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From the Pen of Robert L. Cook

On Halloween eve, October 30, 1938, in the midst of the Great Depression, millions of Americans searching for a distraction from their daily toils and troubles tuned in to a popular radio program featuring plays directed by and starring Orson Welles. That evening the play was an adaptation of the science-fiction novel The War of the Worlds, and although the broadcast included a number of announcements at the beginning and throughout the program that it was all a radio play, the program was performed so that it sounded like a news broadcast about an invasion from Mars! The actors cleverly played the roles of newscasters and elected officials frantically announcing that a huge flaming object had landed on a farm in New Jersey, and then that several large slithery aliens with long tentacles had emerged from the spacecraft and immediately begun the destruction of homes and buildings in the area. The program produced an immediate, and unfortunate, reaction of fear by listeners, especially in the northeastern states. It was later estimated that 2-3 million Americans literally panicked upon hearing of the alien invasion, packed their cars and hit the road in flight, hid in their cellars and basements, or barred their doors and loaded their guns to defend themselves against the beady-eyed aliens, who were, in fact, total fabrications by the skillful actors. It was a huge embarrassment to all, led to many profuse apologies by the radio company, and resulted in many inquiries by elected officials. It may have also contributed to the attitude of "Don't believe everything that you hear."

However, I wonder what it will take to overcome our complacency, to shock us into action when it comes to water - water for people, water for agriculture, water for industry, and water for fish and wildlife. Would the threat of a bunch of thirsty aliens who are going to pipe all of our water to Mars wake us up to the fact that we must do a far better job of using and conserving our freshwater supply? What if we heard that because of an extended drought that the water supply for one of our major cities had run out, and that until it rained there was no more water? And, of course, with such an extended drought millions of Texans who previously watered their St. Augustine grass would be simply out of luck until the next major flood event. What if that was the news tonight? What if it was not a play?

"Wait a minute," you say, "all we have to do when we want a drink of water is to turn on the faucet! That's where water comes from, right?" Most of us do not know and do not care where our water really comes from. We continue to act like it is somebody else's problem to solve, like maybe our children will solve it, but, surely, our grandchildren will solve it. I'm afraid that they will wonder about our "Who cares?" attitude. We continue to use and waste far too much water. We continue to demand that water be "too cheap." We continue to talk, and talk, and talk.

Texans are beginning to understand the urgency and critical importance of our water issues. Leadership is searching for solutions. Do we continue to allow one entity to drill dozens, maybe hundreds of water wells on one tract of land and pump an entire aquifer dry in order to sell the water to a distant city? Do we pipe water from the rivers and lakes of East Texas to the thirsty cities west of Interstate 35? Do we pump the rivers of Texas dry? Or, do we dramatically step up statewide water conservation efforts? Several of our elected officials have introduced legislation and tried to enact regulations and policies that might help, but because of our complacency they have not received widespread support.

Don't panic... but please do get informed and involved. It is our problem. Let's solve it.

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