With Texas water, glass still half-empty
Texas typically has a glass half-full attitude, but that approach doesn't cut it when it comes to water resources, not when some local lakes are truly half-empty, and falling.
Pardon the downer note, just when many people might think the water problem is solved with passage last year of Proposition 6, for a billion-dollar fund to jump-start new reservoirs and conservation projects.
Coming out of another dry year, lake levels in North Texas show how the thirsty, booming region lives on the edge. Dallas' sprawling northern and eastern suburbs - the white-hot growth areas - have ratcheted down to twice-a-month outdoor watering to protect reservoir levels.
The region always seems one storm away from relief, one drought away from calamity.
It's a stubborn but not intractable problem. A report out this week from State Comptroller Susan Combs outlines new approaches that lawmakers should consider beyond Prop 6, which her analysis called "only a step."
A theme running through the proposals is using grant competition to spur innovation from water providers. Conservation and increased efficiency would be a focus. Combs would put a premium on research into new technologies.
The comptroller's report also zeroes in on the vast store of brackish groundwater that could be pumped up and desalinated for household use. Developing new technologies to lower the cost of that process could be a game-changer for Texas. It was good to see Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst come out Thursday and order the Senate Natural Resources Committee to study this to prepare for next year's lawmaking session.
Texas' fame as a jobs magnet comes with a price. Competitor states take their shots, and they sting. One came last year from Illinois Gov. Pat Quinn, who called Texas "water challenged."
Quinn was right, actually, and he picked a potentially good tactic to scare off companies thinking about relocating to Texas.
The best way to react is to show that the fight for water sufficiency is far from over. Texas' economic future depends on it.