Monday, April 1, 2013

Texas Vs. Oklahoma: the Red River rivalry outside the football field

The Oklahoma-Texas water debate that began in 2007 continues today as it approaches its U.S. Supreme Court hearing. The conflict is over water in the Red River, which borders Texas and Oklahoma. Oklahoma argues that the Tarrant Regional Water District has no right to withdraw water from the “Oklahoma Side” of the Red River. In Texas’ argument, the Red River is only 125 miles away and less salty than western water which would require less treatment. In addition, in relation to the proposed 2012 Texas State Water Plan, because the water is to the east, “it is less susceptible to drought and it is uphill, so it would require less energy to pump into the metroplex” (E&E 2013). 

The Oklahoma Water Resources Board released Oklahoma’s State Water Plan after the 2012 legislation, which is expected to guide water use and conservation for the next 50 years. The plan lays out the  4 significant factors affecting Oklahoma’s future. Specifically, data is a factor that correlates with the current Texas-Oklahoma water debate: “the State of Oklahoma must not only reestablish its dwindling base of reliable water data but expand the network of stream gages, monitoring wells, and water quality monitoring sites, as well as the tools necessary to quantify, manage, and allocate surface and groundwater resources confidently.” The Texas-Oklahoma water dispute also referred to the Red River Compact between Texas, Oklahoma, Louisiana and Arkansas. According to E&E, until recently, “no state has sought to draw water from another using the compact”.

Oklahoma argued that, “If Texas thought it could take desirable stream water from other states for free, Texas might have mentioned that right in its water plans” (Law 360 2013)

On Wednesday, March 27, 2013, the Texas House passed HouseBill 4, which will “create a water bank that would offer loans for projects like new water reservoirs, pipelines and conservation projects,” according to the Texas Tribune. Conservation plays a large priority in the State Water Plan and funding. The bill is now headed to the Senate as the 2013 legislation continues, and it will be interesting to see if the Red River debate will be impacted by the Senate’s decision.  

-Becca Adkins

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