Panhandle Water Conservation Authority

By: Comer Clay

Type: General Entry

Published: 1952

Updated: May 1, 1995

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 wildlife.

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of the Canadian River basin, conducted since 1935 by the United States Army Corps of Engineers, were compiled in an unpublished survey report dated September 16, 1946.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.

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).

The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this entry.

Comer Clay, “Panhandle Water Conservation Authority,” Handbook of Texas Online, accessed June 27, 2022,

Published by the Texas State Historical Association.

May 1, 1995