~ Rep. Glenn Rogers
Years ago, on a veterinary mission trip to Haiti, I was astonished when I witnessed a daily routine in the village where we worked. Early in the mornings, villagers walked for miles and miles to a stream to gather water. They carried huge jars, filled them up with water, and balanced them on the tops of their heads to make the journey homeward. This act required immense balance, because any drop of water that was lost on the trek would mean one less drop they could have to quench their thirst. Literally hours per day were spent in the pursuit and transport of water. As a rancher, rain and water availability is a daily discussion, but watching this ordeal intensified my understanding that water is humanity’s source of life, and the average American takes it for granted.
Back home, many Americans are blessed to have water at their disposal. But what if when we went to turn on our faucets, nothing came out? Not even a drip? It seems doubtful that this question would cross many people’s minds.
Yet just in recent years, water crises have hit states and cities across the nation. From the Flint, Michigan contaminated water, to the severe western droughts draining Lake Mead, and to the floods disrupting water systems in Jackson, Mississippi, it is evident that America is not immune from water crises. To keep local communities safe, it is imperative to stay aware of the warning signs and of the solutions to water problems.
In Parker County, many residents rely on groundwater from the Upper Trinity Aquifer. Others, in much of western Parker County, have extremely limited groundwater and must rely on water piped in from Mineral Wells (which comes from Lake Palo Pinto) or Brazos River water that has been through a reverse osmosis (RO) system. The Walnut Creek Special Utility District relies on water from Lake Bridgeport.
For several years, Parker County has been amongst the top counties for drilling new wells. On average, counties drill less than 50 wells per year. In 2017, Parker drilled 600. In 2021, the county drilled 1154; that number led the state by a substantial margin. For perspective, the second-place county drilled 525 wells. In 2022, through September 30, the county has drilled 1149 wells. The Upper Trinity Groundwater Conservation District has been monitoring the situation since 2009. Not surprising, their work has shown water is being used faster than it is being replenished. Their research indicates that pumping affects the fluctuation of water levels more so than rainfall patterns. During dry and hot summers, private well owners tend to water their lawn more than usual, contributing to the fall of water levels. The UTGCD recognizes the need for alternative water sources in Parker County and is funding a study for Parker and Wise counties; an over-reliance on groundwater is not sustainable.
In Palo Pinto County, efforts are under way to create a new reservoir, Turkey Peak. This project aims to double the available water to Palo Pinto Municipal Water District No. 1. This will ease the county’s risk of a water shortage, which is especially relevant during dry conditions like the ones seen this past year. The project is projected to be completed no earlier than 2027, so between now and then, Palo Pinto Lake will continue to be the major reservoir supplying water in the county. A lake is only useful however, if there is an efficient water treatment plant. Palo Pinto’s plant is 70 years old, due for a major upgrade.
Last session, the Legislature proactively searched for solutions to water shortages. Senate Bill 601 created the Texas Produced Water Consortium. The consortium’s diverse team of researchers concluded in their report that water produced from oil and gas operations could indeed be beneficial for use in industries such as agriculture and for other municipal needs. They project that the state could treat an estimated two billion barrels per year of produced water.
In the upcoming Legislative session, infrastructure is going to be a priority– and that includes water. Recently, I was invited to become an inaugural member of the Texas Water Caucus. The Caucus will serve as an educational platform to inform fellow members of our state’s most important water issues, elevate water as a top policy priority, and support the next generation of water champions at the Texas Legislature.
As the population of District 60 booms, it is critical to remain ahead of potential water issues to ensure that the basic needs of residents are met. Legislators are eager to continue researching solutions and are ready to implement plans to protect one of the most fundamental elements of life–water.