Sometimes, you still see bumper stickers around town that say “Don’t have an oil well? Get one!” It’s a reference to a TV advertisement by Eddie Chiles, an old oilfield services guy who got rich and ended up owning a baseball team.
The Austin American-Statesman has highlighted a new trend in our capitol city: drilling a private water well. Not so you have water to drink in case of a zombie apocalypse, or to avoid the secret chemicals the CIA is constantly pumping into the civic water supply to keep us meek and mild, but so you don’t have to pay the high price of city water for your lush landscape.
One Austinite who was mad as hell about high water bills for the green, green grass of home? Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott!
During last year’s drought, Lake Travis plunged to less than 35 percent of capacity — reaching its lowest level in more than four decades — and spurred the Lower Colorado River Authority to cut off water to downstream rice farmers for the first time in its history. The lake was up to 47 percent of capacity last month after heavier than expected winter and spring rains.
Austin remains under Stage 2 watering restrictions that allow watering only once a week.
“Ultimately, (more water wells) leads to a lot less water being pulled out of Lake Travis for irrigation purposes,” Svetlik said.
That’s what Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott said he was thinking when he had Svetlik’s company drill a well at his West Austin home in February.
Abbott said it didn’t make sense to pour treated drinking water on the ground, and like most homeowners, he was tired of seeing his water bill soar every summer. He expects to see it drop dramatically this year.
“It just makes sense that opposed to using water from Lake Travis to water our lawn, it would be a lot better to use water from under our property,” he said. “It’s a natural resource that has existed for a long, long time, that people quite literally haven’t tapped into.”
Note how Abbott (and presumably others) are attempting to frame this as a responsible thing to do, almost good for the environment.
You know what’s good for the environment? Xeriscaping, Mr. Attorney General. Actual water conservation.
Abbott is an attorney. He knows how difficult it will be for regulations to catch up with reality on the water front. The western United States are all struggling to stay wet while coping with antiquated water rights that do not serve the society we’ve become, and though it used to be easy to sit here in damp, tropical Houston and feel smug about it, last summer’s drought demonstrates that Texas, like California, Colorado, Nevada, and the rest of our western cousins, is in for a rough future on the water rights front.
Screw shared sacrifice. At least some people will have lovely lawns while we duke it out.