Water Grab

Why farmers and big-city folk are at war over water. Plus: Jane Nelson for comptroller?

WATER IS ABOUT TO BECOME, if you’ll pardon the pun, a boiling political issue. With the Rio Grande Valley desperately short of water, and El Paso, Corpus Christi, Houston, San Antonio, and suburban Austin all planning to import water from remote sites, anxieties in rural Texas about water grabs by cities are at an all-time high (see “Waterworld,” Environment, September 1995). In West Texas, El Paso has bought land in Hudspeth County to obtain the rights to the water below the surface, while in East Texas, Henderson County farmers have lost a fight to stop Ozarka Spring Water from pumping 72,000 gallons a day from Roher Spring (see “Bottleneck,” State Wide, August 1995). Agricultural interests may fight back by asking the Legislature to create more underground water conservation districts that give local landowners the power to restrict big pumpers.

Meanwhile, the Texas Water Development Board’s three-year-old Trans-Texas plan calls for cities in Southeast and Central Texas to use interbasin transfers—taking water from reservoirs outside of their river basins—to meet their water needs. Corpus Christi has won approval for a pipeline that will bring water from Lake Texana, north of Port Lavaca. Austin’s northern suburbs in the Brazos River basin want to tap Lake Travis on the Colorado River. San Antonio is looking at Guadalupe River water. But the most ambitious plan is for Houston to bring in water from the immense Toledo Bend Reservoir on the Sabine River, where more than a million acre-feet of water a year are available for the taking. Less than

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