Posts Tagged ‘lake travis’

Spicewood, Texas, a small community on Lake Travis, is precariously close to becoming the state’s first community to run out of drinking water during this historic drought.  On Monday, under dark clouds and with rain falling, Spicewood got its first delivery of 8,000-gallons of water after it became clear local wells could no longer produce enough water to meet the needs of the 1,100 residents.

Several communities in Texas have come close to running out of water during 2011, the driest year in Lone Star State history, but until now none had to truck in water.

For more than a year, nearly the entire state of Texas has been in some stage of severe or exceptional drought. Rain has been so scarce lakes across the state have been drying up. One town near Waco, Groesbeck, bought water from a rock quarry and built a seven-mile pipeline through a state park to get water. Some communities on Lake Travis moved their intake pipes into deeper water. And Houston started getting water from an alternative, farther away reservoir when Lake Houston ran too low.

Although it has started to rain more this winter, it is not enough to fill the state’s arid rivers and lakes.  Austin, Tx still remains nearly 20 inches below normal rainfall for the past 12 months, so we are talking about rainfall events of 20 inches plus, basically flood events, to bring the lake levels up.

Under the current long term weather predictions, we are not likely to see such an extreme weather event as la Nina keeps its hold on Texas, bringing dryer than normal conditions through the spring.  2012 is going to be a difficult year for the Lone Star state.

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Lake Travis Levels Plummeted During 2009 Drought

Today the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) Board of Directors delayed a vote on providing water to the “White Stallion” coal plant proposed for Matagorda County. Though White Stallion’s Chief Operation Officer, Randy Bird, was expecting and asking for approval of a contract today, the board chose to delay action until August 10. This makes sense considering that they were confronted with more than 30 people who signed up to speak against the coal plant, some driving from as far away as the Gulf Coast (some taking off work) in order to be there. This delay is a victory for those opposing the coal plant and a step in the right direction in convincing the LCRA that this project is not a beneficial or responsible use of water from the Colorado River Basin.

Key concerns included the general aspect of this project and the negative effects it would have on the people, environment (and watershed) of the region. There were also, as expected, many concerns regarding the current drought and many agreements that the last thing LCRA should consider is adding more, firm water commitments particularly when LCRA is already asking customers to conserve and scale back their water use. Concerns about how global warming would further worsen dry conditions in the region over the next 55 years (the length of the proposed contract) were also voiced by many of the speakers.

“Even though they haven’t denied it yet, we’re glad they’re taking their time to look into the serious implications of this coal plant request” said Lydia Avila with Sierra Club.  “We’re confident that when they look at the facts they will realize this is a bad deal for Texans and reject it.”

Only one or two people spoke in favor of granting the contract, one of whom was Owen Bludau, Executive Director of the Matagorda County Economic Development Corporation – one of the original entities that worked to bring the White Stallion proposal to Bay City. Those speaking against the contract included Matagorda County Judge Nate McDonald, Burnet County Judge Donna Klaeger, David Weinberg (Executive Director of the Texas League of Conservation Voters), Doctor Lauren Ross (who recently released this report on how White Stallion would affect water in the Colorado watershed), and many others including concerned residents throughout the LCRA region and landowners located right next to the proposed plant site.

Public Citizen applauds LCRA’s decision to table this vote. It shows that the LCRA takes the concerns of their stakeholders seriously. The next two months should prove to the LCRA that this coal plant is both unnecessary and a waste of our most precious and dwindling resource: our water.

Update and thank you!

Public Citizen wants to thank all of you who responded to our emails, blogs, tweets and phone calls and either called, mailed, or emailed comments in, and to those who showed up and packed the meeting room today.  This decision would probably have been very different if you had not made your concerns know to the board.  You are all awesome!

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water header

I’ve been thinking (and worrying) about water a lot lately.  I suppose that the drought has brought all this concern along.  Just a few months ago, folks were comparing this drought to the one that devastated Texas agriculture in the ’50s (when crop yields dropped by as much as 50%, all but one county in Texas was declared a federal drought disaster area, and grasslands were scorched and ranchers that couldn’t afford high hay prices resorted to a mixture of prickly pear cactus and molasses), but now folks are saying that this drought is well on its way to being worse, and certainly more costly, than any other dry spell in Texas history.

We’re already seeing ranching and agriculture suffer substantially from this drought.  Agricultural officials are now pinning crop and livestock losses at $3.6 billion.  Just 12% of the cotton acreage planted this year will be harvested, and many gins won’t open up this season because there isn’t enought work to justify it.  Ranchers are also buying high priced hay and feed supplements because their own pastures haven’t produced enough to feed their herds.  Ranchers are selling off calves younger and thinner than usual, and even letting go of the mature females that sustain their herds.  In the last week, Bastrop County alone lost 12,000 cattle from the drought.  As Roy Wheeler, an Atascosa County rancher told the San Antonio Express-News, “We’re selling the factory, so they say.”

So why worry about the weather,  you may ask.  Haven’t farmers and ranchers been scraping by and beaten by the weather since the first man stuck a seed in the ground?  Perhaps, but during the dust bowl and in this last great drought in the ’50s, we could still shake our fists at the sky and vow never to go hungry again — but now we can only shake our fists at ourselves.  There’s not a doubt in my mind that this drought is a result of human interference.  I’m no scientist, just an educated girl with a blog, but I’d bet the farm that we’re seeing global warming in action.

But you don’t have take my word for it.  Take the word of Dr. Gerald North, a climate scientist at that notorious liberal holdout Texas A&M, who says that this drought is the beginning of a permanent trend for Texas.  He cites the 2007 IPCC report, which shows trends toward hotter and drier summers.  In reference to this weather pattern, North told the Environment News Service that, “It could be just a fluke that persists for a decade… But my guess is that it’s here to stay, but with fluctuations up and down.”

Of course we can’t point at any one weather event and say that it is a direct result of global warming, but we can take events as indicative of what is to come as global warming progresses.  Just as Hurricane Katrina woke up the world to the devastation that will ensue as storms of increase in frequency and severity from climate change, this current drought can give Texans a hint of what the future of Texas weather will look like.

There’s a terrible element of irony here.  Our current trajectory of unsustainable growth and energy consumption increase the likelihood that drought in Texas will become the new norm.  AND those same industries and energy sources which have poisoned our atmosphere and raised global temperatures… use enormous amounts of water.  Coal, natural gas, and nuclear — which propents are trying to sell as “the low-carbon cure we need” — are incredibly, enormously, despicably water intensive. (more…)

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