When the well makes the springs run dry
There’s been a burst of media coverage recently on the (not so recent) trend of wealthy Austinites drilling wells to get around Austin Water’s rising rates. One of them, sadly, is our Attorney General, who like many in Texas defends his choice by reminding us that groundwater is a private property right. And anyway, as Abbott and our media commentators say, isn’t this better than draining Austin’s drinking water source to fill swimming pools?
The Austin Chronicle stands alone among the media outlets covering this story in reminding us of something that most Austinites don’t seem to understand: the spring-fed creeks of our city also rely on this water being pumped out of the ground. Pump too much, and the springs run dry.
As Gunnar Brune wrote in 1981: “As Austin is well supplied with water from the Highland Lakes on the Colorado River, heavy pumping of groundwater has not been necessary. Nevertheless some springs have failed because of declining water tables.”
So here is my standing offer to anyone who has drilled a well in Austin, or who is considering drilling a well in Austin: let’s go to Shoal Creek, or Cold Spring, or any of the other little spring-fed creeks that emerge from the Edwards Aquifer. We’ll follow them from their source to their universal destination, the Colorado River. These springs may not be Austin’s drinking water supply, but they are our water. They are what keeps this city living and green and beautiful. And that is worth more than all the swimming pools and turf grass in Austin.
Photo from http://kut.org/people/karen-bernstein