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From the Pen of Robert L. Cook

I don’t know why I worry so much about water. Some would say that that is my job. No, my job is to worry about fresh water for fish and wildlife and outdoor recreation. My job is easy. Fish and wildlife have evolved over millions of years with — and without — an abundance of water. They will survive. I fear that people will suffer long before wildlife in the event of a long term shortage of fresh water.

I worry that the future citizens of our state will not have enough fresh water, and that there will not be enough fresh water for agriculture and for industry so that the Great State of Texas can continue to prosper and thrive for many generations to come. I worry that we waste far too much water. I recently looked at how much water my family uses in our home per year on a “per capita” basis; 300 gallons of water per day, per person, is excessive, wasteful. We could and should use less — maybe as little as 120 gallons per day if we were careful, thoughtful. Each of us can make a positive difference in our future water supply and needs if we’ll just try.

On the other hand, I am proud to report that many land managers in Texas are doing a great job of water conservation across the state. For example, on Lost Creek Ranch we have eliminated all grazing on the “creek pastures” and we do deferred-rotation grazing on the rest of the acreage for about 6-7 months of the year. We do prescribed burns when we can and we control noxious brush. Excess brush wastes lots of groundwater and is unproductive for wildlife or livestock. The impact has been amazing. The rainfall soaks into the ground now as opposed to rapidly running off and carrying lots of soil and sediment with it as it used to. The absorbed groundwater reappears as springs throughout the drainage. The fresh water from Lost Creek drains into the Colorado River, passes through the Highland Lakes system, and eventually makes its way to the bays and estuaries on the Texas Coast. That is, it does if I don’t waste it on my lawn or in my shower in Austin. Thousands of landowners in Texas are doing a great job of habitat management in Texas on millions of acres of rangeland which, in turn, results in what I believe to be the most significant contribution to water conservation in Texas today. We can do even more; we must do more.

We can’t “make more water,” we are just in its path as it falls to the ground, flows by in our rivers and streams and maintains our seas. The natural cycle of rainfall, run-off, transpiration through vegetation, evaporation from our surface waters and oceans, irrigation of cropland, use in our cities and cycling back into the rivers from our water-treatment plants all puts the components of water, hydrogen and oxygen, back into the air where again it falls back to Earth as fresh, clean water for our use. The key is that we use it carefully, that we conserve all we can. We must manage the surface of the land to conserve and provide more fresh water for our use and consumption. Water is precious; we must use it wisely and safely as it comes by us each time. It will be back around … but there will not be more just because we need more.

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