Op-Ed: An epic victory in the battle for free-flowing rivers
In January, the U.S. House Subcommittee on Natural Resources held a hearing to examine the state of our water resources in Texas. In the following few days and months, the discussion has turned to the massive river flows entering Lake Texoma as Lake Balmor is drained and as a result of the dams on the Trinity and Brazos.
This is an extremely important conversation because the fate of our waterways is being decided in a place that has experienced decades of drought and record flooding.
The conversation on water flow has been more about politics than anything else. I think what this says is that, as in many states, policy is being driven by a set of political forces — some good, some bad — rather than science or facts.
The reality is that Texas has a lot of problems to deal with with the state’s current drought and the dam projects in the Southwest. Yet, it isn’t only political considerations that drive decisions in a place like Texas. We actually have many more scientific and scientific-based decisions to make.
In Texas, the debate is over whether and how much we will have to rely on the Trinity River for our water supply in the future. Those decisions will be based much more on scientific fact than anything else.
In the hearing, the panel of scientists, engineers, and politicians discussed three broad types of decisions that will be made over the next few decades regarding our freshwater supply. Most of them are just plain common sense like conservation, diversion, and storage.
However, for those who oppose the dam projects, the discussion has been about the fate of the Trinity River. And some of that focus has been overpopulation.
A lot of these decisions seem to hinge on those two factors, but overpopulation is just a symptom. The real problem is that too many people in an area, especially a river basin, are using too much water.
This is a result of a phenomenon known as overutilization. This phrase refers to the overabundance of human beings using the natural resources in their daily lives, especially water, to an extent that the resources are being used far beyond their natural capacity.
Overutilization has become a growing problem in recent decades. According to the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, overutil