Texas ag commissioner candidate warns of water crisis

Richard Carpenter, Libertarian Party candidate for Texas Agriculture Commissioner, warns that a water crisis is coming, and agriculture in the Rio Grande Valley and elsewhere is in trouble if the issue isn’t addressed.

Carpenter, who lives in the Houston suburb of Spring, was in Brownsville recently as part of a campaign swing through South Texas. He said half the state from the Panhandle to Brownsville already suffers from water shortages, and that the population is expected to nearly double during the next 25 years. Farmers lose out when water is tight, since cities are the priority, Carpenter said.

“When push comes to shove, the farmers are restricted to make sure water gets to civilians in the cities,” he said. “It’s happened in Brownsville and the Valley numerous times. Any irrigated farmer will tell you that.”

The solution won’t be simple or cheap, but at stake is whether Texas will be able to feed its next generation, Carpenter said. He believes it will become necessary to tap the state’s brackish aquifers, which are saltier than freshwater but less so than seawater.

Carpenter conceded it’s a complex issue, given the overlapping political jurisdictions and competition between farmers and municipalities, but said that without sufficient water, the state’s richest farmland will become worthless.

The state has some desalination plants, mostly small ones along the coast, though they’re expensive to build and operate, Carpenter said, adding that planning and permitting a desalination plant takes about six years. Desalinating brackish water for farm use would be less expensive than for municipal water since it would require less processing, he said.

sclark@brownsvilleherald.com