Many drought-stricken Texas cities have long searched for alternative sources of water, including asking neighboring states for help. Now, Louisiana has approved a measure to begin studying that very idea.
Louisiana’s Water Resources Commission approved a measure this month that sets up a group to study selling some of its water to parts of Texas, where population growth has exceeded or strained their existing water sources.
Robert Mace, chief water policy advisor for Meadows Center on Water and Environment at Texas State University in San Marcos, says there is definitely an interest among a large section of Texas communities to import water from outside of the state.
“There’s communities in the western half of the state that have a greater need for water than communities in the eastern half of the state, and then there is definitely a need for water for future growth along the ‘I-35 Future Growth Corridor,’ i.e., Dallas, Fort Worth, Austin and San Antonio,” Mace said.
Mace highlighted what is usually the biggest concern: Is the price of that water affordable and will it be a reliable resource for the future? Mace isn’t ready to join others in equating the value of water to oil but he does say water has become a valuable commodity.
That’s something that Mark Davis, a member of Louisiana’s Water Resources Commission and director of Tulane University’s ByWater Institute, is counting on.
“The expressed policy of Texas was, in order to grow, you needed more water, and the only place to find water in those volumes is some place other than Texas,” he said. “And those communities have no intention of allowing the availability of water to be a limiting factor on their growth, and so that is one of the reasons why Louisiana has to care about this issue.”
Davis said one of the issues the commission will study is what mechanisms would need to be in place for this process to move forward.
State Rep. Lyle Larson, R-San Antonio, helped pass legislation that created an interstate water commission to search for states willing to sell water to parched Texas communities.
“Dallas and some of the communities in that area have an interest in creating a strategic alliance with the folks from Louisiana on accessing some of that Sabine River and creating a pipeline infrastructure. And there will be some other opportunities, both in Texas and in Louisiana, to move some of that water towards the I-35 corridor,” Larson said.
But as far as Louisiana and Mark Davis are concerned, this is not a done deal. Davis says there is still a lot concern about the state selling its water and then over-extending its natural resource.
“Louisiana’s ecology, culture and economy are fundamentally tied up with water and wetlands,” Davis said.
Another concern is making sure Louisiana is paid a fair price for its water. Davis said that one way or another Louisiana’s water is becoming more of a prized commodity.
Texas lawmakers are also working with Arkansas and Oklahoma to help bring water to drought-stricken communities.