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Meeting water demand requires unusual solutions

I can’t remember the last time I went to a production meeting in the Southwest that someone didn’t talk about water—or, more precisely, the lack of it.

Come summer, I will have been a resident of the Southwest, well, Texas, with occasional forays into surrounding Southwest states, for 14 years. In a rare few of those years, the area had adequate, and in even rarer instances—maybe once—an abundance of precipitation.

As I recall, the last time the Beltwide Cotton Conferences met in Texas we were in the midst of a long-term drought. I didn’t look that up or anything but chances are pretty good that at any given time over the past 15 years Texas was going into, coming out of or dead in the middle of a drought. So there’s better than a fifty-fifty chance that the last time cotton folk came to Texas for their annual get-together, it was dry. They met here again this year. It was dry.

Water has become a critical issue for Texans. But I am happy to report that our legislators are hard at work looking for solutions to the problem.

It was widely reported, for instance, that the reason Texas A&M switched allegiances and now competes—quite well I might add—in the Southeastern Conference, was to get more exposure for its athletic programs and fine athletes.

That has worked out pretty well, I’d say. But that’s really not why the Aggies jumped conference.

It’s all about the water.

You see, every time the A&M football team travels out of state to places like Georgia, Mississippi, Alabama and Arkansas, each player, coach, manger, cheerleader, mascot, band member and fan will be required to bring back a bottle of water. Five or six away games a year and that begins to add up.

And when competing teams come into College Station from those other states, they all have to bring water.

Add receipts from basketball (men and women), baseball, softball, track and field, soccer, field hockey, volleyball and every other sport the Aggies play and the haul can be significant.

We’re going to need it. Projections indicate that within 40 years or so—by which time I’ll be 103—the state population will double. We won’t have enough water to provide that many baths, flush that many toilets and cut that many shots of good whiskey.

But we know Texas will grow. And we welcome that growth. But we are going to insist that anyone who moves into the state bring his own water. And no one can leave without recycling any water they might have used. Tourists, business travelers and those who just got lost on their way to Arkansas, can consume all the water they want while in the state, provided they brought in an equal amount when they crossed the state line.

In the meantime, the Texas Legislature will take a serious look at water issues this session. They and water experts understand what’s at stake, and they understand what’s necessary. Assuring that future generations of Texans have adequate water for home, farm, industry, and recreation requires that today’s legislators look hard at all aspects of water—conservation, new resources, and improving current delivery systems to increase efficiency. Most agree on those basic principles.

But here’s the tricky part. Improving the water supply of a state that, in the best of years, receives limited rainfall will be costly. I don’t envy elected officials the job of figuring out how to do that.

The Aggies may need to play a lot more away games to meet demand.

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