Relationship – It’s Complicated

Our relationship with water in Texas is complex. Recently we endured six years of sparse rainfall, wondering when, how, and if the drought would end. Now it appears the current drought has abated. It was painful watching agriculture, nature, and recreation-based businesses suffer, and in some cases fail.  Wildfires devastated landscapes, ranches, homes and businesses. Combine weather woes with the fact that populations in most areas of the state are booming, and it isn’t hard to see that water planning is going to become increasingly difficult. There are many stakeholders with often conflicting goals.

In Texas, twenty-four river authorities have been established to manage (among other things) the water resources of their respective watersheds. These are state agencies that do not have the power to levy taxes, but operate as corporations, gaining their operating expenses by sale of water. How they manage that water can be contentious, and is regularly litigious. It’s nearly impossible to please everyone with such a scarce and precious commodity.

I have participated in some contested case hearings and legislative visits regarding water, but I am not an expert by any means. I have rubbed shoulders with those who are experts, and there is a wide chasm between my understanding an theirs on matters of technical, legal and scientific merit.  What I came away from those hearings with was a profound feeling of how large a problem water planning is, and how little my personal choices seem affect water supply or demand. But the inability to do everything is not an excuse to do nothing. As some friends I met in Tanzania are fond of saying, “drop by drop the bucket fills”. Or as my parents would say when I was saving my pennies and nickels as a child, “every little bit helps.” So what can I do to do my part in conserving the most precious of liquids?

As it turns out there is a good bit I can choose do. But I am not going to list all of the possibilities here because “what” to do is not the point of this entry. “Why” to do it is the point, and knowing how to make those choices based on your values and awareness of your choices. It’s recognizing that we live in a time where we can choose between convenience and stewardship. And while I can choose to waste water if I can afford it, should I?

Choices about consumption do in fact have an impact.But often we aren’t personally effected by those impacts, because they may be downstream or out of sight.  Should I support commercialized corporate agriculture or smaller local farmer? Drive a smart car or a Hummer? Live in a bigger house than I need, or choose a smaller house that might not impress my friends and family? Install water saving appliances and a native landscape or grow a lush landscape in a semi-arid environment?

The more you are aware of the impact of your choices, the better choices you can make. My  request is to educate yourself  and make choices based on your newfound awareness . Ultimately the choice is yours. Are you aware enough about the impacts of your choices to the environment to voluntarily sacrifice some of those conveniences for the good of our land, air and water?

In the Bible, specifically in the New Testament, the Apostle Paul states “all things are lawful, but not all things are profitable”. He was addressing some dietary questions of the early church. But the root question is that of freedom of choice versus voluntarily modifying or even sacrificing that choice because of a higher principle – that of love.

I would humbly submit dear reader, that our personal choices about water, air and land follow a similar path. For me that path has constraints, as it does for you. I am in the process of making those choices I can live with. Will you join me?


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