In this issue’s opinions+water, Texas+Water Editor-in-Chief, Dr. Todd Votteler, invited U.S. Senator John Cornyn, a three-term Republican incumbent, and Democratic Senate candidate MJ Hegar, to share their vision of Texas water issues. While the Cornyn campaign ultimately declined to participate, the Hegar campaign sent the following vision.
As the mother of two young boys, climate change is one of the reasons I decided to run for office, and it’s impossible to talk about climate change without directly addressing the water challenges facing Texas. Right now, failing water infrastructure and diminishing water resources are threatening our families and our way of life.
Texas communities of color have long suffered disproportionately from insufficient and poor water infrastructure, which directly threatens their health. That is why it is so important to make sure all Texans, no matter their income or race, have access to reliable water resources. Additionally, we need to address flood-control projects, especially along the Gulf Coast. In Houston for example, low income neighborhoods, with large African-American and Latino populations, are located in areas which are more likely to flood, but they are largely ignored when discussing where to invest in these flood-control projects.
The rise in temperatures caused by climate change is contributing to longer droughts in Texas. These droughts deplete groundwater reserves crucial to agricultural communities and lead to the excessive evaporation of surface water supplies that sustain many larger cities like Dallas. Our state holds the largest number of ranches and farms in the country, and ranching and farming contribute $25 billion to our state’s economy. Since 2011, droughts have cost our agricultural industry almost $8 billion, and studies indicate this will only get worse as climate change creates more megadroughts that will devastate our agricultural industry. Ensuring all our communities have the water they need to thrive will be a top concern for me when I go to the Senate.
Protecting our waters and tackling climate change will require action at all levels of government. We have to accelerate investment in and expansion of renewable energy, and must ensure that all-natural gas extraction is done in a way that does not poison our air and water. Our children and grandchildren are relying on us to take the steps necessary to ensure they have a safe and healthy future.
In the Senate, I will also work to ensure we’re enforcing our environmental laws, like the Clean Water Act and the Clean Air Act, and that we’re supporting the local and state departments who help manage our waterways. We all have a responsibility as individual citizens to keep our water resources safe, whether that’s protecting them from invasive species like the zebra mussel, or ensuring that polluters cannot get away with destroying our wetlands and polluting our streams.
Clean water should not be a partisan issue — it is the lifeblood of our economy and essential to ensuring we can all live healthy, happy lives. As your next Senator, I will work diligently to ensure we’re investing in the infrastructure we need to protect clean water for all communities and combating the climate change that threatens our essential water resources. Together we will protect our Texas way of life for generations to come.