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When it rains, Texans forget drought and worsening water scarcity

After the pandemic, soaring population growth, development will again challenge planning and water supply.

Jacob’s Well near Wimberley, Texas is a natural spring flowing about 900 gallons a minute that 35,000 visitors from around the world come to visit.

By Keith Schneider Circle of Blue

Keith Schneider is senior editor and chief correspondent at Circle of Blue. He has reported on the contest for energy, food, and water from six continents. Circle of Blue is the award-winning, independent news organization that reports on the intersections of water, food, and energy across the U.S. and globally.

“Dry years reveal a momentous confrontation, as residents encounter the menacing consequence of runaway growth.”

Joshua Bieter, 26, swimming in Jacob’s Well near Wimberley, Texas. Bieter believes the cold water from the well helps his body.  Jacob’s Well is a natural spring flowing about 900 gallons a minute that 35,000 visitors from around the world come to visit each year.

Joshua Bieter 512-557-9495

State water planning pummeled by droughts

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Rising demand confronts lower supplies

“On Jacob’s Well, the effect of pumping a depleted aquifer was immediately apparent. Starting in 2000, there were days it stopped flowing.”

Since 2003, a pipeline from Lake Travis, a reservoir near Austin, has provided developers sufficient water to continue building big subdivisions in the Hill Country. Photo © J. Carl Ganter / Circle of Blue

Downstream turmoil

“Even backed by the force of law, though, that directive has not succeeded in keeping enough water flowing to Corpus Christi and its bay, particularly in dry years.”

In Bandera County, a few hours west of Jacob’s Well, the developer of a Christian summer camp has applied for a permit to build a plant to treat 49,000 gallons of wastewater daily, and discharge it into Commissioners Creek. Photo © Keith Schneider / Circle of Blue

“The confrontations between wastewater plant developers and downstream residents are typically fierce.”

Chelsey Brownfield, 30, and Ryan Encinas, 38, paddle board on Lady Bird Lake in Austin, Texas.

Lady Bird Lake, a 416-acre reservoir in Austin, Texas, was built 60 years ago as a cooling pond for a power plant. It’s now a primary locus for recreation and flood control. Photo © Brian Lehmann / Circle of Blue

Texas water supply challenge is not unique

“The significant question Texas hasn’t answered is where it will find enough water by 2070”