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From the Pen of Carter P. Smith

Where is it going to come from? Who is going to get it? And, how much will they get? To some, those may sound like questions contemplated by a judge presiding over the allocation of proceeds among creditors at a bankruptcy hearing. Yet these are just a few of the thorny issues our state's leaders must grapple with every day as they chart the future of water in Texas.

Make no mistake. The future of water, be it surface or groundwater, is the defining natural resource issue in this state, and it will continue to be a top priority for at least the next century.

Mind you, many water-related questions are not easy ones to answer. Those with stakes in future water quality and quantity represent divergent, and sometimes competitive, stakeholder groups. Agriculture, industry, municipal, commercial and environmental interests are all at the table. At times, the heated debates are, to borrow a phrase from Robert Penn Warren, " … not exactly like Easter week in a nunnery." Rightfully so, people feel strongly about their respective future needs and interests in water.

As your agency working on behalf of Texas' fish, wildlife, lands and waters, so do we. We want to make sure there is ample and clean water to support bountiful and productive springs, creeks, rivers and bays. We want our nine major aquifers, 15 major river basins, seven major bay systems and 200,000 miles of creeks, rivers and streams to be healthy and well functioning. These waters are literally the lifeblood for Texas' fish and wildlife. Our mission compels us to ensure they remain so for our children and grandchildren, and for their children and their grandchildren.

Curiously, though, the future of the biggest body of water in Texas hasn't yet received the attention it deserves. Spanning coastal portions of five states and three countries, the Gulf of Mexico drains well over 50 percent of the continental United States. Its waters, both nearshore and offshore, support a host of economic interests, including oil and gas production, inter- and intra-state commerce, and commercial and recreational fisheries. In the future, its waters may support wind energy and desalination and geothermal energy production.

As a state with a major conservation interest in the Gulf of Mexico, we owe this critically important water body more attention and focus. To that end, we must better understand its unique ecological and natural resource attributes, from oyster and coral reefs to red snapper and southern flounder stocks. As such, I hope you enjoy the ensuing articles in this magazine, as we seek to bring the gulf to your living room.

In conclusion, let me say that I could not be more pleased to announce that our colleague Larry McKinney, who has been a leading and visionary scientist with this agency for nearly 25 years, has been asked to direct the Harte Research Institute for Gulf of Mexico Studies. Larry has played a key role in all of our annual water issues since 2002. He's helped us develop a better understanding of rivers, bays, springs, wetlands and now the Gulf of Mexico. We'll need all the leadership Larry and his team of scientists can provide to help chart the future of our gulf waters. Good luck and Godspeed in the gulf, my friend.

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