MONTAGUE COUNTY — Tank trucks carrying groundwater thunder by on a nearby highway as Terry Fender sheds his hat, wipes his brow and kneels to record the water level of a well bordered by cracked cement in northern Montague County.
The term “drought” has become a part of the Texas lexicon as familiar today as it was during the Dust Bowl that swept the southern states in the early 1930s.
The ground is so parched it cracks and pops as Toby Watts maneuvers a mud-encrusted, 2-ton water-drilling rig across a scraggly field of rock and grass along FM1187 in western Tarrant County. A 38-foot derrick slowly rises from the rig’s platform and begins pounding the earth.
BORDEN COUNTY — A crisp breeze rips across the prairie as Ralph Miller steps from his dirt-encrusted Ford F-250. He adjusts a sweep of gray hair under his black Stetson and stands over a grave marked “The Water Well Man.”
In 1957, John Graves decided to take a canoe trip down the upper midsection of the Brazos River before a series of dams would turn his favorite stretch of river into a string of lakes. Graves was from river country, and feared that his beloved river would be squeezed dry if five proposed flood-control dams were built in the Upper Brazos.
ROANOKE — The wind is howling across the wastewater treatment plant here — a sprawling maze of storage tanks, sludge grinders, bar screens, pumps and other heavy-duty equipment designed to remove human waste, diapers, baby wipes, drugs, toilet paper, parasites, viruses, fungi and other foul contaminants flowing in from pipelines across North Texas each day, transforming the raw sewage into “reusable water.”
MATAGORDA COUNTY — A green tractor moves slowly through a dirt field in the Mad Island Marsh Preserve, pulling a disk plow that churns and breaks up black clods of dried soil and stubble.
Dallas-Fort Worth area residents take pride in their lush lawns. They seed them, mow them, relax on them, play sports on them. But mostly they water them. Yet few of these lawn lovers realize just how much water it takes to keep their yard looking beautiful.
ROBERT LEE — “Did y’all get much water on your place?” drawls an apron-clad grandmother in a pastel green blouse from behind the deli counter as a customer wearing cowboy boots saunters into Cindy’s Groceries, BBQ & Gas.