Visiting geography scholar outlines water resource issues facing state

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News Reporter

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Zachary Sugg, University of Arizona Ph.D. candidate and visiting scholar at Texas State, discussed current challenges with groundwater in Texas.

Zachary Sugg, a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Arizona and visiting scholar at Texas State’s Geography department, spoke in Evans yesterday about various water issues.

His speech, “Uncertainty, Equity and the Politics of the Pump: Groundwater Governance Challenges in the Lone Star State and Beyond,” dealt with current and future approaches to water.  He started off his discussion talking about groundwater and how it is used for many different purposes.

“As there’s more and more users, the amount of the resource gets less and less,” Sugg said.

The lessening of groundwater creates problems for a city such as San Marcos, which has grown rapidly over the past decade, he said. According to the chart, the extraction of groundwater has been quicker than the time it takes for the groundwater to recharge, using up precious resources.

Sugg said an important thing the public must learn about is governance. Governance is a “process of decision making which is partially determined by various types of rules.”  Governance includes public and private interests, and deals with issues of scale in environmental problems. Suggs said the public depends on the amount of resources that exist.

With groundwater for example, pumping in one place in an aquifer can have many different effects on others nearby depending on the complexity of the rock formations that contain the water. Different decisions about the resource use can be made at different levels, such as local or state.

Dianne Wassenich, program director for the San Marcos River Foundation, said there is a big problem for the groundwater management areas which have support of the Texas water development board for potential models. She said these boards are now being told they do not have any money and the individual groundwater districts have to contribute to get this model done for this round of planning and some don’t have taxing authority.

“You can’t manage the resource if you don’t have the funding to do basic research and monitoring,” Wassenich said.

Wassenich brought up alternatives such as rainwater collection. She and Sugg agreed counties and cities have much cheaper alternatives than other methods that require the water to be pumped in.

Kelly Royall, a water resources senior, said people need to start making water a priority.

“I think putting it first is the most important,” Royall said. “People look at water second or third and worry about a roof over their head rather than having enough water.”

Adam Miranda, resource and environmental studies senior, said the media need to discuss these issues more and get residents involved.

“I’ve talked with people I work with and a lot of them don’t even know we have a water problem,” Miranda said.

Sugg said change must happen soon. There is too much conflict with the control over the water, and the solution will begin at a personal level.

“Ask yourselves: How comfortable you are with the political system to manage resources in a fair and equitable way?” Sugg said. “I think we shouldn’t be acting as if there will be a silver bullet for the water supply, and I think this means the choices about who gets what will only get harder.”