore the possibility of increasing the holding capacity of Lake Weatherford and projecting the cost of pumping more water into that lake from Lake Benbrook and beyond. Are Weatherford and other Parker County entities still selling water for natural gas fracturing? We need a long and short term plan to insure we do not become another Texas water emergency.