The first serious coverage of water in TEXAS MONTHLY came just a couple months shy of our two-year anniversary, in a story by Greg Curtis entitled “ Disaster, Part I. Lubbock is running out of water.” (A companion piece, “ Disaster, Part II,” argued that Houston was sinking into the ocean.) The central idea of this alarming essay was that the Ogallala Aquifer was rapidly being depleted and there was no plan for what would happen next. Or rather, there was a plan, but it was flawed in certain ways that could be expressed only through metaphor: “The Texas Water Plan, that elaborate scheme to import water from the mouth of the Mississippi to the arid West Texas plains, is like an aging stripper.” The remainder of the first paragraph elaborated on the comparison. “Both have by now laid claim to popular attention far longer than their ability to command it,” Greg explained, “and neither is any longer likely to deliver what they promise.”
In our current issue, which contains a special report on water in Texas, the state’s method for contending with drought comes in for some more abuse, this time in a memorable formulation by senior editor Nate Blakeslee (“ Drawing Straws”): “The state water plan is to planning as chicken-fried steak is to steak.” I will leave it to the individual reader to decide whether the much-maligned water plan has, in the newer comparison, been treated more kindly or less.
Nearly forty years separate these two stories, and during that time drought has been a regular subject for TEXAS MONTHLY. How could it not be? For better or worse, we make our home in a place that will probably always struggle with water shortages. “Drought is like a hungry, roaming wolf, returning periodically to old haunts to kill again.” So wrote the