Water, water everywhere...
Not to jinx anything, but the good news this week is a forecast that calls for rain and highs in the low '90s. Even better, LCRA chief meteorologist Bob Rose thinks we'll move into a rainier and cooler El Niño weather pattern late this summer or early fall. At the same time, the news in Central Texas this week seems to be all about water management and the effects of the ongoing drought. Here's a roundup:
A Texas House joint hearing on energy and natural resources last week focused on the impact of hydraulic fracturing on Texas water. Industry and environmental experts discussed whether the practice uses excessive water, whether it contaminates groundwater, and what techniques and policies could protect and conserve the water supply. According to NPR State Impact: "Luke Metzger, the Director of Environment Texas.. recommended that the state should monitor the amount of water used for fracking on a per county or district basis to get a clearer image of the situation."
NPR had more information on the bizarre story of 15 cows at an Elgin ranch that died from simply eating grass -- specifically, Tifton 85 hybrid Bermuda grass. One theory is that Tifton overproduced prussic acid because of stress caused by the drought.
The Statesman reported yesterday that the Texas Land Commissioner Jerry Patterson is looking into feasability studies for a desalination plant between Austin and New Braunfels that would pump brackish groundwater up more than 1,400 feet for treatment. The money would come from the $26 billion Permanent School Fund.
The Statesman also reported on the effects of the LCRA's drought measures on downstream rice farmers. When the LCRA cut off water for most rice farmers in southern Texas earlier this year, some started growing sesame, while others are letting fields lie fallow as a consequence of insurance claims. And while insurance may be protecting farmers at least in part, the lack of water and year without rice is having a big effect on local economies.
Closer to home, In Fact Daily reports that Austin City Manager Marc Ott has placed a hard cap on construction costs for the controversial Water Treatment Plant 4 project. The cap would hold direct expenditures at or very near the $359 million construction budget and might address criticism leveled at city officials after it became apparent that the Austin Water Utility might have to ask the City Council for more money.
Save Our Springs is also focused on water and budget: they're making the case that funds set aside for the Barton Springs master plan be used for deferred maintenance and tree watering (in light of the drought) rather than for redesigning the south lawn entrance, fence and gates.
Enjoy the weather, folks, and take advantage of it! Catch some rainwater if you can, and keep watering your trees.