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Region needs Lake Ralph Hall

A decision is coming today that is enormously important to North Texas and will set a precedent for all of the state.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality must decide whether to issue a construction permit for a new lake in Fannin County. The proposed Lake Ralph Hall is needed by North Texans — primarily Denton County residents — who get their water from the Upper Trinity Regional Water District. The district also serves some adjoining counties, including a sliver of Dallas County.

Denton County is projected to grow from its 2010 population of 663,000 to more than 1 million in 2030 and 1.84 million by 2060. Current water supplies are sufficient until only about the middle of the next decade and certainly not much beyond, according to Tom Taylor, the district’s executive director. The district projects water shortfalls starting in the mid-2020s.

That is where Lake Ralph Hall comes in, because it would help our fast-growing region meet its water needs. Likewise, the Upper Trinity district is depending upon conservation strategies, such as limiting residential water, to maintain an adequate supply.

If the TCEQ refuses to approve the construction permit, the rejection will have implications way beyond Denton and Dallas counties. The state has not issued a permit for a new lake in about 25 years, and not many reservoirs were built in the 1980s.

For North Texas, which gets its water largely from surface supplies, that means it is depending on a system created largely in the 1960s — and it took the killer drought of the 1950s to get that in place.

If the state cannot issue a permit for Ralph Hall, which is not a mammoth lake, what does that forecast for Texas’ ability to build the other reservoirs that are part of its 50-year water plan? Not much good, that’s for sure.

Texas voters will be asked to help fund the state’s water plan during November’s constitutional election. Proposition 6 would set up a way to finance the strategies that communities have identified as necessary for their future.

Those 562 strategies include a healthy reliance on water conservation; 34 percent of future supplies are to come from conservation and reuse.

New lakes sometimes spark controversy, so it’s important to note that only 17 percent of Texas’ future supplies would come through such construction. But that percentage is vital to meeting our overall needs.

That’s why Texans everywhere have a lot riding on the approval of Lake Ralph Hall.

The Dallas Morning News