The “Problem” of Water in Texas

A flooded public transit bus in San Antonio (2015)

As a Midwesterner I’ve had a little experience with flooding, but I’m the first to admit that I know virtually nothing about dealing with too much water. The times that I have had to do so are among my least favorite memories — but they are there as part of human experience.  Having spent time in Texas I’m coming to feel that water is one of the biggest problems Texans have to face:  either the lack of it or the excess of it.

Here’s one example.  As we drive around the state we pass over a lot of bridges, with signs identifying the name of the “river” we are passing over.  A great deal of the time when we look down from the bridge’s height we see a valley with dense trees and no river at all.  Oh, there’s water down there somewhere but not that much and it seems not not to be doing all that much.

Here in Los Fresnos we are in a drought.  I think we are about 72 days since our last rain, the earth is parched and cracking.  The last time I checked we were at about 60% of our usual rainfall which isn’t a lot to begin with.  When rain does come it often arrives in buckets and sheets — a pelting rain that can do nothing except run off into the sewer because the ground is baked too hard to absorb it quickly.

The residents here plan for water events.  City planners, road planners, architects and builders all make allowances for Momma Nature.  I see huge culverts where there looks to be very little water — but the professionals know what to allow for.

Yet even they get surprised from time to time. Near the Quarry Market in San Antonio — see the photo above — they have now put in flood gauges reaching to twenty (20) feet off the road surface.

This is not a new phenomenon. Flooding has been a problem well back in Texas history. These photos from a San Antonio flood in 1921 illustrates that this is a battle they’ve been fighting for the better part of a century and still struggling.

When we lived in Milwaukee I was concerned about basement flooding because there is so much clay in the soil and basement flooding is common there, as well as basement foundation damage.  Here, of course, there are virtually no homes with basements and it’s surface flooding that keeps coming back to haunt the residents.

There is no Utopia.  Seniors sometimes look at retirement and think they will find a perfect little place to retire and leave all their troubles behind.  The reality of life is that there is no perfect place.  They all have their problems; we do well to master the problems we face in our own hometown and make the best of them.  In one place it might be too much or too little water, in another it’s tornadoes or earthquakes or civil unrest or lead in the water or carcinogens in the air.  The earth is flawed.  Nothing is perfect.  Make the best you can of your circumstances and don’t waste your life looking for perfection.

Some lessons you don’t learn sitting at home.  Some lessons need to be experienced.  Which is why we have loved to travel.  We have gained insight into “difference”.  Not into differences.  There will always be more different things to see and to learn about. But can you accept the nature of difference?  Can you be comfortable knowing that diversity is infinite and we can’t experience everything.  There comes a time when we have to settle into something and make it our life.



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