By David Patterson
From 1950 until 1957, there was a long multi-year drought in Texas and Hays County. During this drought, the annual rainfall averaged seven inches a year. Our normal annual rainfall is 32 inches. Here is the punchline: In 1957, the last year of the drought, the Hays County population was 16,870. Let that sink in, Buda alone now has more people than that! As of the 2020 census the Hays County population was 241,000. During this drought farmers had to abandon their fields and butcher their livestock.
I have been working to raise awareness about our limited water resources in Hays County since the 1980s. Hays County doesn’t have the Highland Lakes chain like Austin, and Canyon Lake does not have another drop of water to sell to anyone in Hays County. This is why I wrote an email to Ruben Becerra, Dr. Michelle Gutierrez Cohen, Susan Cook, Mark Jones, and Walt Smith, who are running for Hays County Commissioner, or County Judge. I asked them to comment on these questions and they have graciously agreed. This column will be here every week with a new question highlighted every week. Next week we will focus on question number one.
1.With our explosive growth, is Hays County ready for another seven year drought like we had in the 1950s? If elected, what do you plan to do to prepare for a multi-year drought like the one in the 1950s?
2. There are so many subdivisions and individual well owners in Hays County that will have to redrill their wells during an extended drought because of this unprecedented growth. Does Hays County have a plan to assist/compensate all of the existing well owners for the expense of drilling new wells? Have you priced a new well recently? Is this a cost that the developers should have to fund?
3. Is there a Hays County plan to bring water infrastructure to all of the existing homesteads and subdivisions that are completely dependent on the aquifers during a multi-year drought? Only those living in cities in Hays County will be sure to have water during a multi-year drought. What is the plan for all of the rural well owners, and subdivisions that are not hooked up to a city water pipeline?
4. Until this year’s election, Hays County had never met a subdivision or development it didn’t like. The mantra has been growth, growth, growth! The state laws concerning development are not working for your constituents because the big property owners, and developers have much deeper pockets than the individual residents of Hays County. If elected, will you work with our state legislature to raise awareness about these water issues, and try to get some of control over development back to the cities, and the counties?
I look forward to sharing this information with you in the coming weeks. Check out the first round of answers in the Sept. 21 edition.