Saturday, October 17, 2009


North Texas and the southeastern United States have been inundated with water from above for the last month and a half. September and October have seen storm after storm (some severe) hit the Dallas/Fort Worth and Atlanta areas. Most lakes and reservoirs are now at or above full pool. Lake Lavon which supplies water to northeast Texas and Dallas bedroom communities like Plano, Richardson, Allen, McKinney, Garland and many other cities is today at 493.65 feet, 1.65 feet above full pool – and its only just stopped raining over Lavon. Lake Texoma, from which north Texas gets roughly 30 percent of its water, is now also well above full pool.

Water level at Lake Sidney Lanier which is the primary water supply for Atlanta, Georgia is at 1,071.38 feet, 0.38 feet above full pool of 1,071.00 due to what meteorological sources call significant hydrological events. OK, lots of rain - some 600 percent above normal in north Georgia. Lest we forget, at this time last year Lake Lanier was almost down to the bare bones bed of its primary supplier, the Chattahoochee River and residents of Atlanta and all downstream communities even those in Alabama and Florida were in a virtual panic. I know of folks who moved from the area because of the drought. If you ever want a very impressive and comprehensive analysis of Georgia, overall southeastern and national weather pattern updates don’t hesitate to go to Very well done.

Residents of north Texas and Georgia have seemingly forgotten the previously cracked, sun-baked beds of Lakes Lavon and Lanier and the scare and inconvenience of a drought that continues in central and south Texas. We have developed a two birds in the bush and ant and grasshopper (OK, cicada) rationale and have once again gotten sloppy and seemingly placid or indifferent to our plight and the conservation of our most important natural resource.

Happily, we appear to be in an ever strengthening El Nino pattern that will dictate the potential for more precipitation through the rest of the fall and winter seasons for Texas and the southeast. That’s the good news for all you carbon based units that want for H2O. The bad news is that the pendulum will inevitably swing back the other way and we will once again be in drought conditions.

I drive north and south – back and forth to work - on Preston Road (289) from far north Dallas to Collin County and Plano each day. I traverse through some residential (mostly apartments and condos) though mostly business developments that are pretty representative of that area. Many of those businesses and apartment complexes have been noted to have their sprinklers (the big commercial ones) on full bore daily, even during torrential downpours.

Now I know that with the lakes at full pool the municipalities are happy to generate much needed revenues with what they now consider a never ending resource. The waste is absolutely huge and so unnecessary. All it takes is one yahoo to either turn off their sprinkler systems or the very easy and inexpensive installation of an automatic rain turn off. There was probably no need to have engaged the sprinklers for at least the last one month. Where are the water police when you need them?

While our water resources have stayed fairly consistent through the eons, it is not ultimately, under the current circumstances, a renewable resource - ad infinitum. Water once abundant on some parts of the earth is now gone, redistributed in our flora and fauna and across the world by changes in our populations and weather patterns.

Texan and ultra successful business man T Boone Pickens has seen another ultimate profit making opportunity and has been buying up water rights in the panhandle of North Texas via his Mesa Water, Inc. Pickens is treating water like a commodity with the proof in the pudding being the success of the bottled water industry and the most recent lack of that indispensible resource in major US population centers. He believes that if you don’t charge for that service we will ultimately exhaust even that resource. Pickens may be right and all you have to do is look at the recent oil crisis. If we don’t ultimately value something we will use it up or further devalue it. Pickens is planning to make water available (for a price) from the huge though not inexhaustible Oglalla Aquifer to downstate communities like Amarillo, Dallas/Fort Worth, Austin and even San Antonio should the need arise. The heavy rains in Texas have prompted a jocular Pickens to note that the region has been flooded “with cheap, offshore water."

The realization that the global population is expected to rise substantially greater than the production of and accessibility to fresh water should prompt all of us to rethink our approach to water conservation. If we don’t retool our attitudes then Mother Nature will take care of the problem by eliminating the drain on that resource – humans and other flora and fauna that once depended on that water. Problem solved. So what happens if the remaining water is so polluted that it cannot be recovered for a lifetime? Same song, different verse.

So don't crank up your sprinklers just yet. Better yet, don’t turn them on until you have to. We have enough water falling out of the sky to water our lawns, flowers, bushes, trees, foundations, etc. I believe strongly that municipalities of all “civilized nations” should continue and aggressively enforce permanent, mandatory water restrictions for all their residents. The difference is that we will go from a current voluntary rationale to one that is mandatory. Perhaps we should also consider charging more for water consumption per Pickens. While current water restriction schedules are admirable they generally lag behind what the prevailing circumstances dictate.

The bottom line is that we as a species do not seem to be responsible enough to control the one resource that is indispensible to life. Our individual and collective memories are incredibly short term. We are once again drifting back into complacency and can’t be trusted. Mother Nature is sitting back and taking a wait and see attitude. Do it for the good of the many…


Ned Buxton

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