Though it’s a ballot issue in the state of Texas, Proposition 6 on the November 5th ballot is something that any state and its citizens could contend with as global temperatures climb and diminish our potable water sources in their wake.
Is this becoming a familiar site at lakes and rivers around the country?
Just when you think the Texas governor and state legislators are finally showing signs that their focus is on their constituents rather than their financial backers, we are made aware once again that nothing seems to have really changed.
Proposition 6, referred to as the Texas Water Project bill, is on the ballot this November 5th and has support from diverse groups ranging from the GOP House speaker Joe Straus to celebrity and revered Texas icon, Nolan Ryan. The Sierra Club, a popular environmental group, is even on board with this legislation. You would think that anything that enhances our water supplies would be a no-brainer in a state whose water needs are stretched dangerously thin for many resulting from an exploding population suffering from severe droughts.
Yet a closer look reveals that the primary donors who paid to get this initiative rolling are connected with industries that have little to do with water conservation and lots to do with water waste such as Dow Chemical, the Koch brothers, Exxon Mobil and real estate developers. These are companies that depend on vast quantities of our limited water resources to cool their equipment, drill their wells and richly landscape housing developments.
I don’t want to appear to oppose economic growth that make up these usages but it should be pointed out that more conservation of a dwindling water supply, not greater consumption, is something we should be focused on. Ask the people in the small town of Barnhart, Texas how important this is after their wells were run dry in large part because the natural gas industry depleted it, using millions of gallon of water for each well drilled to extract gas supplies buried in shale rock layers beneath the surface.
Then there is this. Opponents ask why we need to draw $2 billion out of the Rainy Day fund for this when there already exists $6 billion in voter-approved resources since the Texas Water Development Board’s debt limit was raised 2 years ago. Money that has yet to be tapped.
This earlier authorized financing needs “seed money” supporters of Prop 6 claim. Opponents however see it more “as a potential source of waste and boondoggles.
Michele Gangnes, a bond attorney and rural landowner who opposes the amendment, said money will flow to big-city projects to the detriment of rural and small-town Texans’ water supply.
“We have generous access to capital already,” Gangnes said, referring to the yet-to-be-tapped $6 billion. She called Proposition 6 a “trumped up” funding emergency meant to lure major borrowers, cities and river authorities back to the board’s bond money.
And why, if conservation is touted as being a large part of Prop 6, is it only mentioned in just one of the 250 pages that comprise this bill. It does so in a way too that suggests conservation may take a back seat to increased water use for those who use our vital resource for their enterprises and where there is little will to conserve. Rather than simply stating that this legislation “shall apply” 10 percent of the fund for rural and 20 percent for conservation, it ambiguously is worded to read that this legislation “shall undertake to apply” these goals. This leaves wiggle room for supporters to equivocate down the road when asked why more of our water resources were pumped into consuming business interests rather than efforts to conserve this precious resource
Linda Curtis is the director of Independent Texans at IndyTexans.org calls Prop 6 a “grab bag” for monied special interests and large urban areas that “thwart conservation”.
Kicking the can down the road is often a pejorative reference to what politicians do with critical policies and legislation that don’t serve their political interests. Yet here I think it may have a positive connotation for voters. There is much beneath the surface of Prop 6 that raises legitimate concerns and voters should pause and reflect whether this legislation will serve our legitimate needs down the road when water resources are sure to be even more scarce.