The first step to solving any problem is realizing there is one. Amarillo and the rest of the Panhandle get its water from the Ogallala Aquifer which is a vast yet shallow underground water table located beneath the Great Plains that spans across portions of eight states including the northern tip of the Texas panhandle. A large portion of the irrigated land in the US rests atop this aquifer system, which yields about a third of the nation?s ground water used for irrigation. The Ogallala Aquifer is also responsible for providing drinkable water to almost all of the people who live within the aquifer boundary. This presents a problem because water is being consumed at a faster rate than it can be recharged naturally through rivers or rainfall. The unfortunate part is that once the water is consumed completely it will not be replenished fast enough to support the population who currently depend on it. This poses a threat because the loss of water in the Ogallala Aquifer will lend to the collapse of the central food production in America if something is not done. Additionally, once the water is gone and as long as there is no alternative plan to bring water into the areas that the Ogallala Aquifer feed into, the populations who depend on the Ogallala Aquifer?s water supply will be forced to relocate to new locations with a source of fresh water. The results of the aquifer drying up are not so far from home however. I read recently in an article that Happy, Texas?s population is getting smaller and smaller with less and less economic and agricultural business because some of their water wells no longer reach the aquifer anymore. This is forcing some of their citizens to seek employment outside the city up to an hour away. Many towns, including Amarillo, that rely on the Ogallala Aquifer will undoubtedly share the same fate as the faithful town of Happy, Texas at the rate water from the aquifer is being consumed.
A possible solution to the water deficiency just here in the panhandle is a resolution in recent disputes between Texas and New Mexico over water appropriation between Ute Lake and Texas. In 1950 Oklahoma, Texas, and New Mexico created the Canadian River Compact in which the Governors of each state appointed representatives who have authority over each state pertaining to the Canadian River. The Compact regulates that New Mexico?s Ute Lake can hold two hundred thousand acre-feet of water before being required to release water to Texas. I bring this up because this illustrates the point that there is already a solution to the panhandles? drought in place; however the problem lies in the requirements of the existing compact. It is estimated that Ute Lake currently is only three feet below their spill way threshold. If a revision to the Canadian River Compact could be made and a compromise reached between the governors of Texas and New Mexico, water reapportionment regulations could be put into effect to where the Texas panhandle and places like Lubbock, Midland, and Odessa?and cities between?would benefit greatly.
To be more specific, I believe Governor Rick Perry, current governor of Texas and Susana Martinez, current governor of New Mexico?along with qualified representatives?should work together to generate a plan that allows New Mexico?s Ute Lake to release a portion of its water resources to the Texas state line because this would provide direct drought relief to the West Texas panhandle, increase agricultural productivity, and strengthen positive relations between Texas and New Mexico.
Looking back in history, seeing the results of long-term droughts and now seeing the same initial patterns reemerging, it is imperative we identify a way to provide drought relief to West Texas Panhandle. Ute Lake allocating a portion of its water to the Texas state line would allow for long-term sustainable life?independent of the Ogallala Aquifer?in the West Texas Panhandle for cities such as Amarillo, Lubbock, Midland, Odessa, and smaller agricultural cities in between who depend on water supplied from Amarillo to generate a sustainable lifestyle. This water is essential to living, and while the Ogallala Aquifer is the primary source of water in these areas it poses the threat that when the Ogallala Aquifer?s water resources are depleted there will not be enough water to support the population who currently depend on it. As mentioned earlier, these consequences are already being found in