Environment, Education, Energy: Policy to People

New Data, Fresh Questions: Did Texas Really Need Oklahoma’s Water?

State Sen. Jerry Ellis, D-Valiant, opposes the sale or transfer of Oklahoma water to Texas.

Joe Wertz / StateImpact

State Sen. Jerry Ellis, D-Valiant, opposes the sale or transfer of Oklahoma water to Texas.

In its protracted fight with Oklahoma over rights to water in the Red River basin, a north Texas water-planning district argued to the U.S. Supreme Court justices that it was entitled to water within Oklahoma’s borders.

To bolster its claims to water in southeastern Oklahoma, the Tarrant Regional Water District also painted dire predictions for its water future, and said its booming population and water demand was on-track to outpace its supply.

The high court sided with Oklahoma in June. And new data from the Texas water district shows water demand has been “flat or down” in some areas served by the district, which has led some to question wether Tarrant overstated its water needs, The Journal Record’s M. Scott Carter reports:

That information has the executive director of the Oklahoma Water Resources Board scratching his head.

“They may have overshot their demand projections,” said J.D. Strong. “We knew they were getting more efficient.”

Had the state known that Fort Worth’s demand for raw water had declined, Strong said, that information would have been included in its arguments against Tarrant Regional’s lawsuit.

Carter points out a Star-Telegram story that quotes Fort Worth Water Director Frank Crumb:

“We got a little over-optimistic on our growth estimates and they didn’t materialize,” Crumb said. “So we’re just trying to get that back in line and correct it.”

In the Star-Telegram story, the Fort Worth Water boss points out that the city’s water demand has also been helped by conservation efforts and efficiency improvements.

The news confirms the suspicions of Oklahoma State Sen. Jerry Ellis, D-Valiant, who authored legislation preventing Oklahoma from exporting water to Texas.

“There’s never been any thirsty Texans,” Ellis told the Journal Record. “They would come to me and they would beg, then they’d threaten and then say that we must either sell them water or they’d come and take us to court and get it for free.”

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