The Thirsty Road Ahead: Be Thankful For Water

A Facebook friend recently forwarded this article from The Economist.

THIS year Texas had the hottest summer ever recorded in any state. In September wildfires swept through the town of Bastrop, outside Austin, destroying more than 1,000 homes. Thousands of cattle have been sold. The town of Big Spring, up the road from the oil hub of Midland, is planning to recycle wastewater for drinking; two of the reservoirs that supply the city are almost empty. The severe drought that has parched most of the state this year shows no signs of abating. The state climatologist reckons that it could last for the rest of the decade.

But the most sobering fact may be that Texas’s water woes are structural. A growing population needs more water. As it stands, the state needs about 18m acre-feet of water a year, according to the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB). By 2060 demand is projected to rise to 22m acre-feet a year. The available supply is expected to decline from 17m acre-feet to about 15.3m, as some aquifers are being depleted and areas of the state will come under new regulations. The TWDB forecasts a total statewide shortfall of 8.3m acre-feet by 2060, because the regions that have enough water cannot simply pipe it to the driest places. If nothing is done, it warns, the economic losses could reach $115.7 billion a year by 2060.

Source: The Economist

As I sit here on a rainy November day in Middle Tennessee, complaints about the mud and chilly breezes comes easily. This is supposed to be the month of Thanks, and we shouldn’t forget to be thankful for all of our blessings (no matter how muddy or cold). Unless you’ve been hiding under a rock in Antartica this year, I am sure you have heard the numerous stories coming out of Texas about wild fires, blazing summer heat, the endless drought and resulting water shortages and agriculture crop losses. Just imagining the 8.3m acre-feet of water shortfall mentioned above is hardly fathomable. That’s a lot of water.

Water is a pretty precious source around the globe these days. It may be hard to imagine if you’re in the middle of rising flood waters or in the path or a California mud slide, but no matter how rough times seem, there’s always someone more hard-up. As land owners, farmers and ranchers across the nation have made leaps and bounds in soil and water conservation over the last century. The simple fact that the High Plains are absent of massive dust storms in a drought reminiscent of that in the Dust Bowl Era is proof of these efforts. Farmers and Ranchers pay close attention to reduce soil erosion by providing ground cover crops and crop residues, and improve soil conservation by more efficient field nutrient application and observing buffer zones near creeks and steams. Many of their efforts go unseen by everyday consumers, despite the claims of critics.

So if you’re fortunate enough to receive some Fall moisture this month, be sure to give thanks and do your part to respect the quality of our water supply. And as always, pray for rain for those in drought stricken areas of the world.

Can you give examples of improvements in soil and/or water conservation over the last century?

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