"Texas Rice Farmers' Livelihoods at Stake in Water Talks"

"BAY CITY, Texas — From Austin to this city in Southeast Texas, the Colorado River makes six twists and turns before it reaches Mike Burnside’s rice farm in Matagorda County. Through a 1,100 mile-long canal system, Burnside floods nearly 1,000 acres of rice fields, which are emerald green in June despite the drought.

Like most farmers in the area, however, Burnside is worried about the future. Rice growers harvest two crops each year, but tighter water restrictions could eliminate one of those crops, especially during dry years.

'If we got no second crop, mmm — it’s going to be tough," Burnside says. "We’re not going to make enough money.'

In recent decades, the few hundred rice farmers in Matagorda, Wharton and Colorado counties have never lost one of their two crops due to reductions to their water supply, but that could change next year. If levels in the Highland Lakes, which include two key reservoirs near Austin, remain this low on Jan. 1, farmers' water allotments next year will be sharply reduced."

Kate Galbraith and Erika Aguilar of KUT News report for the Texas Tribune June 23, 2011.

Friday, June 24, 2011