The Importance of Conservation
With soaring summer temperatures and severe drought conditions upon us, numerous citizens and community leaders will tell you that they are worried about having enough water. If they are lucky enough to have adequate water for now, then they are worried about water for the future--which is vital for the survival of our children and grandchildren.
As the current drought in Texas continues to worsen by the day, it is only natural that we discuss short-term and long-term water planning in Texas. Worry about future water supply is important in that it keeps us focused on an issue that is vital for the State's prosperity. But worry is not enough; we must adequately plan for the future needs of our communities.
As this drought in the Colorado River basin grinds on, and the flow in the Colorado River dwindles, concern about water has the potential to become divisive, pitting upstream interests against downstream interests, today’s cities against the future of growing rural communities, agriculture interests against municipal and industrial needs. As we see plummeting lake levels on our storage reservoirs and the potential for water-use restrictions and real economic loss, we need facts, not just concerns, to guide policy.
Fortunately, over the last several years we have better data and facts to guide decision making. The Lower Colorado River Authority has put together solid information about the needs for water in our basin for the next 100 years. The growth rate in our region dictates a longer outlook, because the future is coming fast.
As a farmer and State Senator, I do not claim to be a water planner, but I can easily see that the demand line crossing over the supply line will arrive in the coming years. As the State's population continues to grow exponentially, the day gets closer that these lines will cross and then we reach the point on the chart where we don't have enough water. This means that for now there is enough water for population growth – no matter where in the basin that demand will manifest itself – whether Travis or Matagorda County.
The recent efforts by LCRA have given us the tools to turn concern into action. Conservation at all levels must be enhanced, even when rains return the Colorado to its normal flow, as they will. But even with conservation and more efficient use of our water, we will need – as a unified basin -- to take expensive and potentially controversial steps. Seventy-five years ago, our leaders did the same for us and that is why we have adequate water today.
Speaking on leaders, I think it is appropriate to compliment the new general manager, Tom Mason, and his team for their leadership at LCRA. Tom has worked to improve the credibility, transparency, and openness of LCRA, which in part contributed to the glowing review he received from the LCRA Board last year in his job performance evaluation. Most importantly, he has even begun to receive complements from some of LCRA's harshest critics- myself included. It may seem ironic to some that I would compliment the current management for an increased openness and transparency that they have shown in providing information to the public. But I am complimenting them because providing information; whether it is about the proposed LCRA/SAWS project, the Water Supply Resource Plan, or the expected mandatory conservation triggers that could soon be activated by the current drought conditions, it part of their responsibility to the people who rely on their stewardship of the Colorado River.
The Colorado basin is entering uncharted waters in the 21st Century and I remain hopeful that each and every member on the current Board of Directors will reflect on the interest of the basin each and every day. Each member took an oath of office to "faithfully execute the duties of the office". With one of the worst droughts that we have seen in recorded history bearing down on Texas, a national recession persisting, and the Colorado basin at the cross roads of so many important decisions, the constituents in my district cannot afford distractions from anything other than focusing on the facts and making prudent and rational decisions. Anything short will truly be a great disappointment for the people that call the Colorado basin home and those Texans outside of the basin that are carefully watching to make sure decisions are truly for the people who live, work and rely on this valuable resource.
Senator Hegar is currently serving his second session in the Texas Senate after serving two terms in the House of Representatives. He is Vice-Chair of the Sunset Advisory Commission as well as a member of Senate Natural Resources, Agriculture and Rural Affairs, Criminal Justice and Vice-Chair of Government Organization Committees. Additionally, he has been a leading critic of LCRA and has advocated for a sunset review of the authority. He is a 6th generation Texan, and earns a living farming rice and corn on land that has been in his family since the mid 1800s. The Hegars reside in Katy, Texas.