Texans may not always agree on politics, religion, or football, but they all agreed that drought of 2007-2009 was one of the worst they had ever experienced.

Farmers, ranchers, city-dwellers, educators, and

scientists expressed their concerns that Texas can no longer provide enough water for its citizens.

There are many factors that affect water in Texas--and just as many opinions on what can be done.

One thing for sure, however--we must all work to ascertain that there's enough water in Texas for our children and grandchildren.

U.S. Climatology experts agree about the severity of this drought, too; during the worst of the 2008-2009 drought, satellite data showed that all too often, our state was the only region thus afflicted. With all this in mind, and with models showing that regardless of how much rain Texas might receive in the next few months, the long-term forecast for Texas is drier still,  the Texas Drought Project is bringing together experts from many fields--from geology to climatology to soil engineering--to de-centralize information, and get it directly to the people of Texas.

There are many forces acting on the climate of Texas, and on its water supply. Undoubtedly, overpopulation of sensitive eco-systems is a huge factor, with excessive groundwater pumping seen as a prime culprit. But scientists like Dr. Gerald North, or Dr. David Stahle, both of whom sit on the advisory board of the Texas Drought Project, say more is at work. With the increased temperatures promised to Texas with global climate change, increased evaporation is guaranteed, and the potential for what is called desertification looms as a frightening prospect.

But there are actions that Texans can take now to change the future. The Texas Drought Project will examine all of these options, and provide answers to the dilemmas faced by Texans, regardless of whether they hail from the Rio Grande Valley, or the Edwards Plateau.

Q - Other than worrying about my lawn, why should I be concerned about drought in Texas?

A - Perpetual drought in Texas translates to losses for everyone--losses to the agricultural economy, which means higher prices for you at the grocery store. And Texas, which comes in second to California in agricultural product, would suffer overall economic loss if farmers and ranchers can't count on rain for their crops and herds. If Texas loses that sector of its economic base, the rest of us have to pick up the slack in taxes and costs.

Q - What does it mean when scientists say that Texas is headed for perpetual drought?


Climatologists who have studied both the history and the computer models on Texas rainfall have concluded that the state is headed for a very long period--possibly marked in hundreds of years--wherein rainfall continues to decrease, and more of the state becomes desert-like, a process known as desertification.

Q - What processes are contributing to Texas drought?


A - Texas is caught in the perfect storm of drought. Years of unregulated  expansion and sprawl, limitless groundwater pumping, and poor conservation management practices have set up the state for disaster. Now come the effects of climate change, with increased temperatures and evaporation rates, and the result is a disaster.

Q - But what about El Nino? Isn't the phenomenon known as El Nino causing the drought?

A -  The El Nino effect can contribute to drought, but it is not the only causative factor.  It is predicted that El Nino will bring rains back to the region in the fall, but, scientists emphasize, that does not end the prospects for long-term drought.

Q - If it rains, why do I have to be concerned about drought? Won't the lakes fill up and farmers get rain on their crops?

A - Yes, the lakes may fill, but that doesn't change the long-term prospect for Texas. Texans need to get smarter now so that they can make changes in their way of living, and in their city codes and development regulations so that they can cope with a future that promises less and less rain.

Q - If we get really desperate for water, can't we build desalination plants? After all,  climate change experts say that the seas are going to rise, so couldn't we use some of that water?

A - Desalination plants utilize a tremendous amount of energy, requiring new plants to be built to power them. In addition to seeming counter-productive, desalination is also far from a perfect process. Chemical and pharmaceutical waste, oil from offshore platforms and vessel spills, organic decaying matter from sea life, and "nerdles" - plastic pieces that resemble fish eggs - all find their way into the water produced through desalination. Additionally, chemicals have to be added in the process so as not to corrode the metal machinery in the plant. Desalinating water for human consumption in Texas would be energy-intensive and costly,  and the product would be contaminated.  Activist Maude Barlow, author of "Blue Covenant" and "Blue Gold,"  books about the commodification and scarcity of water, talks about the "inky" substance which emanates from the plants - she describes it as looking like it came out of a squid.  Desalination is not the answer to our problems with water.

Q - What is the answer to our water problems in Texas?


A - There is no single answer to water problems - here in Texas, or anywhere else. Awareness is the first step on the road - we have to make every Texan aware that the water he is swirling about in the sink is water that is desperately needed for all human activities. But it's much more than that - we have to come to grips with how our frontier mentality of conquering the Texas wilderness, creating ever-new subdivisions, and drilling for water like it's oil, only to move on when it's gone - is an incorrect model for living.  History tells us that places like Austin and San Antonio were never verdant patches of green - and we must have sensible restrictions on development, on groundwater pumping, and on vegetative cover. We have to rethink where our water is being used, and stop slighting rural areas to bring water to big cities. But most importantly, we have to be prepared for our own lifetimes, as well as the lives of our children and grandchildren, in a world where there's simply less water.  Soil conservation, rainwater harvesting, graywater-friendly municipal codes--all of these play a role in saving Texas water for the next generations.

In the next few months, we'll be asking Texans to take another look at how they consume water, and helping them to plan for a future that includes drought.  Texans are tough, and when tough times confront them, they step up and find new solutions to the problems,  with innovations and adaptations that defy the nay-sayers. 

Let's all work together to secure our precious water for the generations of tomorrow.