Water Conservation Authority
Source: The Handbook of
The Panhandle Water Conservation Authority was
established in 1937 by the Forty-fifth Legislature as a
state agency to control, store, and distribute the waters
of the Red, Canadian, and Brazos rivers and their
tributaries for domestic, municipal, flood control,
irrigation, power, and other useful purposes.
One of the largest conservation districts in the state,
it included forty counties of the Panhandle and South
Plains area. The forty-man board of directors consisted
of one director appointed from each county by the county
commissioners' court for a three-year term, with
one-third retiring annually. The principal office of the
authority was located in Amarillo.
To 1949 the authority had aided in securing the
construction of six dams and reservoirs: Buffalo Lake,
with a capacity of 18,121 acre-feet, in Deaf Smith and
Randall counties; Rita Blanca Lake, with a capacity of
12,100 acre-feet, in Hartley County; McClellan Creek
Lake, with a capacity of 5,005 acre-feet, in Gray County;
Tule Lake, in Swisher County on a tributary of Red River;
Boggy Creek Lake, in Hemphill County; and Wolf Creek
Lake, on a tributary of the Canadian River in Ochiltree
County. Wolf Creek Lake was washed away by a flash flood
in 1947. The six reservoirs were built primarily for soil
conservation, flood control, recreation, and promotion of
The investigations of flood control and related water
problems of the Canadian River basin, conducted since
1935 by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, were
compiled in an unpublished survey report dated September
16, 1946. This report stated that a large reservoir
situated on the Canadian somewhere between the Texas-New
Mexico line and Union, Oklahoma, would help stem flooding
in the valley downstream.
Sanford and Tascosa were singled out as the most
practical sites for such a reservoir. In 1947 the Federal
Bureau of Reclamation resumed surveys of the basin it had
initiated in January 1941 but had suspended because of
World War II. These investigations resulted in a series
of meetings in the spring of 1949 with representatives
from a number of High Plains cities interested in
obtaining water from the Canadian.
At Plainview on June 17, 1949, plans for a water project
were presented, and the Canadian River Water Users'
Association was formed. The association, led by Austin A.
Meredith and representatives from eleven cities, next
sought authorization for its proposed project from both
Washington and Austin.
Although the Panhandle Water Conservation Authority had
contemplated playing a leading role in the construction
of the Canadian River dam, it ceased to exist after the
Canadian River Municipal Water Authority was authorized
by the state legislature in November 1953.
BIBLIOGRAPHY: Hutchinson County Historical Commission,
History of Hutchinson County, Texas (Dallas: Taylor,
1980). U.S. Bureau of Reclamation, Canadian River Project
in Texas (Washington: GPO, 1950).
(information from The Handbook of
Texas Online --
a multidisciplinary encyclopedia of Texas history,
geography, and culture.)