If you are in downtown Austin, swing past the pedestrian bridge over Lake Bird Lake to see Thirst, a public art project aimed at commemorating the nearly half a billion trees that have died since Texas’ drought began in 2008.
Hopefully the installation will also remind those of us in our urban bubble that the drought is by no means over. While communities all over the state—including some just west of Austin—have seen their water supplies surrender to the drought, in Austin it’s still not uncommon to see someone watering a little patch of sidewalk.
I received a flyer from Austin Water, “What Austin needs to know about drought,” and was chagrined to find more real estate dedicated to how greedy agricultural users are (and how incompetent the Lower Colorado River Authority, Austin Water’s wholesale provider is) than to what Austonians should be doing to make ourselves more drought resilient. The move from Stage 2 to Stage 3 watering restrictions—imminent without some seriously unlikely rainfall—appears to be no more than a reduction in the number of hours we can water our lawns during once-a-week watering.
I know Austin Water leadership wants to do more to protect our water supplies and get us to use our water more wisely. But with our lakes at little more than 30% capacity, what is our excuse for a drought response barely less anemic than this ghost tree?