TCEQ commissioners pointed out in last week's meeting that the only real solution to end the water crisis is a serious change in the weather.
The issue highlights the dilemma of a water crisis in Texas and much of the nation and world, and also tests the ability of state and federal government to protect the rights of all of its citizens over critical issues, like who owns the water in streams, rivers, lakes and aquifers. TCEQ Commissioners knew that regardless of how they ruled on this emergency order, one group or the other was going to benefit at the expense of the other.
Farmers and lower basin water users were consistent in pointing out over the last two years that they fully understand the risks involved in serious crisis, like the one brought about by the current drought. They were careful to make known their willingness to sacrifice—to give up their legal rights to use much of the water in the river, in spite of it being used to grow the food that stocks grocery shelves across Texas and the world.
For two years running –now three—rice farmers will grow at least 50 percent less rice than they typically produce. The three-county area, including Wharton, Colorado and Matagorda counties, historically has accounted for 40 percent of the state's overall rice production.
Consequently, the water crisis on the Colorado River may be a good example of the brewing and potentially explosive issue of growing water shortages in Texas—and much of the nation.
TCEQ Commissioners were acutely aware that the issue would garner widespread interest and they were undoubtedly feeling the rising pressure coming from interest groups and even from two state senators.
While elected lawmakers are prohibited from pressuring state agencies, by using the media and speaking platforms that stretch from the State Capital to local civic club luncheons, lawmakers with a vested interest in an issue can easily turn up the heat on public officials and even State Commissioners by making weighted comments at press conferences or, as with this event, drafting letters of concern and condemnation.
For instance, in a joint statement, state Sens. Troy Fraser and Kirk Watson, representing constituents in Austin and in the Highland Lakes area, said the TCEQ decision passed down last week fell short of the mark.