GLEN ROSE — At 840 miles long, the Brazos River is a lifeline for municipalities that pump water, industries that use the water for manufacturing plants and farmers who have relied on the river to irrigate their crops. But like many other rivers in the state, it has seen the drought take its toll.
“It’s still beautiful,” said Ed Lowe, a Granbury resident and president of Friends of the Brazos, as his canoe scrapes along the bottom of the Brazos riverbed on a humid August afternoon. But, he said, “in terms of the flow, it’s just lower.” Along some parts of the river, it is too shallow to canoe.
And concerns over water levels in the Brazos, which stretches from Texas’ South Plains to the Gulf of Mexico, have sparked debate over who gets to use it, how much should be used and how much should be left to keep the river healthy.
Two-thirds of the state is experiencing severe to exceptional levels of drought, and state reservoirs are at about 60 percent of their water capacity. Some water users on the Brazos have already seen water pumping suspensions and other cuts. Amid the struggle to divvy up water, environmental activists have raised concerns that issues regarding threatened wildlife and damage to the river’s ecosystem are being pushed to the backseat.
Like many of Texas’ rivers, the Brazos is controlled by agencies that parcel water out to users based on when they first laid claim to the river water, and water rights holders increasingly fight over how much each deserves.