Legislative fight for Pecos County water far from over

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February 10, 2010

by Sen. Carlos Uresti

The people of Pecos County can breathe a little easier now that the 81st Legislature has come to an end. A bill allowing the export of groundwater died quietly in committee. But it was only a temporary victory — one battle in what could be a long war over the county's water resources.

In truth, the West Texas Water Supply District never had much of a chance. It was filed too late in the legislative process, and there were too many unanswered questions about its powers and potential impact on the environment. But make no mistake; the bill will be back in the next session in a more timely fashion and with more organized support.

We must be ready.

In the long interim leading up to the 2011 session, it would be wise to remember the Chinese proverb that says, 'When you drink the water, remember the spring.' Water is a precious and fragile resource in a part of the state that averages less than 14 inches of rain each year, and West Texans have never had the luxury of taking its sources for granted. Now, with the threat of export looming, the proverb takes on even greater meaning.

The citizens and elected officials of Pecos County are right to be wary. The water supply district would be granted broad powers — to impose a tax, to issue bonds and acquire easements through eminent domain. It intends to build a 54-inch pipeline that will carry some 41 million gallons of water from the Leon-Belding area west of Fort Stockton every day.

The project has the potential to exhaust groundwater supplies that could not be replenished in your lifetime, or that of your children and grandchildren.

With so much at stake, Pecos County and its representatives in the Legislature must remain vigilant — during the interim, the next session and the sessions after that. The fight is not over.

Until long-term, reliable water supplies are secured, the future of Pecos County and West Texas is uncertain. Remember that the next time you make a pot of coffee, wash the dishes or nourish the crops. Enjoy the water, but remember the spring.