Building the Marvin Nichols Reservoir will have devastating effects on Texas

By David Marquis
The Dallas Morning News, August 11, 2022

Solutions to major challenges are rarely simple, especially in a world rife with the difficult issues that we face today. The solution to the long-term water supply needs of North Texas might seem to be a choice of either conservation or building reservoirs, such as the proposed Marvin Nichols, which would dam the Sulphur River in the northern reaches of East Texas.

Fortunately, we have additional means of addressing these needs. We have constructed wetlands, underground storage in aquifers and filtration systems that can clean polluted water, including wastewater, to potable standards. We have advances in building technologies, landscaping with native plants and educational initiatives to teach about water usage. In Texas, we can also filter the vast amounts of brackish water that exist under much of our state. Indeed, for much of Texas, the future of water is filtration. For those of us in the Dallas-Fort Worth area, we can also bring water from under-utilized existing reservoirs, such as Lake Toledo Bend.

To be clear, I am not proposing that North Texas should stop growing because of our water challenges. A dynamic economy is a good thing, but we must be realistic about what we are doing to our watershed and the land we live on.

We must embrace a challenging future that cannot be met with solutions from the past.

Reservoirs have serious drawbacks, such as loss due to evaporation. Building a reservoir today is like opening a store knowing that half of your inventory is going to be shoplifted on the day you open. During hot weather, lakes lose as much water to evaporation as they do to usage. With summer in Texas now lasting from May until October, that means we are investing billions of dollars in a way of thinking that no longer — pun intended — holds water.

Were reservoirs once the solution? Yes, they were. They were close to major population centers and much more economical to build. The proposed Marvin Nichols would cost us billions of dollars and be 150 miles away.

There is also a moral question to be reckoned with. Building the Marvin Nichols Reservoir will flood 66,000 acres of productive agricultural land, including thousands of acres of hardwood forest. It would inundate rural school districts, displace families that have been on that land since the 1830s, destroy their homes, and wash away the graves of their ancestors. In addition, it would require at least another 130,00 acres of land to be set aside to meet federal mitigation policies so that, in total, building that reservoir would take more than 200,000 acres out of production. This would have a devastating effect on northeast Texas’ economy.

Roughly half the water we use in our region goes to watering our lawns and irrigating landscapes. That alone should call into question how we use our water, how we plan to use it in the years ahead, and how we plan to procure it.

As an act of conscience, I am not willing to force people off their land and out of their homes to solve a problem that we can address in other ways. Moral questions cannot be set aside. In fact, considering the state of our nation and our culture, they might well be the most important questions of our time.

A challenging future is coming at us hard. If we put ourselves above others, if we value our community more than others, then we forfeit our very humanity. Family, culture, religion, history and land all tie people together. But there is one thing every human must have each day: water.

Surely in this new world of technology and possibility, of challenges and change, we can find ways to secure for ourselves this precious, life-giving resource without devastating the lives of others, their economy and heritage, and the beauty and worth of their land.

I want my grandchildren to enjoy the blessings and resources that those who have come before them enjoyed. And I want them to be able to do that without denying those same resources and blessings to the grandchildren of others.

David Marquis is an author and conservationist. His latest book, The River Always Wins, was published by Dallas-based Deep Vellum. He wrote this for The Dallas Morning News.

Originally posted on The Dallas Morning News

Y’all-itics Podcast: Watering Lawns in Dallas Might Require Flooding Farms in East Texas

WFAA, Jul. 31, 2022

LISTEN HERE on iTunes, Spotify, Stitch Server, or Amazon Music


This past year has taught us not to take electricity for granted. Better be careful with water, too. Texas needs more of it to keep up with all the residents and businesses moving here. One small town along the Red River is already running low on the resource. The plan for Dallas / Fort Worth alone calls for five new reservoirs. One, proposed in northeast Texas, would flood 66,000 acres of land, move out families, and take property off the tax rolls. But not acting soon enough could also cost Texas billions of dollars in lost business and population. It’s a dicey dilemma and time is of the essence. Joining the Jasons this week is Texas Comptroller Glenn Hegar. His office is studying what’s at stake. And Janice Bezanson, from the Texas Conservation Alliance, argues for other options besides taking away family farms.


Glenn Hegar, R-Texas Comptroller

Janice Bezanson, Texas Conservation Alliance

About: Y’all-itics is the unofficial political podcast of Texas. Each week we’ll crack open an ice-cold Texas brew and explore a single hot topic affecting Texans. But this isn’t politics as usual. Y’all-itics doesn’t come from a fancy studio. We’re taking our podcast on the road to get past the soundbites and dive deeper into the issues that matter to y’all. Leave your labels at the door, this is a political podcast for all Texans… even the recent transplants!

Dallas Observer: Extreme Heat Is Pushing North Texas Water Supplies to Their Limit

By Jacob Vaught
Dallas Observer, Aug. 1, 2022

Residents of the North Texas city of Gunter received a startling alert last Wednesday night. There was a good chance, city officials told them, that Gunter would run out of water.

Excessive water consumption left the city’s water storage tanks unable to refill. “Consequently, the city will be without water by early morning,” the notice to residents said.

On top of record-high temperatures and drought conditions covering nearly the whole state, Gunter is working with a fraction of its typical water supply. The city usually gets its water from three wells, but mechanical problems have put two of them out of commission until needed repairs can be completed.

The three wells supply enough water to accommodate about 2,000 homes. There are about 800 homes in the city. So, in theory there’s plenty, but problems start when wells go offline. The extreme heat and increased demand pushed two of the wells to their limit.

Originally posted on the Dallas Observer.

ABC News 8: Water reservoir proposals in the DFW area

By WFAA Staff WFFA ABC News 8, Jul. 31, 2022
DALLAS — This past year has taught us not to take electricity for granted. Water is now another one of those resources and Texas needs more of it.
The cities of Dallas and Fort Worth say they’ll have to have five new reservoirs to keep up with all the new residents and businesses moving there. But building reservoirs means flooding thousands of acres in rural Texas. And folks in northeast Texas – where one of these is proposed – say they have too much at stake. That’s why folks in northeast Texas are fighting back against one proposed there called Marvin Nichols — that would send water to the metroplex.
Janice Bezanson – from the Texas Conservation Alliance – lays it out in a brand new episode of Y’all-itics we just released this morning.
Bezanson says “It was proposed back in 2001 and there was a tremendous fight against it, then, and it got postponed. But in the last revision of the state water plan, it was again moved forward to a time frame that’s comparable to when they would actually start building it in the near future. It’s to be completed by the year 2050 and in operation. But the proponents have always said, it will take them 30 years to get it permitted and built. 2050 is only 28 years from now.”

Letters to the Editor – North Texas water, Love Field shooting, DART, Dallas County

By Letters to the Editor
The Dallas Morning News, July 28, 2022


Inconvenient Truths

Re: “North Texas will need this water — Texas Democrats’ opposition to planned reservoir in East Texas is disappointing,” Monday editorial.

Your support of the proposed Marvin Nichols Reservoir is understandable. East Texas opposition is based on law and equity.

The Texas Constitution, Section 1, says the perpetuity of the Union depends upon the preservation of local rule, and Section 2 says the faith of the people of Texas stands pledged to the preservation of a republican form of government. Dallas exercising eminent domain outside of its area of jurisdiction violates Section 1, and the majority taking the property and resources of East Texas violates Section 2. To add insult to injury, we are then robbed of more land due to unconstitutional federal mitigation of even more property.

I know this is a very inconvenient truth. Why not consider reusing some or all of your effluent by discharging the purified water into your local recreation lakes and recirculating it back to your supply reservoirs? You should have been paying the areas you suck dry for the water you have taken all these years to make up for the loss of local income and tax revenue they would have gained by the use of their property and resources.

Charles L. Riley, Atlanta, Texas


Consider Toledo Bend

Region C has several alternatives to building the Marvin Nichols Reservoir rather than destroying and devastating a large section of bottomland hardwood along the Sulphur River. Among these alternatives is acquiring water from Toledo Bend, which has over 2 million acre-feet of available water. Region C has been told this by officials from Toledo Bend.

Region C officials have said it would be too expensive. A large portion of Red River County water where the lake would be built is supplied by Red River County Water Supply. Two thousand gallons of water cost $35. Two thousand gallons of water in the city of Dallas on Oct. 1, 2021, cost $11.38. Clearly, Dallas has a lot of room before it costs too much.

-John Brooks, Bogata, Texas


An outdated solution

The Marvin Nichols Reservoir is a perfect example of using 19th-century methods to solve 21st-century problems. As average temperatures increase, so do rates of evaporation. One need only look at what is happening to Medina Lake, which is currently 11% full, to see the future of the Marvin Nichols.

Instead of investing in outmoded technology, Dallas should be exploring the use of aquifer storage and recovery, potable water reuse and other strategies that will provide assured volumes to satisfy the long-term needs for more water supply for the region.

-Annalisa Peace, San Antonio


D-FW takes too much

The Marvin Nichols Reservoir is projected to be a minimum of 200,000 acres. To put that in perspective, that’s over one-fourth the size of Rhode Island. Gone forever from the northeast Texas economy. No taxes paid to schools and counties. No agricultural, timber or petroleum production. Land taken from families that have owned it for 100 to 150 years. All to support the Dallas-Fort Worth area’s greed.

David Aikin, Mount Vernon


Reject planned reservoir

Re: “North Texas will need this water — Texas Democrats’ opposition to planned reservoir in East Texas is disappointing,” Monday editorial.

The proposed Marvin Nichols Reservoir is one of the costliest projects in the state water plan at an estimated $4.4 billion with costs rising. The project will be funded by Dallas-Fort Worth area taxpayers who will pay the financial cost, and it will also come at a cost to northeast Texas residents who will be forced to move off their properties, away from their jobs, schools and livelihood.

I do not agree with the moving forward of the Marvin Nichols Reservoir.

-Brooke Ward, Texarkana



Read the full letters to the editor on The Dallas Morning News

The Dallas Morning News: Letters to the Editor – Julian Assange, border security, drought in Texas, limited economy

By Letters to the Editor
The Dallas Morning News, July 3, 2022

Is this our plan?

Re: “Crusade against the drought — Texas oil baron’s descendant is working on technology to reclaim industry’s ‘produced water’,” by Richard Parker, June 26 Opinion.

Perhaps the best way to summarize Parker’s essay is this (his) statement; “Water, to be blunt, is the new oil. It can be drilled, piped, cleansed and shipped anywhere a pipeline goes.”

Parker does more than give us the dreary facts. He highlights what a Texas oil man (Ira Yates) wants to do to help solve the coming scarcity problem. It comes down to cleaning the water used for oil and gas production. New Mexico is already doing this. So is Saudi Arabia. And Chevron.

But Texas has outlawed reclaiming, cleaning and reusing this water. The coming solution for the North Texas area? Flood 20,000 acres northeast of Dallas. What is this land now? Roads, homes, churches and creeks, and acres of hardwood forest. Why? We seem not able to limit either population growth or water usage. Is this really the future we want?

-Ellen Taylor Seldin, North Dallas

Read the full letters to the editor on The Dallas Morning News

The Texan: Battle Rages On Over Marvin Nichols Reservoir Project After 20-Year-Reduced Deadline

By Brad Johnson
The Texan, June 6, 2022

The project now has a goal for completion of 2050, a change in the previous forecast due to population increases in the Dallas-Fort Worth area

In North Texas, a years-long political fight has raged over a proposed reservoir intended to supply the Dallas-Fort Worth area with life’s most basic element.

The 66,103-acre reservoir, one of several projects before the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB), is expected to provide 451,500 acre-feet of water per year at a $4.4 billion cost to taxpayers — according to 2018 estimates. 

With rampant inflation driving up the cost of building anything, the price tag today is likely significantly higher.

Another 130,000 acres of land is needed for flood mitigation purposes in tandem with the reservoir itself.

Nearly 80 percent of the reservoir’s supplied water would be piped 150 miles to the Dallas-Fort Worth area to supplement its 7.6 million population. The state plans to have the reservoir operational by 2050. In total, about 30 percent of the reservoir’s water acreage would be available for municipal supply.

While the state oversees this and all other projects at an aerial level, each undertaking is led by local water districts which sponsor the project. They accumulate the funding for each project and take on any debt required. This reservoir’s sponsors are Tarrant Regional Water District and North Texas Municipal Water District.

The project’s Northeast Texas location — at the intersection of Red River, Titus, and Franklin Counties along the Sulphur River — is a source of controversy.

Read the full story on The Texan.


Over 1,600 Texans have signed petition to oppose Marvin Nichols Reservoir

Texans are weighing in on the costliest proposed project in the state water plan.

To date, more than 1,600 individuals have signed a petition to publicly oppose Marvin Nichols Reservoir. The petition was initiated by Preserve Northeast Texas, a growing group of Texans, landowners, business owners, community leaders, conservationists and elected officials.

Others have written letters to Preserve Northeast Texas expressing their opposition to the use of eminent domain in the project.

Marvin Nichols Reservoir, which would be on the main stem of the Sulphur River in Red River, Titus and Franklin counties, would flood more than 66,000 acres of ranch land, hardwood forest and wetlands in Northeast Texas to pipe water 150 miles to the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex. It also would require that at least another 130,000 acres be taken from private ownership for mitigation purposes.

The cost estimate for the project is about $4.58 billion, with material costs rising steadily.

The Marvin Nichols Reservoir was adopted by water planners based on a predicted strain to the DFW Metroplex water supply. The prediction is based not only on expected population growth, but also continued high per capita water use.

The target date for completion of the reservoir was moved forward in the state water plan in summer 2021 from 2070 to 2050.

Print Headline: Over 1,600 Texans have signed petition to oppose Marvin Nichols Reservoir