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.
No trigger set
The comments were in reference to TCEQ Commissioners approving the emergency order but failing to set a trigger level for downstream releases. While the order prohibits release of water for a period of 120 days, it fails to address the issue of resumed water releases based upon a minimum lake storage levels.
"By failing to establish a combined storage trigger, TCEQ essentially avoided addressing the hard questions," the senators stated. "Because lake conditions and forecasts are so bleak, the TCEQ was able to punt on the decision of a combined storage trigger. Instead, the commissioners issued a ruling preventing the release of water to interruptible customers under the current conditions."
While the current Colorado River water crisis is a concern for more than an estimated two million Texas citizens—urban rooted and rural—more importantly, it serves as a window into the future. If many forecasters are right and the drought is far from being over, the kind of water crisis currently in process along the Colorado basin will be felt along all other streams and rivers in the state, perhaps across the nation.
It will require neighbors putting heads together with fellow neighbors, city dwellers and rural folk alike, and representatives from government and industry, to generate new ideas and new methods of conserving and sharing resources.
While many will accuse TCEQ of failing to side with Austin and surrounding communities in their fight to control water that runs through the area and choosing instead to watch after the needs of rural Texas, the truth is, commissioners should be applauded for daring to take a stand on the merits of the law in the face of mounting public opinion.
They chose to make the hard decision instead of the easy way out; they voted to uphold the rules adopted by citizens representing a variety of water users, including urban, rural, residential and industrial.
As pointed out repeatedly by these same commissioners, there is a LCRA Water Management Plan, and that plan sets the rules on how water is to be shared in all 16 of the regional districts that benefit from the river. That plan is adopted on a regional basis by groups representing government, industry and both urban and rural water users.
The decision doesn't attempt to alter the Texas state water plan by establishing permanent changes to water policy that would bypass the work of 16 regional groups that have collectively agreed to operate under the terms of the same plan. It does encourage, however, a fresh look at the water plan with an objective of revamping the plan to reflect the changes brought about by the drought.
As pointed out by the commission, an emergency order is the process of establishing temporary rules to address a crisis, and not a way to change or alter state water policies.
Texas rice farmers, wildlife and marine conservationists, and rural communities are applauding TCEQ commissioners for their stand on the current issue. While sacrificing another year of irrigation water represents an economic hardship for all parties, it also represents a sacrifice that is necessary as a result of the historic drought.
In reality there are no winners in a serious water crisis. The drought adversely affects urban and rural areas, and private, commercial and industrial interests alike. But sticking to the rules, the laws, and the policy is not only a good idea but also represents the only reasonable solution to the growing problem.
Like TCEQ commissioners pointed out in last week's meeting, the only real solution to end the water crisis is a serious change in the weather.