Amid Texas drought, a water war brews

Blake Kellum, Lake Conroe Division Manager, with the San Jacinto River Authority observes the water as it is released, Aug. 18, 2011 into the West Fork of the San Jacinto River in Conroe, Texas.
Eric S. Swist,AP Photo/The Courier

A drought in Texas is reaching historic proportions. The record drought has cost state farmers more than $5 billion in lost crops and livestock. Bigad Shaban reports for CBS News on how Houston is tapping into its emergency water supply, even at the risk of sinking local businesses.

Lamar and Kelly Anderson's livelihood depends on Lake Conroe. But the worst one-year drought in Texas history is drying up the 19-mile lake -- and the Andersons' marina business.

"I have two small children that are 9 and 11," said Kelly Anderson. "We've got to take care of our kids, and what the future holds is so unknown, that it's just very scary."

Water levels are dropping at the rate of two feet a month, not just because of the sun. Sixty miles away, a thirsty Houston has started sipping Lake Conroe's water.

One-hundred-and-fifty-million gallons of water now flow out of Lake Conroe through a spillway every day destined for the taps of Houston. That's enough water to supply the daily needs of 750,000 people.

Lake Houston is a main source of water for the area's two million people. The reservoir's water level is critically low.

Deborah White has walked the shores of Lake Houston for more than 30 years. She can now go a half mile into the lake without getting wet. She calls this a problem.

"We've never really been without water," she said. "so we look at water as abundant. Now we don't have it, so people are a bit confused."

Lake Conroe was built to supply Houston during a water shortage. This is the first time in 23 years it's been tapped.

Houston Mayor Annise Parker makes no apologies.

"It is what it is," she said. "There may be recreational impacts. We have to provide the necessary water to our population."

Kelly Anderson has a different view. "It seems unfair," she said. "It seems like an injustice to me. I wish we had the water. We need the water, too. Everyone needs the water. It's a drought."

It's a drought that's likely to last through next year. The Andersons' business may not last that long. Their marina's boat ramp will be dry by September.