Groundwater management is an area where almost all of the world seems to be faltering right now. Like in India, in Texas too groundwater is private property, and its use, regulation and conservation is a complex and often an unsuccessful task. Groundwater is a major source of water in Texas, providing about 60 percent of the 16.1 million acre-feet of water used in the state[i]. Cities like Amarillo, Bryan-College Station, El Paso, Lubbock, Houston and San Antonio use groundwater to supply water for homes and industry.[ii] This year, Texas has seen record hot months and lowering water tables with 99% of the state facing drought right now, and 21% area facing exceptional drought. Jacob’s Well, an iconic artesian spring, has officially ceased flowing for the fourth time in recorded history as a result of the ongoing drought and increased levels of groundwater pumping.
Of the original 2000 + springs in Texas, few remain. In the past, battles were waged between the pioneers and Native Americans over the ownership of these springs as secure water sources.
Today, there are several institutional frameworks like the Texas Groundwater Management Zones, Groundwater Conservation Districts, Aquifer management authorities, etc., People enjoy springs in various ways and there are notable conservation efforts to protect endangered species associated with groundwater like the Texas Blind Salamander and Fountain Darters.
Springs are celebrated in myriad ways. In addition to the evocative Native American traditions and tales around springs, contemporary “here and now” spring celebrations are equally poignant.
The Austin Public Library is currently hosting a Kite Exhibition “Sacred Springs”[iii] in its beautiful premises. This is an apt setting, just across the Texas Colorado River. Austin Public Library once featured in Time’s list of 100 Greatest places in the World and reuses almost all water onsite through rainwater harvesting, AC condensate reuse and reclaimed water use. [iv]
The Sacred Springs Kite Exhibition, Art4Water’s inaugural program, is a collaboration between The Watershed Association, Terry Zee Lee and 30+ national artists in the creation of huge water-inspired art kites. “Hanging like an oasis in the sky, The Sacred Springs Kite Exhibition brings together diverse communities around the respect for Texas’ great springs–their history, their value, and the threats to their existence. The Sacred Springs Kite Exhibition will be on display at the Austin Central Library for free, through November 2022.”[v] About 200 artists submitted water-inspired works of art to be made into flyable art kites! Over 30+ artists and 50+ pieces were chosen to represent the Sacred Springs of Texas and raise awareness of the vital connection of water to life. The library is strewn with these beautiful kites depicting various springs of Texas like San Marcos, Comal, Barton Springs and life associated with these. The stunning kites capture the uniqueness of each spring.
Springs, sources of rivers, confluences, riparian areas, floodplains, estuaries are the true places of worship of our world. They offer beauty, strength, and peace to the weary souls: whether human or non-human. A celebration of these places and their values brings people together, starts conversations and plants seeds of change.
Whether it is Barton Springs Festival, Sacred Springs Kite Festival or Maharashtra Barav Deepotsav (Festival of Lights celebrating ancient stepwells in Maharashtra), Such celebrations are invaluable in protecting the fragility and beauty of our world.
Parineeta Dandekar, SANDRP