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Reading About Springs

Springs of Texas deserves an exalted status on a shelf all its own in the library of every conservationist, naturalist or even the everyday concerned citizen. Gunnar Brune’s encyclopedic tome, resurrected from obscurity by Helen Besse and Texas A&M University Press, describes the state’s springs with detailed first-hand history as well as geological and archeological details. Actually, this book, as comprehensive as it seems, is only volume one of an intended two-volume set. Volume two was to describes the springs in the 71 counties not covered by volume one.

Helen Besse has taken on the daunting role of disciple in evangelizing Brune’s mission, but credits a community of dedicated individuals and organizations — including Coastal Fisheries Director Larry McKinney of TPWD — for pitching in to make this important book a reality.

Even the endpapers — an 1854 map of the Brazos and Wichita rivers as explored by Captain R.B. Marcy — point out that springs have long been essential landmarks for the people of the region.The content was compiled by Brune in the course of a 10-year research odyssey, a true life’s work that followed 33 years with the U.S. Soil Conservation Service and seven years with the Texas Water Development Board.

Besse’s introduction to the second edition emphasizes the importance of Brune’s work, adding essential information such as a “Selected list of ‘vanishing species’ in Texas that are dependent on springs.”

— Charles Lohrmann

Water Follies

What do wild blueberries, perfect French fries and bottled spring water have in common? They’ve all been linked to the destruction of some of America’s most fragile ecosystems by Robert Glennon in his book Water Follies: Groundwater Pumping and the Fate of America’s Fresh Waters (Island Press, 304 pages with photographs and appendices, $17.95 paper) Glennon, the Morris K. Udall Professor of Law and Public Policy at the James E. Rogers College of Law a the University of Arizona, gives a compelling description of the effect of our society’s apparent disregard for a resource every living thing needs to survive: water.

Through a series of case studies that range from groundwater pumping to maintain surface water lakes and rivers in Florida and Texas to pumping treated sewage effluent to maintain aquifers in Arizona, Water Follies illustrates that, as a society, we are living beyond our means when it comes to water resources. Population growth, wasteful water practices, and rising consumer demands, combined with antiquated water policy that treats water as a commodity, have led to a number of ecological disasters. Glennon explains in understandable terms the ‘tragedy of the commons’ and the adverse impacts that result when societies allow its citizens limitless use of common public resources like air, water and wildlife for personal economic gain.

Glennon goes on to describe how existing groundwater policies, namely the Rule of Capture and the reasonable use doctrine, encourage and promote exploitation of a common resource, groundwater, for private economic gain. Unfortunately, our rivers, springs, lakes and estuaries often pay the price.

But there is a bright side. Water Follies concludes with a list of eight “avenues of reform” for states to pursue if we are to stop the destruction of our aquatic ecosystems. The list addresses such issues as water conservation, establishment of environmental flow standards, groundwater regulation, data collection, and market-based solutions. Many, if not all, of these issues are being discussed in Texas today.

— Cindy Loeffler

More Reading

Taking the Waters in Texas: Springs, Spas, and Fountains of Youth by Janet Mace Valenza (University of Texas Press,265 pages, $24.95, paper)

The World’s Water 2004-2005: The Biennial Report on Freshwater Resources by Peter H. Gleick et.al. (Island Press, 362 pages, $35, paper)

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