TDCJ's Clements and Neal units, reported the Amarillo Globe News ("'An intervention' on water usage in Amarillo," Oct. 14) are together the second largest water customer in Amarillo, soaking up 44% more water than the city of Amarillo itself (395 million gallons and 275 million gallons last year, respectively). Grits has written before about prisons as water hogs. While TDCJ is the second biggest water customer in Amarillo, it's the largest in Abilene. In South Texas, the Connally unit had to begin rationing water and closed two wings because of excessive staffing vacancies and a chronic municipal water shortage.
Prisons' vast water use in mainly rural areas is a largely unexplored aspect of mass incarceration, but one wonders if, in the coming years, Texas' water wars might ever contribute to de-incarceration pressures? As water problems which are today viewed as annoyances become more acute, towns like Amarillo may begin to look at who's using up most of their water and decide whether or not the juice is worth the squeeze.