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After the Rains

After months of waiting, the rains finally fell over West Texas.  Five inches in one weekend, in fact!  The reservoir supplying water for San Angelo and a number of other nearby communities swelled from 12 percent of capacity to 26 percent full in just four days.  As one resident put it, though, “We’re pretty excited.  But we’re not out of the drought.”

Indeed, some 66 percent of Texas remains in drought.  And while communities were given a temporary reprieve from the lack of rain, public officials are still facing agonizing decisions about how best to preserve quality of life while protecting this vital resource.

In the past, communities responded by building more and bigger reservoirs to ensure larger reserves in the event of water shortages.  However, it has become evident that with the hot, dry temperatures that characterize the Texan climate, more water generally evaporates from the reservoirs in a given year than people use.  Indeed, according to Mayor Alvin New of San Angelo, “our biggest enemy is actually evaporation.”

This time, officials are placing their bets on new pipelines to tap vast underground aquifers.  However, this approach has its own concerns.  The aquifers must be protected from pollutants that could contaminate drinking supplies while also ensuring that the sources of these aquifers do not dry up.  Though many approaches to address these problems have been proposed, we are particularly supportive of San Antonio’s strategy, which focuses on protecting natural processes rather than large infrastructure projects.  (To read more on San Antonio’s program, read our post on Radical Conservation).

If you’ve been experiencing water shortages, let us know how your community has responded!

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