I don’t wash my truck as often as I would like. I get busy and sometimes I realize that running it through a car wash is a futile gesture since in a day or two I’ll be driving it back to Lubbock, Texas, Altus, Okla., or some other Southwest destination where I’ll veer off onto the back roads of farm country, maybe even bounce over a few turnrows or rattle across recently stripped cotton fields and just get it all dusty again.
But I wash it occasionally and appreciate the nice gleam it exhibits for a few days.
If I played golf I’m sure I would appreciate having lush fairways, manicured greens and bright spots of colorful annual blooms to distract me from what would inevitably be a poor score.
I’ve over-watered my landscape a few times to keep azaleas alive, grass from withering away in the Texas summer and to keep a tomato plant alive long enough to secure enough produce for a tomato sandwich.
So, yes, I admit to wasting some water. I can do better. We all can. We all will have to.
And Southwest citizens are faced with hard choices about how best to ration available water supplies. Some areas already are making hard choices and some are making the wrong ones.
The Lower Colorado River Authority, for instance, just announced their intention to request permission from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to curtail release of water for downstream users—farmers, businesses and ecologically vulnerable ecosystems. Rice farmers will be hit particularly hard and for the third or fourth year in a row. Many have lost production, and some have abandoned acreage because of limited water supplies.
I can’t begrudge residents of Austin and other Hill Country towns and cities for wanting to preserve enough water to maintain their quality of life. I can’t fault someone with property on one of the Highland lakes for wanting to see water levels rise enough so boat ramps are back in the water.
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But at some point, citizens of those towns and cities must agree to do their part in conserving water instead of pushing the sacrifice down the river, depriving farmers of irrigation water, businesses of water necessary to maintain production, and wetlands enough water to maintain wildlife habitat.
Folks downstream say they are willing to bear some hardship, recognizing the needs of urban areas. But they also feel as if they are taking on a bigger portion of the burden than is justified. They have needs, too. Their livelihoods are also at stake. It’s time for state agencies to recognize that food production is as important as water for boat ramps; downstream businesses are as important as lush golf greens; and the tangible and intangible advantages of wetlands preservation outweigh the joys of a shiny car.
It’s time to share—the water and the sacrifice.