Is the Water Crisis Interesting Enough for the News?

Water is the most important resource on earth. So why don’t reporters cover water crises?

| Winter 2014

  • Parched earth in drought-stricken Texas.
    Photo by Flickr/Patrick Feller
  • The effects of drought on the Uvas Reservoir in California.
    Photo by Flickr/Don Debold

The most fundamental element of life is water. So why aren’t newsrooms covering it like a beat?

My article on the most important document in the recent and turbulent history of water in Texas opened in a leisurely fashion. “The 295-page draft of the 2012 [state water] plan, published last week in the midst of the worst-ever single-year drought Texas has ever experienced, is a sobering read,” I wrote in The Texas Tribune, in 2011.

Last week? Seriously?

The water plan would soon become one of the most-scrutinized documents in Texas. It dramatically declared that the state “does not and will not have enough water” in times of serious drought. Its contents—and what to do about them—would be passionately debated by state lawmakers, the Tea Party, and virtually every major interest group. So dire were the plan’s projections that things culminated in a 2013 vote in which Texans, a normally tightfisted bunch, approved spending $2 billion to create two new water-infrastructure funds.

I waited four days after the water-plan press release arrived to write a story. That’s because I was busy. It was also because I could. To the best of my recollection, despite the lag, I was first to the story. No one in the media, including myself, was really paying attention.


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