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Tuesday, September 30, 2014

Time to Address Water Conservation on the "Macro" Level

This is the Sept. 23, 2014 U.S. Drought Monitor Map for TX

Above is the most recent U.S. Drought Monitor map for the state of Texas. According to their intensity index, El Paso is in a severe drought. In fact, most of Texas is either abnormally dry (yellow) or in worsening stages of drought - extreme (red) or exceptional (darkest color) being the worst.

A minority of us believe that Proposition 6 will be money poorly spent; but even if you voted for the proposition, it will be 10 years before there is any improvement of any kind.

In a recent op-ed piece for the El Paso Times, Rep. Marisa Marquez suggested conservation measures each of us at home can take. It's the usual "stuff": check for leaks, use drip irrigation, mulch and so forth. 

Now I understand that Democrat Ms. Marquez is smart enough (indeed she is one of the smartest legislators in Texas) to know that she must pick her battles. After all, we are a state ruled by Republicans whose only aim is to protect the natural gas and petroleum industries. Hoping for much more than home conservation in the near future is a pipe dream. However, one wishes that one day one politician would step forth and give a list of conservation measures leading to water sustainability that really address the issue on a "macro" not a "micro" level. Home conservation is good but it is a drop in the bucket.

So let me give a short list of challenges that must find local or state solutions and will require bold, persistent, undaunted leadership.

First, hydrofracking is just bad. It's bad for the water supply, it's bad for humans and their communities, its bad for the environment and all life. Rather than encouraging alternative energy technology, much like the vampires of recent cinema sensations, Texas sucks the shale for its gases. Hydrofracking works by using millions of gallons of water and sand and toxic chemicals. HERE is the best graphic that I know that illustrates the process.

A must see documentary that you can watch or stream on Amazon Prime is GasLand.  Here is the trailer:



A second "macro" area to look at is agriculture - crop selection and technology. Most of the farmers in El Paso's river valley raise water intensive crops such as Pima cotton or pecans. These same farmers control the Water Improvement District and a hand full of them have ruled as a board unchallenged, unmonitored and clandestine for decades. They will continue to get what they need from a drying Rio Grande for their pecan orchards. Yet, as one visionary Clint farmer explained to me, one pomegranate tree takes one-fifth of the water required for a pecan tree. Simply put, it is time that legislation is passed that regulates the kinds of crops that can be raised in an area based on water scarcity and needs.

We must also address our water management technology. Municipalities such as El Paso must reform landscaping and building codes so that they require rain water harvesting, "smart" homes equipped with the best in water conservation technology, and true xeriscaping not zeroscaping by concreting yards that then send water down the river where they can no longer recharge our depleting bolsons.

Water districts must begin covering canals or take other measures to reduce evaporation. We can take a lesson from India where solar panels are being used to cover canals. Do you think anyone will request some of that Prop 6 money for a project such as this:


Wow! Solar panel covers conserve water and at the same time reduce our dependence on the petroleum/natural gas industry with their water-intensive hydrofracking. The current bunch of oligarchs in Austin will never spend a dime for something like this - but is should be said and said loudly. 

Finally, the question of who owns water must be re-addressed and this I believe can only be done on the national level. Water laws are antiquated. Time to change them. Water is the property and right of every single person in the United States - indeed the world. Regulations, controls and innovations guaranteeing this right must be put in place.

Each home and business property can only do so much to conserve water. It is time that we have the boldness and the vision to address the matter on a bigger scale. Trust me - Prop 6 money will find more ways to get water to the petroleum industry. We must do better than that.

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