Samsung, the giant Korean manufacturer of semiconductors, has announced it will be building multiple new factories in the Taylor/Austin area. The politicians are ecstatic about the jobs, taxes, population growth and economic benefits. But, there’s a catch. Production of semiconductors is one of the most water intensive industries. According to experts quoted in the Austin Statesman on July 31, 2022, a large chip plant uses around 10 million gallons a day and the first plant to be built near Taylor will be furnished with up to 15 million gallons per day (5.5 billion gallons per year). The entire city of Taylor (population 17,000) uses about 3 million gallons per day. Samsung says it may build as many as 11 new plants. Every aspect of this plan depends upon one fundamental question: Is there enough water for Samsung and everyone else?
You may recall that only a few months ago rural residents of Burleson and Milam Counties were reporting that their wells were going dry. This occurred after the Post Oak Water Conservation District approved the Vista Ridge pipeline which transports millions of gallons of water each day from that area to San Antonio.
Isn’t it appropriate to ask, maybe demand is a better word, where in the heck all of this water is coming from and how can we be absolutely positive beyond doubt that the residents of these counties won’t be harmed now or in the future? I don’t mean the usual vague assurances from some guy called a “manager” for the District, but real scientific evidence.
I have seen several news stories over the last few years which quote the Post Oak District’s manager. On every occasion he says the District is protecting the resource while also protecting the right of landowners to produce their water. In point of fact, what he means is that the District is protecting not only the landowners use of water, but also the sale of water. He also strongly implies that there is an unlimited supply of water now and for the future. Problem is, that just isn’t true. Wells in the District that tap the Carrizo Aquifer and Simsboro Aquifer are already going dry. It is not hard to see what will happen when Samsung starts taking water and when cities west of Burleson, Lee & Milam counties start receiving water from the Post Oak District. I’m afraid we are seeing a disaster in the making.
In last week’s Houston Chronicle, there were stories about Katy, McAllen and the South Texas farmers being in water trouble. Also, last week there was a long story about Mexico experiencing such severe drought that water has to be trucked within the City of Monterrey (population 5 million). We are under water restrictions as is most of Texas. With no relief in sight, we are all praying for rain and we are all depending upon our aquifers to pull us through.
Texas is prone to drought, which is hard to remember when rain is plentiful. Does it make sense to set up an economy and a population base that can only be served with water during the good times? It is time for groundwater conservative districts to start embracing the conservation part of their name.