Friday, June 06, 2008

farm's wells going dry as water competition stiffens

New subdivisions, industrial sites, playing fields all pumping water from changing eastern Travis County. Since the wells on their eastern Travis County farm went dry this month, Katie and David Pitre have struggled to water and wash the vegetables they sell at farmers markets. Their three children have showered at the YMCA, and their dishes have had to be cleaned with pond water.

Relying on a nearby creek for irrigation and the generosity of neighbors for water to wash dirt off their vegetables, the Pitres say they will still show up to farmers markets today and make their weekly home deliveries to their 170 customers.

The situation exemplifies how changing land-use patterns in eastern Travis County have driven competition for water. In what was once a primarily rural area, a fleet of subdivisions, industrial sites and playing fields have jockeyed with farms for limited water resources. Gieselman said the county could probably not sell water to the farm because it is not a utility. He said the farm could try to buy water from a supplier with nearby wells, such as Manville.

When the Pitres asked a local water supplier whether an agricultural water rate existed, they had little luck. "We were told, 'Most farmers rely on Jesus,' " said Katie Pitre, 39. "When you grow row crops for your living, you can't rely on Jesus all the time." From the Austin American Statesman.