December 18, 2012
To start, let’s count by sevens.
Today is Tuesday, December 18. It’s a Watson Wire day, as you probably figured out at some point before you opened this email.
That means next Tuesday is December 25, also known as Christmas. If I’m writing a Watson Wire that day, or if you’re reading it between the presents and the turkey, I’m guessing we’ll both have a lot of explaining to do to someone.
The Tuesday after that is New Year’s Day. I refuse to allow the Watson Wire to stand between you and the football games you so richly deserve.
And the Tuesday after that is January 8, 2013. So you’ll most likely be receiving your next Watson Wire just before the start of the 83rd Texas Legislative Session.
Yes, the session’s just three weeks away, sitting out there on the horizon like a dust storm. And with all of the big statewide issues that’ll be swirling around the Capitol next year, there also will be some things that all of us in Austin will be watching especially closely.
One of them comes out of your faucet every day … At least, it’s supposed to.
Last week, Senator Troy Fraser (who chairs the Senate Natural Resources Committee and represents communities in southwestern Travis County and the Hill Country) and I sent a letter to the board of the Lower Colorado River Authority pretty well demanding that the agency honor its commitment to protect the water supplies of Austin and other cities and communities across Central Texas.
Seems like a pretty obvious request, right? Well, here’s a little background:
Way back in 1999, when I was Mayor of Austin, I led an unprecedented and historic effort to secure the city’s future water supply. We worked (very hard, by the way) with the LCRA to purchase water rights that had been held for decades by folks downstream who didn’t need – and simply weren’t using – that much water.
These were known as “firm” water rights. They ensured that water would be available even in a drought as awful as any on record.
Well, we’re now in an awful drought. But despite the drought’s severity across our region, the LCRA has kept the door open to selling water – water, keep in mind, that Austin paid tens of millions of dollars to ensure its access to – to others.
Continuing to send that water downstream won’t just endanger Austin’s supply of it. It also will send the levels of our beloved Lake Travis and other Highland Lakes further and further down during the summer. That jeopardizes the communities and livelihoods of people who depend on that water.
Water was so scarce in 2011 that the LCRA Board decided not to release it to others whose water rights aren’t “firm” the way Austin’s are. This year isn’t much different than last year. Lake levels may be up slightly, but over the past five years, the Highland Lakes have been refilling more slowly than ever before.
It goes without saying that water is a huge issue in Texas. Some of what I love best about Texas are the rivers, lakes and streams that lend themselves to so many good times and so much economic prosperity, not to mention water from our faucets.
So I know that Texas can do better when it comes to managing our water supplies and preparing for the future. I’m going to work hard to ensure that those in control of the state aren’t undermining our kids’ most precious natural resource.
But no matter what happens in terms of long-term state policy, for the short term, we must protect our community’s water. We need it. We’ve spent a lot of time and money to make sure we have access to it. And make no mistake – I’m going to fight for it.