Wednesday, June 5, 2013

Praying for Rain?

When Texas Governor Rick Perry asked Texans to pray for rain in 2011, it was not a Texas’ leaders first plea for divine intervention. In 1953, Governor Allen Shivers asked Texan minister’s to pray for rain to help alleviate the 1950s drought. This also spurred officials to draft the first State Water Plan, which would forecast the state’s water needs in the future.

However, not all results from the Plan were positive. In 1961 with the 1950s drought fresh in mind, officials funded binge dam building. Within the next ten years, 2700 dams were built with the hopes of strengthening the state’s water supply, now accounting for about 40 percent of dams in Texas.

In 1968, a different plan was offered proposing that Texas should channel water from Louisiana. That “grandiose” plan seemed destined to fail, says Charles Porter, a Texas water historian and professor at St. Edwards University.

“How in the world do you run water from the Mississippi River, all the way across Texas?” Porter said in an interview with StateImpact Texas. “If we started that project today, I think maybe when my great grandchildren are alive they’ll have the right of way.”

Glancing back at those old water plans, one can see a document that shaped enduring features of the Texas landscape. But back when officials wrote the first plan, Texas was a different state, says Andy Sansom, Director of the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University.

“In the 1950s everybody lived in a small town,” Sansom told StateImpact Texas. “People lived on farms and ranches. Texas was a rural state. So, people understood what a drought meant because it affected their daily lives.”

In November Texans will vote to decide if the current drought will require a historic solution: whether to use $2 billion dollars from the state’s Rainy Day Fund, the state’s savings account, to fund projects in the latest water plan.

For the full article by David Barer from StateImpact, click here.

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