Texas Drought Continues – Water Legislation Fails

Texas Climate News reports that the Texas state House of Representatives failed to pass new water management legislation despite support from the governor and other powerful officials at a time when 98.55 percent of the state’s area was in one or another category of dryness ranging from “abnormally dry” to the driest of all, “exceptional drought.”

As Texas’ 2011 drought and heat wave exacted its brutal toll across the state, and then as the drought dragged on and on, it appeared that policy makers would pay heed and respond forcefully when this year’s legislative session convened.

That may yet happen, but not necessarily so, as was shown last Monday by the death in the House of a measure – opposed, for different reasons, by Democrats on the left and Tea Party Republicans on the right – to transfer $2 billion from the state’s “rainy day fund” for water infrastructure projects such as reservoirs and pipelines.

A Senate-passed bill, frequently mentioned as a substitute for the failed House measure, would take $5.7 billion from the rainy day fund for water, transportation and education projects. But on Thursday, House Speaker Joe Straus, a San Antonio Republican, said it was too expensive – “a no-go in the House.”

The democrats think that if the “rainy day fund” is tapped, some money should go to woefully underfunded education and social services budgets.

I think that as a state with a booming economy, digging into the “rainy day fund” at this time is quite bizarre for Texas. The oil boom will end eventually. Never mind the irony of dipping into what is universally called the “rainy day fund” on account of drought.

Also, while new funds for water infrastructure in Texas seem universally supported by water experts, there are limits to what that expenditure can achieve. At some point, all the reservoirs that it makes hydrological sense to build are already built. The linked article by water expert Andy Sansom (which presumed, a few weeks ago, that the failed legislation would pass) addresses some of the uniquely Texan features of the Texas water quandary.

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