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Frackers Guzzle Water As Texas Goes Thirsty

For related articles and more information, please visit OCA's Environment and Climate Resource Center page and our Texas News page.

In summer, the bison on Thunderheart Ranch opt for the feathery shade of a mesquite tree as temperatures reach 100. This land, just a handful of miles from the Mexican border, was once known as The Wild Horse Desert, lawless, rough brush country where, in a good year, 21 inches of rain fell and in a bad year, less than a dozen descended from the clouds. "My grandfather used to say we get two 10-inch rains and never get the other inch," says Hugh Fitzsimmons, owner of the 13,000-acre ranch.

Fitzsimmons hails from an old Dimmit County family that has several large holdings in the area 100 miles southwest of San Antonio. He also serves on the local Wintergarden Groundwater District and spends a good deal of his time worrying about the falling water levels in the underground aquifer that serves the sparsely populated county.

Even as fall officially begins in Texas and temperatures dip into the low nineties, 97% of the state is suffering from an extended drought that is pitting neighbor against neighbor in a battle over water. Lakeside restaurants are closed, boat docks stand high and dry, farmers are at odds with suburban gardeners, and small town wells are depleted. In the state's booming Oil Patch, the earth is cracked and the grass is brittle, but water is still gushing to hundreds of hydraulic fracturing operations. It's water in, energy and dollars out at a gold-rush pace that some say cannot continue.

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