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    Posted February 5, 2013 by
    McKinney, Texas
    This iReport is part of an assignment:
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    Who is in favor of this $ boondoggle?

    This photo of a grassy field designated as a beach by the signs is from Lake Colorado City, which is naturally near Colorado City, Texas. If you look closely at the upper right hand corner you will see some water in the picture. The lake now occupies only a small portion of the former lakebed, just the old channel of the creek that was dammed to form the lake. The signs are from the mostly empty State Park that was built on the lake for recreation. At the lake houses along the shore the docks are all high and dry. Sitting far away from the water now is the electrical power plant built to use the lake water. The water level when the picture was taken in January 2013 was about twenty-five feet below normal, which given that the lake was normally only about forty-five fee deep means there is not much water here.

    This is not unique in Texas these days. Some of these Corp of Engineer lakes have dried up completely. In the summer of 2011 Lake OC Fisher near San Angelo was just a mud flat. This is not the first time that lake has dried up and it won’t be the last. Many of the lakes were built near the ends of watersheds to provide water for agriculture and recreation, but more importantly to be water supplies for the growing population of Texas. They were to provide water for people to drink and bathe, but also to water their lawns and wash their cars. During the Texas drought of the 1950’s various governments along with the Corp envisioned that the answer to future water shortages was to build as many surface water impoundments as possible to ensure water supplies for future growth. The result was that rich agricultural valleys such as that of the Elm Fork of the Trinity River between Dallas and Rockwall counties were spanned by big earthen dams and water backed up to drown the ecosystems upstream. Modern Texas is dotted with man-made reservoirs. Most major watercourses have at least one dammed up section, if not several. Even some very minor streams have been dammed, like the creek in the bottom of Lake Colorado City.

    For a while this scheme has seemed to work very well. All the reservoirs built in North Texas have supplied the water to allow the Dallas Fort Worth area to grow from less than a million in the 1950’s to over six million today. The problem is that while these reservoirs have been able to store a lot of necessary water, they don’t actually make water. The amount of water coming into the state has not actually increased; the state has just been able to hang onto it longer. In fact, the amount of rainfall in Texas has been decreasing. According to the National Weather Service “drought should persist or develop in Texas and the southern Plains” as a long-term condition.

    The drying up of Texas water resources is occurring while population is continuing to grow in Texas. So Texas water planners are scrambling to find more water sources. The 2012 Texas State Water Plan from the Water Board, which has not been implemented by the State Legislature, has been estimated to cost about $53 billion and yet only cover about a quarter of the anticipated costs for providing water for continued growth to 2060. This actually assumes that the State can get more water, because only about 24% of supply growth is assumed from conservation. There is no discussion of how they’re going to make more rain, but they are projecting more reservoirs. One such reservoir is the proposed Lake Ralph Hall in southern Fannin County. The site is considered to offer an excellent location for a man-made lake and is viewed as having little cultural or environmental value. The projected cost of $250 million will of course be low and will be new debt added to the $200 million already being carried by the Upper Trinity Water District who will be building the lake. Looking on a map the proposed lake seems to be at the upper end of the North Sulfur River watershed. So, in an age of declining rainfall what is there to prevent this proposed lake from looking like this photo of Lake Colorado City? Is it really reasonable to pay a least $250 million for a dry lakebed? How can this be a solution to the water shortage? Who is backing this boondoggle? Follow the money and it seems that those in favor of building what may be a useless lake are those who stand to make money from it, particularly those building it. Apparently those who would be receiving the hypothetical water aren’t in favor of the dam. The City of Flower Mound, Texas, which makes up 42% of the Water Districts customer base are opposing the construction of the lake. Apparently no one stands to make any money off of conservation as an answer to Texas’ drought or reducing development in an environment that can’t support it.
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