Will DFW’s thirst flood the ‘Texas rainforest’? Inside the fight over Marvin Nichols Reservoir

By Jess Hardin

The Fort Worth Star-Telegram, February 10, 2022

After parking his white Ford pickup truck in a pasture of knee-high grass, Jim Marshall trudges toward it: a post oak tree with branches so long they bend toward the ground and nearly meet the grass on either side.

Marshall shields his eyes from the afternoon sun and stops under the tree’s shade. He points to a hefty bough cradling a nest as big as an armchair. A family of bald eagles made its home here, in the middle of Marshall’s 917 acres.

He bends down and picks up an eagle feather.

Even though his 7-year-old granddaughter collects feathers, he doesn’t pocket it. It is illegal to possess or use the parts of the federally protected eagles.

If water planners in Dallas-Fort Worth get their wish, this massive oak will wither into skeletal driftwood in the middle of Marvin Nichols Lake.

Since the turn of the century, DFW water planners have been clear: North Texans are going to need a lot of water in the coming decades, and one way to get it is by building a reservoir about 150 miles away.

The project’s would-be sponsors — North Texas Municipal Water District, Tarrant Regional Water District and Upper Trinity Water Regional Water District — point to DFW’s explosive growth when explaining the need for Marvin Nichols.

“We’ve got 55,000 people moving to our service area every year. That equates to a nice-sized city. None of them are bringing their own water,” said Wayne Larson, director of communications at North Texas Municipal Water District.

Texas is split into 16 water regions. Each is required to devise a plan to meet its evolving water needs every five years. By 2070, the population of Region C, which includes Dallas-Fort Worth, is expected to surpass 14.6 million, according to the region’s 2021 water plan.

The water plan projects that, with current water supply, the region will have a shortage of more than 423 billion gallons per year by 2070.

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