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The Election Day story you never heardNovember 21, 2014 9:34
Land Trust Alliance



Election Day had a great story that most people never heard: Land conservation won, and it won big.

Across the nation, voters in 35 jurisdictions approved ballot measures securing $13 billion in new funding for land conservation – the most ever. Working in close partnership with the Trust for Public Land, the Alliance helped land trusts win campaigns for local funding initiatives in Colorado, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico and South Carolina...
Land Trust Alliance



Election Day had a great story that most people never heard: Land conservation won, and it won big.

Across the nation, voters in 35 jurisdictions approved ballot measures securing $13 billion in new funding for land conservation – the most ever. Working in close partnership with the Trust for Public Land, the Alliance helped land trusts win campaigns for local funding initiatives in Colorado, Massachusetts, Michigan, New Mexico and South Carolina. We also invested in New Jersey and in Florida, where the voters approved constitutional amendments that locked in billions of dollars for conservation.

Clearly, with the right approach, America’s voters support land conservation. We should all be thinking about giving them that opportunity.
Signed, Rand Wentworth
Rand Wentworth
President, Land Trust Alliance
PACE
A is for Apple, and Action
Josh Lynsen/Land Trust Alliance
In partnership with Feeding America, the Alliance is delivering to every senator a harvest of apples from Crooked Run Orchard, a conserved family farm in Virginia. And we hope the senators savor the taste because future donations to food banks from farms like Crooked Run are at risk since Congress allowed the conservation tax incentive to expire. There’s only a few weeks left to restore and make permanent the conservation and food donation tax incentives, common-sense approaches that help feed Americans while safeguarding the special places that define our heritage, character and people.
Learn more about the tax incentive
»
QUALITY
A Land Conservation Vision for the Gulf of Mexico Region
The Partnership for Gulf Coast Land Conservation, a program of the Land Trust Alliance, released last week a landmark report, uniting multiple partners to identify priority focus areas for land conservation and economic revival in the Gulf of Mexico. See the report »
PERMANENCE
Appraisals, Honesty and Apiaries
Securing an honest appraisal of what constitutes the “highest and best” use of property can be very difficult and very important. When seeking government benefits, expert opinions can yield sweet nectar or bitter defeat. This is true whether the benefits you’re seeking are big or small. Check out these stories »
community
More than Hugging Trees
DJ Glisson/Firefly Images
Ever wonder how conservation can change lives? Want to find a great way to inspire the next generation of conservationists? Check out this video of young adults who share how their experience with two land conservation groups made a difference (indeed transformed their lives) well beyond the trees they have grown to love.
More information on the Lowell Parks & Conservation Trust’s Lowell Leaders in Stewardship »
On The Horizon
What is Strategic Communications?
December 3 | Complimentary for Alliance members
Learn more »
Fundraising 2015: Taking it to the Next Level
January 22 | Cost: $55
Learn more »
Conservation Easement Monitoring
January 28 | Cost: $55
Learn more »
Send Us Your NewsSend Us Your News!
Spotlight
Doctor’s Orders: Get Outside
Nature deficit disorder: It’s a national health crisis with substantial economic and social implications. To combat this, the Alliance teamed with 30 of America’s leading health officials, academics and nature-focused nonprofits to sign the Wingspread Declaration, a document calling for action to reconnect people with nature. Read more »
Join Us Today >>Land Trust Alliance
Support the Land Trust Alliance and our mission to save the places people love by strengthening land conservation across America.
The Land Trust Alliance has earned the highest four-star rating by Charity Navigator, meaning it outperforms many environmental charities in fiscal responsibility. You can be confident your donation is used wisely to save land and create community.
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Posted: November 21, 2014 9:34   Go to blog
[SaveBartonCreekAssociation] Hays Water Pipeline Plan Falls ShortNovember 20, 2014 9:31


19 Nov 2014Austin American-StatesmanBy Sean Collins Walsh scwalsh@statesman.com
Regional Water Group Plan Runs Dry
The Hays County Commissioners Court on Tuesday defeated a proposal to  establish the Central Texas Water Development Corp., a governmental  entity that would have attempted to recruit regional actors in the  hopes of building a water pipeline to growing counties.
 After the 3-2 vote, County Judge Bert Cobb, who championed the measure, said he didn’t see the defeat coming and that he was  “disappointed” in the court.  “Politics is a contact sport,” he said. “Nobody has any solutions...


19 Nov 2014
Austin American-Statesman
By Sean Collins Walsh scwalsh@statesman.com

Regional Water Group Plan Runs Dry

The Hays County Commissioners Court on Tuesday defeated a proposal to  establish the Central Texas Water Development Corp., a governmental  entity that would have attempted to recruit regional actors in the  hopes of building a water pipeline to growing counties.

 After the 3-2 vote, County Judge Bert Cobb, who championed the measure, said he didn’t see the defeat coming and that he was  “disappointed” in the court.  “Politics is a contact sport,” he said. “Nobody has any solutions. They only have negativity.” Cobb singled out Commissioner  Will Conley, who gave a speech criticizing the plan before the vote. Conley said the task of developing water sources could be accomplished by an existing entity that has credibility in the Legislature and that the proposal lacked important details, such as where its initial funding would come from.   

 “I think it’s quite a fantasy to think you can create an organization within the next two months and that you can walk into the Legislature with any sense of credibility,”  Conley said. To Cobb’s criticism, Conley said he understands the judge is  “passionate” about the issue of water security.   “I think when he takes a deep breath and calms down, he’ll realize  that we’re not opposed to his goal,” he said. “We just want to be smart and strategic.”

Commissioners Debbie Gonzales Ingalsbe and Mark Jones also voted no, saying they didn’t have enough information about the proposal. Cobb said he hasn’t decided whether he would try to raise the issue again anytime soon.  Travis County and Leander were expected to join the initial board of the water development corporation. Following the Hays decision, the Travis County commissioners tabled the measure Tuesday, and the Leander City Council is expected to do the same Thursday.
The original goal for the corporation was to bring together counties and cities across the region to build a public pipeline carrying water from sparsely populated areas with ample supplies, said Pix Howell, a  consultant who helped create the proposal. But the group failed to recruit the water-rich jurisdictions — such as Bastrop, Lee and Burleson counties — and the goal shifted to starting a conversation  on Central Texas’ water needs, educating potential members about water opportunities and lobbying the Legislature.

 “What became apparent is everybody had a completely different idea of what was necessary,” said Howell, who received a $25,000 retainer from the county to develop the plan. “If you could identify how you put a regional system together, something that’s controlled by the public but can have lots of private investment, at least then there’s an  honest broker.”

Lee County Judge Paul Fischer said Tuesday that he “did not feel comfortable” with the proposed organization because he fears building a pipeline could result in over pumping as such counties as Hays, Travis and Williamson continue to grow and deplete their own water sources.  “We don’t mind sharing water, but we need to do it slowly,” Fischer said. “We could have 15 straws down there bringing the water up and shipping it out.”

 The Hays commissioners this year voted to buy water rights in Lee and Bastrop counties from the Austin firm Forestar, but so far there is no way to get that water to Hays County. Conley was the lone dissenting vote on that deal.

Tuesday’s defeat in Hays County comes two weeks after the San Antonio City Council approved a $3.4 billion private pipeline to carry water from Burleson County. Cobb said Monday that Hays County might  approach the San Antonio Water System about attaching to its pipeline, which goes through Hays County, to bring in the Forestar water.  “We don’t have to have a whole lot of gas; we can ride horses. But we’ve got to have water,” Cobb said in court Tuesday. “We have to provide certain things.”


Posted: November 20, 2014 9:31   Go to blog
CENTRAL TEXAS WATER TUG-OF-WARS November 20, 2014 9:16
#1 The Hays County/Forestar Agreement We have all heard "Whiskey is for drinking, and water is for fighting."This comes from the history of the Western states when water was so obviously the lifeblood of ranching and farming, and rules were few and far between. Water rules and laws are now in place, but water is still our region's lifeblood, and the water tug-of-wars continue.  CARD sponsored a "Water Crisis" Community Meeting on September 11th this year to give the big picture about water issues locally and across Texas, along with useful information for personal water use...
#1 The Hays County/Forestar Agreement 
We have all heard "Whiskey is for drinking, and water is for fighting."This comes from the history of the Western states when water was so obviously the lifeblood of ranching and farming, and rules were few and far between. Water rules and laws are now in place, but water is still our region's lifeblood, and the water tug-of-wars continue.
 
CARD sponsored a "Water Crisis" Community Meeting on September 11th this year to give the big picture about water issues locally and across Texas, along with useful information for personal water use. Feedback from the meeting indicated that people are eager to learn more about water issues, especially local issues. This is the first of a series of CARDtalks on topics that are current and relevant to our area.
 
The Hays County/Forestar Groundwater Reservation and Purchase Agreement
 
Hydrogeologists - who study underground water specifically - have known for many years that the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer that lies east of IH 35 in Burleson, Lee, Bastrop, Caldwell, and Gonzales counties, has a large amount of untapped groundwater. Private water marketers, anticipating a future desire for new sources of water in growing Central Texas, approached landowners in those counties and secured leases to pump groundwater. These leases would be subject only to reasonable regulation by the local groundwater conservation districts that issue permits for pumping.
 
Explosive growth is expected in our area, South Central Texas, over the next few decades. Population projections show this region passing 3 million inhabitants by 2020, and going over 4.3 million by 2050.* On April 24, 2013, the Hays County Commissioners Court embarked on an ambitious plan to secure "new water" to meet the future demands of growth. Hays County initially developed a "Request for Proposals" asking potential water suppliers to submit proposals for providing 25,000-50,000 acre-feet of water per year to Hays County. An acre-foot of water is 326,000 gallons. The only responder to the Hays County request was Forestar Real Estate, an Austin-based water marketer. Forestar had purchased water rights in Lee County about 65 miles east of Hays County and proposed to develop a well field to pump 45,000 acre-feet (14.6 billion gallons) of groundwater each year and sell that water to Hays County.
 
Hays County accepted the Forestar proposal and negotiated a Groundwater Reservation and Purchase Agreement that was approved by the Commissioners Court on Oct. 1, 2013. This agreement was subject to an opinion from the Texas Attorney General assuring Hays County that it had legal authority to proceed with the agreement. The AG declined to issue an opinion. However, the Hays Commissioners Court proceeded anyway, following the legal opinion of its staff attorney.
 
Meanwhile, the Bastrop/Lee County area Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District has permitted only 12,000 acre-feet (about 3.9 billion gallons) a year to Forestar. Lost Pines believes, based on its hydrologic studies, that any pumping by Forestar greater than the 12,000 acre-feet per year will deplete the aquifer over the long run. Forestar is now suing the District and its individual directors to get the full amount requested - 45,000 acre-feet per year.
 
The Hays-Forestar agreement, as finally amended and approved by the Commissioners Court on May 13, 2014 by a 4-1 vote, requires Hays County to pay Forestar $1,000,000 for year 2013 (already paid) and $400,000 in subsequent years to reserve permitted (12,000 acre-feet) and unpermitted (33,000 acre-feet) groundwater. The current agreement anticipates that the $400,000 reservation fee will be paid for five years or until pumping and purchase of water actually begins. The $400,000 reservation fee is just an option fee and does not reduce the cost of any water that Hays County may ultimately purchase.
 
Currently Hays County has no customers for this water, and the payment to Forestar is coming from general tax revenues, not from utility customers. This means that Hays County taxpayers will be paying two bills for water: one to Forestar (from taxes paid into the Hays County general fund) and one to their present water supplier or - if they don't have a water supplier - what they pay to build and maintain their private well or rainwater collection system. Therefore, Hays County taxpayers will see no benefit from the Forestar water reservation agreement.
 
What is essential to understand is that if Hays County, in some future year, actually gets the water, there would be a far greater additional price for delivering the water. The County, or some other entity, would have to build a large pipeline approximately 65 miles long to deliver the water to Hays County water customers. The cost of this pipeline would likely exceed $300 million for construction, plus additional and ongoing operating expenses.
 
In a separate but related exercise, Hays County Judge Bert Cobb has held a series of meetings with officials of other counties seeking partners in this Hays County water enterprise. He wants to create a "Utility Development Corporation" (UDC) in partnership with several other counties and develop a plan and agreement for utilization of this Hays County reserved water. So far, no other county or entity has agreed to join with Hays County to form the UDC. (There is yet another development - A recently-disclosed proposal on the November 18th Hays County Commissioners Court agenda would have allowed the creation of a "Central Texas Water Development Corporation." The proposal failed, 3-2.)
 
All of which makes this plan an expensive "wait and see" proposition for the Hays County Commissioners Court.
 
Hays County citizens should be aware that enterprises such as this could dramatically increase the cost of water and burden the water system's owners and customers with large long-term debt and operating costs. CARD believes that the Commissioners Court, in coordination with other area governments and water purveyors,should develop a Regional Water Plan that shows the public the real costs of such new water supplies and also shows whether the impacts it will have on the Hill Country and its aquifers are sustainable.
 
CARD also believes that any groundwater pumping in central Texas must be done on a sustainable basis. That means the amount of groundwater withdrawn from the aquifer does not exceed the amount of recharge of the aquifer based on the best science available.
 
 
*State Regional Water Plan for 2016, Region L
 
 
 
CARD Steering Committee 

Posted: November 20, 2014 9:16   Go to blog
Conservation News and Info from TLTCNovember 19, 2014 10:33
TLTC Hosts 3rd Annual Texas Land Trust Assembly

TLTC hosted its 3rd annual Texas Land Trust Assembly in Bastrop, Texas on November 12 and 13. This two day, land trust summit brings together the leaders from our 30 member organizations across the state for in depth discussion of issues and challenges impacting land trusts statewide. This year's meeting included planning for state advocacy at the Texas legislature for 2015, as well as discussions on data usage for our Conservation Lands Inventory, challenges to conservation easements, and progress on our statewide outreach initiative project...
TLTC Hosts 3rd Annual Texas Land Trust Assembly

TLTC hosted its 3rd annual Texas Land Trust Assembly in Bastrop, Texas on November 12 and 13. This two day, land trust summit brings together the leaders from our 30 member organizations across the state for in depth discussion of issues and challenges impacting land trusts statewide. This year's meeting included planning for state advocacy at the Texas legislature for 2015, as well as discussions on data usage for our Conservation Lands Inventory, challenges to conservation easements, and progress on our statewide outreach initiative project.  Many thanks to all of our member land trusts who attended this important event!

New Land Trust Position with GSA Now Open!
Green Spaces Alliance of South Texas in San Antonio is seeking to hire a new Land Conservation and Stewardship Manager. Key responsibilities include managing a portfolio of conservation easement and GSA-owned fee simple properties, spearheading land stewardship activities, developing and promoting landowner communications, developing and promoting education and outreach opportunities and events related to land conservation, identifying and pursuing funding opportunities and ensuring adherence to standards that maintain GSA’s accreditation by the Land Trust Accreditation Commission.  For more information on this position and how to apply visit the TLTC JOBS PAGE.

Conference Registration Early Bird Deadline is Dec 12
Register NOW and Save!!
On March 4th-6th, 2015 hundreds of conservation professionals, land trust volunteers, landowners and agency folks working on land and water conservation issues in Texas will travel to Austin to take part in the Texas Land Conservation Conference.  JOIN US!!
Registration is now open and our Schedule at a Glance is posted on our conference website. There will be a wide range of topics related to land and water conservation efforts in Texas.  Please visit the conference website to view planned session topics, register, find out about sponsorship opportunities, and view information about the event! www.texaslandconservationconference.org

Make an Annual Gift of Support to TLTC Today!
It's that time of year....please consider the Texas Land Trust Council in your year-end giving this holiday season. Join, make a donation or give a gift membership!! It is easy to do and you will feel GREAT knowing that you have done your part to support land trusts across the state of Texas!
Visit our website or click here to make an online gift TODAY!  

Copyright © 2014, Texas Land Trust Council, All rights reserved.
Posted: November 19, 2014 10:33   Go to blog
2015 Texas Land Conservation Conference - Networking Dinner Announced!November 19, 2014 10:12

Networking Dinner Announced!Join us for our 2015 Networking Dinner at Matt's El Rancho in South Austin on Thursday, March 5th! The Networking Dinner is complimentary for all full-conference attendees, and guest tickets can be purchased for $35.00.
Matt's El Rancho2613 South Lamar BlvdAustin, TX 78704Schedule At-a-Glance ReleasedCheck out our Schedule At-a-Glance to see session topics and general agenda timing.Register Now and SaveEarly Bird discounts will be gone before you know it...

TLTC 2015 Header

Networking Dinner Announced!

Join us for our 2015 Networking Dinner at Matt's El Rancho in South Austin on Thursday, March 5th! The Networking Dinner is complimentary for all full-conference attendees, and guest tickets can be purchased for $35.00.
Matt's El Rancho2613 South Lamar BlvdAustin, TX 78704

Schedule At-a-Glance Released

Check out our Schedule At-a-Glance to see session topics and general agenda timing.
Detailed Agenda

Register Now and Save

Early Bird discounts will be gone before you know it. Early Bird Deadline: December 12th, 2014

Click below to register today:

Register online


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Posted: November 19, 2014 10:12   Go to blog
TEXAS WATER SOLUTIONS 11/07/2014November 19, 2014 10:06
Next Steps for San Antonio’s Vista Ridge Project By Tyson Broad 

This blog was written with the assistance of Amy Hardberger, Assistant Professor of Law at St. Mary’s University Last week, the San Antonio City Council unanimously voted to move forward with the Vista Ridge Project that plans to bring 50,000 acre-feet of groundwater from Burleson County to the city. Because of our many concerns with this project, the vote was a disappointment, but last Thursday’s Council deliberation did stir some positives worth discussing...
Next Steps for San Antonio’s Vista Ridge Project By Tyson Broad 

This blog was written with the assistance of Amy Hardberger, Assistant Professor of Law at St. Mary’s University Last week, the San Antonio City Council unanimously voted to move forward with the Vista Ridge Project that plans to bring 50,000 acre-feet of groundwater from Burleson County to the city. Because of our many concerns with this project, the vote was a disappointment, but last Thursday’s Council deliberation did stir some positives worth discussing.

Edwards Aquifer Protection
Environmental groups have been publicly criticized for opposing the Vista Ridge project. Project supporters argue environmentalists should support the project reasoning the additional water will reduce pumping on the Edwards Aquifer. Indeed, it does seem that initially the water from Vista Ridge could help reduce pumping on the Edwards. But the San Antonio Water System (SAWS) has made no written commitment to reducing pumping from the Edwards once Vista Ridge comes on-line.
And what happens down the road?

Pumping 50,000 acre-feet from aquifers in Burleson County is not sustainable. Groundwater models have shown that this amount of pumping will result in over 300 feet of drawdown in water levels. San Antonio is not worried about this because the Vista Ridge partners are assuming the risk of groundwater cutbacks and San Antonio only has to pay for the volume of water actually delivered.
But San Antonio should be worried. SAWS assumes ownership of the pipeline to Burleson County in 30 years, as well as a right to renew the groundwater leases. Only, what happens if there is not enough water? San Antonio is relying on the water for growth. If that volume of water is not available after in the future– which it won’t be – San Antonio is going to return to fully pumping from the Edwards and seek yet another water supply costing billions of dollars.

Conservation and Land Use
Another aspect of this project that created concerns for environmentalists is that the influx of water could deter SAWS from continuing to maximize conservation efforts. Several council members asked SAWS President and CEO Robert Puente to pledge a continued commitment to a strong water conservation program. Mr. Puente assured them that as long as he was President, he would continue such a commitment. Mr. Puente also noted that the 2012 SAWS Water Management Plan (WMP) calls for 16,000 acre-feet of water supply to come from water conservation by 2020.

That sounds great, but as council members Ron Nirenberg and Shirley Gonzales noted, that is just a promise and we should rely on the city to make good on it. Indeed, vigilance over the SAWS Water Conservation Plan is critical. Why? Because 1) SAWS’s 2012 WMP makes no commitment to water conservation past 2020; and 2) the public perception of some is that SAWS has already exhausted its opportunity for water savings from conservation. Councilman Saldana colorfully noted this when he stated that SAWS has ‘cut to the bone on using that tool’.

Even though SAWS’ has made great strides on conservation, there is much more left to do. New water conservation programs have shifted from reducing indoor savings to reducing outdoor water use by offering landscape coupons and irrigation rebates and consultations. As outdoor water use accounts for up to 50% SAWS’ water summer usage, water savings from these programs can reap significant savings.   Demand-reduction programs need to continue and SAWS should commit to maintaining the amount it spends per customer on these programs.

In addition to SAWS’ President, Council also made commitments towards water conservation. One fact the Vista Ridge discussion highlighted was that all growth is not created equal and while SAWS is responsible for conservation programs, they can’t do everything. The city needs to manage growth to ensure the sustainability of existing water resources.

Specifically, Mayor Ivy Taylor expressed an interest in examining current land use ordinances to assist in water protection.   This is critical for two reasons. First, much of the new development in San Antonio is over the Edwards Aquifer Recharge zone. Not only do these new developments use more water, they threaten the recharge and water quality of the Edwards. Second, the landscaping of these new homes defines the size of its water footprint. Xericaped lawns without irrigation systems have a much different impact than lawns with large lots of irrigated turf grass. This is where the city can and should play a role. Limitations on the amount of turf, particularly in the front lawns, as well as requiring that irrigation systems can only be installed after-market with proper inspection would help control the water demands of new homes while still ensuring their appeal.

Buying water from Vista Ridge should mark the beginning of a public recommitment to water conservation and aquifer protection in San Antonio. SAWS, City Council, and the citizens of San Antonio should work together to put ordinances in place that redefine this commitment.

Posted: November 19, 2014 10:06   Go to blog
Water Symposium, Nov. 20th at Schreiner UniversityNovember 13, 2014 10:24

2014 Texas Water SymposiumBalancing Rural and Urban Water Needs:
How Local and Regional Planning Activities Ensure Long-Term Supplies
Thursday, November 20 from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm
Schreiner University, CACC River Room, 2100 San Antonio Hwy, Kerrville, TX 78028Download Flyer...

2014 Texas Water Symposium
Balancing Rural and Urban Water Needs:
How Local and Regional Planning Activities Ensure Long-Term Supplies
Thursday, November 20 from 7:00 pm to 8:30 pm
Schreiner University, CACC River Room, 2100 San Antonio Hwy, Kerrville, TX 78028

Posted: November 13, 2014 10:24   Go to blog
Our Desired Future Condition (Chihuahuan Rice?)November 12, 2014 10:19


Chihuahuan Rice
November 9, 2014
by Sharlene Leurig
Jeff Williams in a field of Teff grass on Fort Stockton's Clayton Williams Farms.
In mid-September, Sarah Wilson and I found ourselves standing in a rice field in West Texas. This was both an experimental crop and a political demonstration by Jeff Williams, whose family is the largest non-municipal groundwater owner in the state of Texas. Jeff's dad, Clayton Williams, Jr...


Chihuahuan Rice

November 9, 2014
by Sharlene Leurig

Jeff Williams in a field of Teff grass on Fort Stockton's Clayton Williams Farms.

In mid-September, Sarah Wilson and I found ourselves standing in a rice field in West Texas. This was both an experimental crop and a political demonstration by Jeff Williams, whose family is the largest non-municipal groundwater owner in the state of Texas. 
Jeff's dad, Clayton Williams, Jr., has been consolidating land in the Belding Draw since the 1970s, when farms across West Texas buckled as the price of natural gas soared and cotton slumped. Belding Draw is where the "big water" is, a natural bathtub where runoff from the Glass Mountains backs up against the chalky buttes along I-10. Even as alfalfa and cotton farming across Pecos County--a good piece of it on the Williams farm--dried up the springs and the irrigation wells at the aquifer's edge, the big water remained in the Belding Draw. 
Today, Williams holds permits for nearly 50,000 acre-feet of water in the Edwards-Trinity aquifer. That's enough to pump about 35 million gallons of water a day during growing season and still leave room to spare (that's about a third of a winter's day of water consumption in Austin).


 



Jeff, who returned to West Texas a few years ago to oversee the family enterprise, is a data-driven farmer. After years of operating at a net loss subsidized by the Williams family's oil and gas business, the farm is now turning a profit. Jeff rebalances its portfolio each year, replacing winter wheat with alfalfa to supply Florida horse farms and Teff grass for export to Ethiopian markets in Minnesota. 
What gets grown on the Williams farm changes with the prices in the commodity markets. But its biggest commodity, without question, is the water.

Jeff explained his dad's long play as he drove us past fields of Pima cotton: "The last 30 years he’s been buying this farmland and adding onto it whenever the farms became available, because he knew that at some point the water was going to become a very valuable commodity. It’s one of the reasons that he continued the farming even though he was losing quite a bit of money on most years, to keep the water and the water right because he was afraid that if he didn’t use the water, at some point they’d take it away." In 2009, Williams applied for a transfer permit to export his water across county lines in anticipation of a deal with Midland-Odessa, whose surface reservoirs were no longer as reliable as they were once thought.  

Williams' plan to export water instead of crops was rebuffed by the Middle Pecos Groundwater Conservation District in a permitting decision that is still grinding its way through the courts. The case is reminiscent of the court decision that secured pumping on the Williams' land more than 60 years ago, as many have observed, Jeff among them: "You know, he’s old school, so he’s still in the frame of Rule of Capture is Rule of Capture. His dad fought over it and now he’s having to fight over it." That court case, Middle Pecos Irrigation District v. Williams, et al., in which Clayton Williams, Sr. was one of more than a dozen defendants, affirmed the Rule of Capture, granting landowners the right to capture the groundwater beneath their property regardless of the effect on adjacent lands or streams. In the past half century the state Legislature has authorized the creation of groundwater districts to limit pumping through permits. Williams’ case hinges on his argument that the Middle Pecos district has overstepped its regulatory purview by prohibiting the export of water for which the district has already permitted production. 
 
Jeff Williams in his experimental field of rice.

As his father pursues his lawsuit against the district, Jeff has undertaken his own form of protest. On a corner of the the farm lined by neat rows of tens of thousands of pecan trees on a neighboring property, Jeff showed us a small plot of his latest crop—rice: "I thought it would be interesting to show I could grow rice in the Chihuahuan Desert, but I can’t sell water to people who really need it." Rice is an extremely water-intensive crop, even compared to pecans and alfalfa, requiring around 3 to 4 times as much water per acre. “It takes 5,000 gallons of water to make one 65-pound bale of alfalfa and roughly 175,000 per ton. And you know we’re shipping hay to Florida, to New Mexico and all over the state of Texas,” Jeff explained as we drove along an irrigation ditch at sundown. “Is it quite logical to grow high water use crops in the Chihuahuan Desert? No, probably not. But we have a perfect climate, the water is here. So what do you use it for? Do you let it sit in the ground or do you use it or [let it] possibly go out in a stream, or do you use it for a commercial purpose? And we’re using it for a commercial purpose.” 
To keep weeds at bay, rice demands 3 to 4 times the water of the other crops on the Clayton Williams Farms. Only a few acres had been dedicated to this experiment, with thousands more cultivating alfalfa, cotton and Teff bound for New Mexico, Florida and beyond.

 

Sarah and I had come to Fort Stockton to understand what the world looks like from the perspective of a groundwater owner intent on defending his private property. Texas is one of only two states in the country that governs groundwater under the Rule of Capture (the other, in a case of strange bedfellows, is California; Arizona did away with Rule of Capture in 1980). The recently reelected Chief Justice of the Texas Supreme Court, Nathan Hecht, made clear in 2012 when delivering the court’s unanimous opinion in Edwards Aquifer Authority v. McDaniel that groundwater, like oil and gas, is the property of the landowner before it is pumped, meaning that even reasonable regulations to limit pumping may require financial compensation for the value lost. Should Middle Pecos GCD’s permit denial be found to be a taking of Williams’ property, the compensation required may be substantial, easily reaching 8 figures.
Short of sweeping legislative reform to redefine groundwater as the property of the State of Texas (as surface water currently is defined, and as groundwater is defined in most Western states) or reallocation of groundwater as a defined share of a common pool (as in Arizona), our ability to manage water for the millions of Texans who depend on this shared resource will have to defer to the rights presently accorded groundwater owners.

Clayton Williams Farms is one of a few large farming operations consolidated from the hundreds that once grew alfalfa and vegetables in Pecos County.

 The purpose of Our Desired Future is to tell the human story of water in Texas at the beginning of the 21st century in a way that allows us to see beyond the biases and assumptions we each bring to the world. Producing this project is certainly forcing me to contend with many of my own. As we drove past irrigation pivots half a mile in length and stood in front of pumps out of which each minute poured 3,000 gallons of water, the truth of something Jeff said became tangible: “They gave us 40,000 plus acre-feet to irrigate with and they, when we asked for that water to export, they said no. The water is technically being exported anyway, just in the form of alfalfa.”
How do we contend with these realities--that for decades we have exported water in the form of cattle and crops and manufactured products, and yet we prevent the export of water in its liquid form from where it is stored to where it might be used? Can we reconcile this question—as some are attempting to do—by removing the regulatory barriers to exports without also reconciling the discord created by groundwater being both a private property right and a shared resource on which millions of Texans depend?
Since we visited Fort Stockton, the City of San Antonio has approved a deal with landowners northeast of Austin to import as much groundwater a year as the Williams family has sought to export to Midland-Odessa. It is one of the biggest groundwater export deals in the state, and the most expensive.  The coming Legislative session will see bills advanced to enable more groundwater production. Now is the time to ask, can we share more of our groundwater resources while also sustaining these resources for future generations? This is not a matter of rhetoric; I believe it is a question to which we must find our way to yes.
Our Desired Futureexists to provoke these questions through stories designed to be shared and used by anyone in their own community. As we move into the editing stage, we continue to fundraise for the videos, animation and graphic design that will make these stories as visually compelling as they are insightful. We are inviting the support of corporate sponsors who want to be part of catalyzing this thoughtful dialogue. If you know of a company who would like to be part of making the story of water in Texas one of generosity, cooperation and hope, please share!



Posted: November 12, 2014 10:19   Go to blog
Next Steps for San Antonio’s Vista Ridge ProjectNovember 12, 2014 10:00
 Texas Living Waters Project BlogNext Steps for San Antonio’s Vista Ridge ProjectBy Tyson Broad
November 07, 2014This blog was written with the assistance of Amy Hardberger, Assistant Professor of Law at St. Mary’s University

Last week, the San Antonio City Council unanimously voted to move forward with the Vista Ridge Project that plans to bring 50,000 acre-feet of groundwater from Burleson County to the city. Because of our many concerns with this project, the vote was a disappointment, but last Thursday’s Council deliberation did stir some positives worth discussing...

 Texas Living Waters Project Blog

Next Steps for San Antonio’s Vista Ridge Project

By
November 07, 2014
This blog was written with the assistance of Amy Hardberger, Assistant Professor of Law at St. Mary’s University

Last week, the San Antonio City Council unanimously voted to move forward with the Vista Ridge Project that plans to bring 50,000 acre-feet of groundwater from Burleson County to the city. Because of our many concerns with this project, the vote was a disappointment, but last Thursday’s Council deliberation did stir some positives worth discussing.

Edwards Aquifer Protection

Environmental groups have been publicly criticized for opposing the Vista Ridge project. Project supporters argue environmentalists should support the project reasoning the additional water will reduce pumping on the Edwards Aquifer. Indeed, it does seem that initially the water from Vista Ridge could help reduce pumping on the Edwards. But the San Antonio Water System (SAWS) has made no written commitment to reducing pumping from the Edwards once Vista Ridge comes on-line.

And what happens down the road?

Pumping 50,000 acre-feet from aquifers in Burleson County is not sustainable. Groundwater models have shown that this amount of pumping will result in over 300 feet of drawdown in water levels. San Antonio is not worried about this because the Vista Ridge partners are assuming the risk of groundwater cutbacks and San Antonio only has to pay for the volume of water actually delivered.

But San Antonio should be worried. SAWS assumes ownership of the pipeline to Burleson County in 30 years, as well as a right to renew the groundwater leases. Only, what happens if there is not enough water? San Antonio is relying on the water for growth. If that volume of water is not available after in the future– which it won’t be – San Antonio is going to return to fully pumping from the Edwards and seek yet another water supply costing billions of dollars.

Conservation and Land Use

Another aspect of this project that created concerns for environmentalists is that the influx of water could deter SAWS from continuing to maximize conservation efforts. Several council members asked SAWS President and CEO Robert Puente to pledge a continued commitment to a strong water conservation program. Mr. Puente assured them that as long as he was President, he would continue such a commitment. Mr. Puente also noted that the 2012 SAWS Water Management Plan (WMP) calls for 16,000 acre-feet of water supply to come from water conservation by 2020.

That sounds great, but as council members Ron Nirenberg and Shirley Gonzales noted, that is just a promise and we should rely on the city to make good on it. Indeed, vigilance over the SAWS Water Conservation Plan is critical. Why? Because 1) SAWS’s 2012 WMP makes no commitment to water conservation past 2020; and 2) the public perception of some is that SAWS has already exhausted its opportunity for water savings from conservation. Councilman Saldana colorfully noted this when he stated that SAWS has ‘cut to the bone on using that tool’.

Even though SAWS’ has made great strides on conservation, there is much more left to do. New water conservation programs have shifted from reducing indoor savings to reducing outdoor water use by offering landscape coupons and irrigation rebates and consultations. As outdoor water use accounts for up to 50% SAWS’ water summer usage, water savings from these programs can reap significant savings.   Demand-reduction programs need to continue and SAWS should commit to maintaining the amount it spends per customer on these programs.

In addition to SAWS’ President, Council also made commitments towards water conservation. One fact the Vista Ridge discussion highlighted was that all growth is not created equal and while SAWS is responsible for conservation programs, they can’t do everything. The city needs to manage growth to ensure the sustainability of existing water resources.

Specifically, Mayor Ivy Taylor expressed an interest in examining current land use ordinances to assist in water protection.   This is critical for two reasons. First, much of the new development in San Antonio is over the Edwards Aquifer Recharge zone. Not only do these new developments use more water, they threaten the recharge and water quality of the Edwards. Second, the landscaping of these new homes defines the size of its water footprint. Xericaped lawns without irrigation systems have a much different impact than lawns with large lots of irrigated turf grass. This is where the city can and should play a role. Limitations on the amount of turf, particularly in the front lawns, as well as requiring that irrigation systems can only be installed after-market with proper inspection would help control the water demands of new homes while still ensuring their appeal.

Buying water from Vista Ridge should mark the beginning of a public recommitment to water conservation and aquifer protection in San Antonio. SAWS, City Council, and the citizens of San Antonio should work together to put ordinances in place that redefine this commitment.
Posted: November 12, 2014 10:00   Go to blog
CARDtalk - Save Old BaldyNovember 07, 2014 11:57


Save Old Baldy 
As it says on CARD's website, "Our region's true wealth lies in its unique character and natural beauty." Protecting those virtues is a major part of CARD's mission.
One of the unique characteristics of the Wimberley area is "Old Baldy," that charming and knobby hill that rises above the northwest corner of town. Generations of Wimberley and Woodcreek folks, especially the young and the young-thinking, have hiked up its steep sides to look out over the valley and the town below...


Save Old Baldy 

As it says on CARD's website, "Our region's true wealth lies in its unique character and natural beauty." Protecting those virtues is a major part of CARD's mission.

One of the unique characteristics of the Wimberley area is "Old Baldy," that charming and knobby hill that rises above the northwest corner of town. Generations of Wimberley and Woodcreek folks, especially the young and the young-thinking, have hiked up its steep sides to look out over the valley and the town below. Some have gone up just to go, some to look, some to picnic and explore and even to hear music and to dance. We know a youthful senior who regularly climbs its steep stairs for exercise. And no doubt many a local person had a first kiss at Old Baldy's summit. Go to www.saveoldbaldy.org to read nostalgic stories and see some great old family photos.

So it should be no surprise that CARD supports the efforts to Save Old Baldy. In fact, we are proud to point out that several members of the CARD Steering Committee volunteered for the hurriedly-formed Save Old Baldy Foundation.

Now that saving Old Baldy is so close, we encourage everyone to pitch in and make it a reality. Go to the website to learn how to contribute. Get the details on the Baldyfest music celebration, noon-8 p.m. Saturday Nov. 8 in the party area behind the Cypress Creek Café, 320 Wimberley Square.

You may have gotten the impression that Old Baldy was already saved. Not yet. When the previous owners put the cherished hill up for sale, a local couple with decades of Wimberley and Old Baldy connections, Andrew and Lin Weber, feared the iconic landmark would be sold to - well, to who knows what? It could be lost forever to those who enjoy climbing those 218 steep limestone steps to the top, and to those who just like knowing it's there, safe and unspoiled.

Taking a leap of faith higher than Old Baldy, the Webers quickly put together the 


Save Old Baldy Foundation, which borrowed $170,000 and bought the property. They hoped others who shared their love of Wimberley would join in. And to a great degree, they have. The Save Old Baldy Foundation so far has raised $43,000.

The Mayor and City Council of Wimberley quickly agreed to buy Old Baldy, but the city could afford less than half the cost.

"The city has a six-month lease," says Mayor Steve Thurber. "At the end of that lease, we have given an offer to buy it for $75,000." The mayor says the city plans only minor improvements, and will keep Old Baldy the quiet little adventure it has been for decades, available for folks to discover and explore.

But time is running out. The six-month lease ends early in 2015. In order for the City to buy Old Baldy, the Foundation must raise the additional $52,000 before the end of January. What can you do? Visit www.saveoldbaldy.org, go enjoy Baldyfest this Saturday, climb the hill, and chip in with a few dollars. Let's make sure Old Baldy continues to belong to all of Wimberley Valley for decades to come.

CARD Steering Committee  
Posted: November 07, 2014 11:57   Go to blog
NASA Bombshell: Global Groundwater Crisis Threatens Our Food Supplies and Our SecurityNovember 05, 2014 9:29


Global groundwater is depleting at a much faster rate than nature’s ability to replenish it. Major areas affected are the U.S. High Plains, California’s Central Valley, China, and India, as well as other places. Published: November 2, 2014 | Authors: Joe Romm | Climate Progress | News Report An alarming satellite-based analysis from NASA finds that the world is depleting groundwater — the water stored unground in soil and aquifers — at an unprecedented rate...


Global groundwater is depleting at a much faster rate than nature’s ability to replenish it. Major areas affected are the U.S. High Plains, California’s Central Valley, China, and India, as well as other places.

An alarming satellite-based analysis from NASA finds that the world is depleting groundwater — the water stored unground in soil and aquifers — at an unprecedented rate.
A new Nature Climate Change piece, “The global groundwater crisis,” by James Famiglietti, a leading hydrologist at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory, warns that “most of the major aquifers in the world’s arid and semi-arid zones, that is, in the dry parts of the world that rely most heavily on groundwater, are experiencing rapid rates of groundwater depletion.”

The groundwater at some of the world’s largest aquifers — in the U.S. High Plains, California’s Central Valley, China, India, and elsewhere — is being pumped out “at far greater rates than it can be naturally replenished.”
The most worrisome fact: “nearly all of these underlie the world’s great agricultural regions and are primarily responsible for their high productivity.”
And this is doubly concerning in our age of unrestricted carbon pollution because it is precisely these semiarid regions that are projected to see drops in precipitation and/or soil moisture, which will sharply boost the chances of civilization-threatening megadroughts and Dust-Bowlification.
As these increasingly drought-prone global bread-baskets lose their easily accessible ground-water too, we end up with a death spiral: “Moreover, because the natural human response to drought is to pump more groundwater continued groundwater depletion will very likely accelerate mid-latitude drying, a problem that will be exacerbated by significant population growth in the same regions.”
So this is very much a crisis, albeit an under-reported one. But why is NASA the one sounding the alarm? How has the space agency been able to study what happens underground? The answer is that NASA’s Gravity Recovery and Climate Experiment (GRACE) satellite mission can track the earth’s mass over space and time — and large changes in the amount of water stored underground cause an observable change in mass.
Here is California’s groundwater depletion over the last three years as observed by GRACE:


NASA: “The ongoing California drought is evident in these maps of dry season (Sept–Nov) total water storage anomalies (in millimeter equivalent water height; anomalies with respect to 2005–2010). California’s Sacramento and San Joaquin river basins have lost roughly 15 km3 of total water per year since 2011 — more water than all 38 million Californians use for domestic and municipal supplies annually — over half of which is due to groundwater pumping in the Central Valley.”
Certainly, the combined threat of mega-drought and groundwater depletion in the U.S. breadbaskets should be cause for concern and action by itself.
But we should also worry about what is happening around the globe, if for no other reason than it inevitably affects our security. As I wrote last year, “Warming-Fueled Drought Helped Spark Syria’s Civil War.”
Dr. Famiglietti explains the risk:
Further declines in groundwater availability may well trigger more civil uprising and international violent conflict in the already water-stressed regions of the world, and new conflict in others. From North Africa to the Middle East to South Asia, regions where it is already common to drill over 2 km [kilometers] to reach groundwater, it is highly likely that disappearing groundwater could act as a flashpoint for conflict.
Outside of this country, NASA has observed aquifer declines in “the North China Plain, Australia’s Canning Basin, the Northwest Sahara Aquifer System, the Guarani Aquifer in South America … and the aquifers beneath northwestern India and the Middle East.”
GroundwaterDepletion
Water storage declines (mm equivalent water height) in several of the world’s major aquifers.
Famiglietti says that groundwater “acts as the key strategic reserve in times of drought, in particular during prolonged events,” such as we’re seeing in the West, Brazil, and Australia:
Like money in the bank, groundwater sustains societies through the lean times of little incoming rain and snow. Hence, without a sustainable groundwater reserve, global water security is at far greater risk than is currently recognized.
Yes, we can stave off bankruptcy a little longer despite our unsustainable lifestyle by taking money from our children’s bank accounts. As we reported last year, we’re taking $7.3 trillion a year in natural capital — arable land, potable water, livable climate, and so on — from our children without paying for it. In short, humanity has constructed the grandest of Ponzi schemes, whereby current generations have figured out how to live off the wealth of future generations.


Posted: November 05, 2014 9:29   Go to blog
Tell us your thoughts about the Hill CountryNovember 01, 2014 22:45
Dear Hill Country Alliance Supporter,

HCA is interested in learning how you feel about the challenges facing the Texas Hill Country. Please take two minutes to fill out a brief public opinion survey. Your response would be greatly appreciated...
Dear Hill Country Alliance Supporter,

HCA is interested in learning how you feel about the challenges facing the Texas Hill Country. Please take two minutes to fill out a brief public opinion survey. Your response would be greatly appreciated.

As an incentive for completing the survey, you will have the opportunity to enter your name into a drawing to receive a free two-night stay at the Cool River Cabin, a beautiful, quiet and peaceful retreat located on the Native American Seed farm along the banks of the Llano River, outside the town of Junction. This offer is valued at approximately $590.00. For more information about the Cool River Cabin please follow this link: Cool River Cabin

Follow this link to take the survey: Hill Country Alliance 2014 Survey. *In order to be eligible for the drawing, please complete the survey before the end of the day, Monday, November 10th.

Thank you for your participation. Please forward the above survey link to any other interested individuals. We appreciate all the feedback we can get!

Please note: All of your contact information and responses will remain anonymous and we will not forward any of your information to other organizations.
Posted: November 01, 2014 22:45   Go to blog
GEAA - Weekend UpdateNovember 01, 2014 9:05

Dear GEAA Members and Friends,

Despite our best efforts to slow the deal down, request due diligence, and hold SAWS to their promises, the San Antonio City Council voted yesterday to approve the SAWS Vista Ridge Contract.  You can read more here.  Given that this project will come in from the northeast of San Antonio, whereas the expansion of SAWS brackish water desal project will come in from the south, we suspect that rapid development of the Edwards Aquifer watershed will ensue...

Dear GEAA Members and Friends,

Despite our best efforts to slow the deal down, request due diligence, and hold SAWS to their promises, the San Antonio City Council voted yesterday to approve the SAWS Vista Ridge Contract.  You can read more here.  Given that this project will come in from the northeast of San Antonio, whereas the expansion of SAWS brackish water desal project will come in from the south, we suspect that rapid development of the Edwards Aquifer watershed will ensue.  


GEAA’s Board President, Ron Green and I met with SAWS Board members and staff this past Wednesday to discuss how we can ensure that the 160,000 new homes that will be supplied by the Vista Ridge pipeline will not be located over the Edwards Watershed.  You can view our presentation here.  We will keep working with SAWS and City Council to mitigate impacts to low income ratepayers, water conservation, and the Edwards Aquifer watersheds as the deal progresses.  Stay tuned for more.

Last night, GEAA joined a full house at the TCEQ hearing on a wastewater permit for The Reserve at Fair Oaks, a new housing development planned to go in over the Edwards Aquifer watershed.  Our comments were well received, and we were impressed with the efforts of our friends from Fair Oaks Ranch to insist that a sewage treatment plant proposed to be sited 600’ from the Contributing Zone and a mile upstream of the Cibolo Creek will not pollute the Trinity and Edwards Aquifers.  Stay tuned for more on this issue.

Join us this Sunday when GEAA’s Community Solutions fellow, Rose Wamalwa, will present


Have questions about how to vote in upcoming Austin elections?  Visit the Austin Eco Network Election Navigator to learn who are the greenest candidates.

The San Marcos River Foundation will have a benefit screening of Yakona, a beautiful film about the San Marcos River, on Saturday, November 8th at 7 p.m. at the Price Center in San Marcos (222 W. San Antonio St.)  Admission $10/Adult $5/Children includes free popcorn. 

Yakona has now been shown at many film festivals around the U.S. and Canada, and it has won a pile of awards at the festivals.  This is your chance to see this beautiful movie on a big screen. Proceeds from tickets sales will be matched 50% by a grant from Kirk Mitchell.
Wishing everyone a happy Halloween, and a great weekend!

Annalisa Peace
Executive Director
Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance

You can always keep up with interesting water news on GEAA's Face Book page
and, you can donate on-line or mail contributions to support GEAA to PO Box 15618, San Antonio, Texas 78212
Posted: November 01, 2014 9:05   Go to blog
Ceres Newsletter: New Report Shows Insurers Unprepared to Address Climate RiskOctober 27, 2014 11:17
Ceres Newsletter -
October 2014


New Report Shows Insurers Unprepared to Address Climate Risk
Though insurers are on the front line of climate risks, many insurance companies are not prepared to address climate risks and opportunities...
Ceres Newsletter -
October 2014



New Report Shows Insurers Unprepared to Address Climate Risk
Hurricane Sandy Damage 1Though insurers are on the front line of climate risks, many insurance companies are not prepared to address climate risks and opportunities. Insurer Climate Risk Disclosure Survey Report & Scorecard: 2014 Findings & Recommendations, a new report from Ceres, ranks property & casualty, health and life & annuity insurers on a half-dozen climate related indicators, using a four-tier scoring system, with "Leading," "Developing," "Beginning" and "Minimal" grades.
The report found strong leadership among fewer than a dozen companies, with 276 of the 330 companies receiving "Beginning" or "Minimal" ratings.
"As key regulators of this sector, we strongly encourage insurance industry leaders and investors who own these companies to take this challenge far more seriously," said Washington Insurance Commissioner Mike Kreidler, who wrote the report foreword and chairs the NAIC's Climate Change and Global Warming Working Group. "The insurance industry is uniquely positioned as the bearer of risk to make adjustments now to lessen dramatic impacts we know are coming. This is not a partisan issue, it's a financial solvency issue and a consumer protection issue."
Insurer Climate Risk Disclosure Survey Report & Scorecard: 2014 Findings & Recommendations also includes recommendations for insurance companies and regulators.
Learn more.
Download the report.
Businesses and Investors Come Together to Support Global Climate Action During NYC Climate Week Climate March NYCLast month's NYC Climate Week and the UN Climate Summit garnered global attention. More than ever before, the business community was loud and clear about the urgency for climate action, making strong commitments to reduce their own impact while advocating for strong national and global policies to tackle climate change.
The actions and events at Climate Week highlighted the urgency needed to limit global temperature increases and avoid catastrophic climate change and that businesses, investors, and policymakers are ready to seize the opportunities presented by climate risk.
Ceres will be building on the momentum of Climate week to mobilize even more business leadership in the run up to the climate negotiations taking place in Paris next year.
Network Highlights
Company Network
Coca-Cola's 2013/2014 Sustainability Report, prepared in conformance with the GRI G4 guidelines, describes a new goal of reducing the carbon footprint of the "drink in your hand" by 25 percent by 2020. Recognizing that only 10 percent of the footprint is connected to its own manufacturing processes, Coca-Cola is finalizing the development of metrics and processes to use in collaboration with its suppliers to reduce emissions throughout the beverage value chain, from the supply of raw ingredients to the packaging, distribution, and refrigeration of Coca-Cola products. PepsiCo recently demonstrated the strength of its commitment to address climate change when it became the largest U.S.-based food and beverage company to sign the Ceres Climate Declaration. In conjunction with the release of its 2013 Sustainability Report , PepsiCo announced an additional climate mitigation goal focused on hydrofluorocarbons (HFCs), a chemical coolant that is a highly potent greenhouse gas. By 2020, PepsiCo will ensure that all future point-of-sale equipment (coolers, vending machines and fountain dispensers) purchased in the United States will be HFC-free, consistent with its existing international practice of ensuring that all new equipment uses 100 percent HFC-free insulation.
Learn more about the Ceres Company Network
Business for Innovative Climate & Energy Policy (BICEP)
Climate Declaration Reaches 1,000 business signatories
Business giants PepsiCo and Kellogg's signed onto Ceres' Climate Declaration, a corporate call to action for strong climate policies that now has more than 1,000 company signatories. Check out the new Climate Declaration website launched during climate week, showcasing how companies are going beyond signing the Climate Declaration to reduce their own climate impacts and advocating for national action to tackle climate change.Kellogg Company and Nestlé Join BICEP
We are excited to announce two new members, Kellogg Company and Nestlé, have joined BICEP to advocate for innovative climate and clean energy policies.
Please join us in welcoming our newest members!
Learn more about BICEP

Investor Network on Climate Risk (INCR)
Welcome to Three New INCR Members
We are excited to announce three new asset owners have joined our network, McKnight Foundation, The University of California and the Episcopal Church Pension Fund. Please join us in welcoming our newest members!
Investors Call for Action on Climate Change
Nearly 350 global investors managing over $24 trillion in assets called on world leaders to adopt strong climate polices to accelerate global clean energy investments. The Global Investor Statement, developed and led through a collaboration between INCR and investor networks around the world, calls for a meaningful price on carbon and an end to fossil fuel subsidies, and highlights the key role of investors in financing solutions to climate change.
Learn more about INCR
Posted: October 27, 2014 11:17   Go to blog
Register Now for the2014 Texas Hill Country Water Summit on December 5th October 24, 2014 10:14
Texas Hill Country Water Summit Promoting awareness of the precious water resources of the Texas Hill Country. Discussion of strategies for short and long term challenges.
Click here for the Flyer...
Click here for the Agenda...
Friday, December 5, 2014, 8 AM to 5 PM
GVTC Auditorium
36101 FM 3159
Smithson Valley, TX 78070
$25.00 Registration fee, including lunch.
Registration deadline is November 21, 2014. Seating is limited.
Registration fees are non-refundable...

http://guadalupebasincoalition.org/thcwatersummitflyer.pdfTexas Hill Country Water Summit

Promoting awareness of the precious water resources of the Texas Hill Country. Discussion of strategies for short and long term challenges.
Click here for the Flyer...
Click here for the Agenda...
Friday, December 5, 2014, 8 AM to 5 PM
GVTC Auditorium
36101 FM 3159
Smithson Valley, TX 78070
$25.00 Registration fee, including lunch.
Registration deadline is November 21, 2014. Seating is limited.
Registration fees are non-refundable.

Posted: October 24, 2014 10:14   Go to blog
Coalition builds deal to buy, preserve 1,500 acres near famed bat caveOctober 21, 2014 18:03
By Drew Joseph October 9, 2014 | Updated: October 10, 2014 1:56pmBilly Calzada / San Antonio Express-News  SAN ANTONIO — After more than a year of cobbling together a deal, a group of public officials and private organizations will buy 1,500 acres near Bracken Cave, the seasonal home for millions of bats, and prevent any future development there, officials said.

Galo Properties has agreed to sell the land for $20.5 million, said San Antonio Councilman Ron Nirenberg, who has been spearheading the effort...

October 9, 2014 | Updated: October 10, 2014 1:56pm
Billy Calzada / San Antonio Express-News
 
SAN ANTONIO — After more than a year of cobbling together a deal, a group of public officials and private organizations will buy 1,500 acres near Bracken Cave, the seasonal home for millions of bats, and prevent any future development there, officials said.

Galo Properties has agreed to sell the land for $20.5 million, said San Antonio Councilman Ron Nirenberg, who has been spearheading the effort. More than $15 million has been lined up so far, although final approval still is needed for some of the money.

“It just took persistence, because when people realized what this was all about, it was just a matter of figuring out how we could pool our resources,” Nirenberg said.

The property, when combined with an adjacent parcel north of San Antonio purchased through a similar deal in 2011, creates about 2,800 acres of land preserved in the past three years that supporters of the deal say will protect the bats, their cave, endangered golden-cheeked warblers and San Antonio's water supply.

The funding for the new deal comes in part from Bat Conservation International and the Nature Conservancy, which will jointly own and manage the property and together have raised $5 million.

The City Council will vote Thursday to allocate $5 million from the city's aquifer protection fund for the property, which is in the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone. That money, known as Prop. 1 funding, comes from a 1/8th-cent sales tax approved by voters.

Nirenberg, who represents a Northwest Side district, said he's confident the council will approve the funding.

And a developer, Forestar Group, is putting in $5 million in return for credits that will allow it to have denser development elsewhere or that it can sell to other developers.

BCI, which owns Bracken Cave, and the conservancy are responsible for raising the rest of the money. The conservancy also took out a loan so the group could finalize the deal, which is expected to close on Halloween.

Andrew Walker, executive director of BCI, said the coalition was not taking anything for granted before all the money was in place. But he added that “it feels really good.”

The property sits just south of Bracken Cave, where millions of female bats come from Mexico every spring to give birth and rear their pups before flying south in the fall.

Negotiations over the land, which is in unincorporated Comal County and in San Antonio's extraterritorial jurisdiction, have become enmeshed with a larger discussion about how to balance conservation as the region grows.

Galo had proposed building a subdivision with more than 2,500 homes on the parcel.

Opponents of development argued the property is a vital foraging area for young bats learning to fly and that the cave itself is particularly vulnerable because it serves as a nursery.

They also raised concerns about the possible consequences of a new residential development under the flight path of so many bats, saying potential rabies cases could lead people to turn against the bats and bat conservation generally.

Supporters of development have pointed out that bats and people coexist in other places and argued that BCI's estimate that more than 10 million bats use the cave — the group says it's the largest colony in the world — could be overstated.

Besides voting whether to spend the $5 million in Prop. 1 funding at its meeting Thursday, the City Council would have to approve measures related to Forestar's contribution.

Pending the council vote, Forestar will get 86 acres worth of impervious cover credits in exchange for its $5 million, city documents show. Up to half of those could be used at Forestar's Cibolo Canyons development, allowing for denser building there.

The San Antonio Water System also has to approve the transfer of the impervious cover credits.
Neither Galo nor Forestar responded to requests for comment.

Other agencies that have committed or intend to give to the conservancy to help it complete the purchase of the land include Bexar County, the Edwards Aquifer Authority and the U.S. Army.
Bexar County and the EAA are expected to contribute $500,000 each, while the Army will provide about $100,000, officials said.

The Army's interest lies not with the bats, but with birds. It's concerned development in the area could push the endangered warblers to Camp Bullis, making it harder to use it for training.

In 2011, Bexar County spent $5 million to buy more than 1,200 acres adjacent to the property now in question to create a preserve for the warblers. The Army pitched in $2 million, and Forestar also was involved.

The latest deal to buy the 1,500 acres from Galo almost fell through several times, most notably when a Dallas-based land investment manager, Stratford Land, announced it had plans to buy the land in December 2013. But it backed out for unexplained reasons.

Throughout the process, proposals to either buy a portion of the property or try to negotiate a deal so development would be limited were discussed, especially because it was taking so long to get money in line for the whole parcel.

But people involved with the purchase said the deal to buy the land reflected what can happen when different groups have the same goal.

“This is just a terrific example of partners coming together, working hard on a very complicated conservation deal,” said Laura Huffman, state director of the Nature Conservancy, noting that the land was too expensive for any one group to buy.

Nirenberg added that he hopes the purchase will be a model for addressing regional challenges.
“A regionally collaborative solution ... what a great story to tell for ... the state of Texas,” he said.

djoseph@express-news.net
Posted: October 21, 2014 18:03   Go to blog
Place your bid to help Hill Country Schools promote conservationOctober 21, 2014 17:53

Join us this Saturday for the 5th Annual Rainwater Revival, 10:00am to 4:00pm in Dripping Springs.
The 5th Annual Rainwater Revival is almost here! Join us this Saturday for a full day of education, entertainment and celebration.The Rainwater Revival is a day long edu-fest where you can learn all about rainwater harvesting and water conservation from expert speakers, get advice and services from knowledgeable exhibitors, enjoy local treats and live music, and let the little ones create and learn at the Raindrop Stop...

Join us this Saturday for the 5th Annual Rainwater Revival, 10:00am to 4:00pm in Dripping Springs.

The 5th Annual Rainwater Revival is almost here! Join us this Saturday for a full day of education, entertainment and celebration.
The Rainwater Revival is a day long edu-fest where you can learn all about rainwater harvesting and water conservation from expert speakers, get advice and services from knowledgeable exhibitors, enjoy local treats and live music, and let the little ones create and learn at the Raindrop Stop.
Saturday's Rainwater Revival is also your last opportunity to view and bid on your favorite custom-painted rain barrels in this year's Rain Barrel Art Auction. Bidding has already begun at www.rainbarrelauction.com. Proceeds from the auction will fund grants for Hill Country Schools to be used for rainwater harvesting projects and water conservation education. You can also make a donation toward this worthy cause by visiting the auction site.
The Rainwater Revival will be on come rain or shine. We hope to see you there!
Check out the beautiful barrels from this year's Rain Barrel Art Auction: Bid now!
                
Posted: October 21, 2014 17:53   Go to blog
Texas Sees Significant Decline in Rural Land | The Texas Tribune October 17, 2014 10:33

Texas Sees Significant Decline in Rural Landby Marcos Vanetta and Neena SatijaOctober 3, 2014

The vast majority of Texas land — 83 percent — is part of a farm, ranch or forest. But Texas is losing such rural land more than any other state, in large part because of the exploding growth of metropolitan areas, according to newly released data...

Texas Sees Significant Decline in Rural Land



The vast majority of Texas land — 83 percent — is part of a farm, ranch or forest. But Texas is losing such rural land more than any other state, in large part because of the exploding growth of metropolitan areas, according to newly released data. 
Scientists say that has serious implications for Texas' water supply because such acreage — known as "working lands" or "open space" lands — helps the state retain water resources by letting rain infiltrate the ground and circulate into aquifers. 
The map below shows the results of the latest Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources survey on land trends, which is performed every five years. According to the survey, Texas lost about 1 million acres of open space lands between 1997 and 2012. Click on a county in the map below to see how its open space acreage has changed. 


A majority of the land loss happened in the growing urban areas around Austin, San Antonio, Dallas and Houston. 
“Those lands are basically providing a public benefit in terms of water storage” and aquifer recharge, said Roel Lopez, director of the A&M institute and a co-author of the survey. “A good pastureland is like a sponge, versus a parking lot, which is actually like a rock. That rain just runs off, and it’s hard to capture it.”
At the same time, the market value of land is increasing in almost every Texas county, but it’s increasing the most in the booming metropolitan areas. Travis County, for example, lost almost a quarter of its open space while land gained an average of $8,297 per acre in value between 1997 and 2012. Click on a county in the map below to see the changes in market value. 

 Change in Market Value

In Texas, where more than 95 percent of land is privately owned, there are unique challenges for the conservation of open space lands. As land gets more expensive, those who own open spaces will have more of an incentive to sell their acres to developers. And governments trying to conserve land by buying up open spaces will have to spend more money to do so. 
Disclosure: Texas A&M University is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.
 
Posted: October 17, 2014 10:33   Go to blog
October 2014 Aquifer Bulletin Now AvailableOctober 16, 2014 13:15
The October 2014 Aquifer Bulletin is now available.   Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District 
staff have collaborated to put together a wide range 
of articles dealing with hot topics these days.
Topics include: 
Summer Groundwater Roller CoasterDiscussion of unusual in-and-out of drought declarations this summer.Permitting SummarySummary of Mar-Sept 2014 permits.From the GM’s DeskDiscussion of Legislative groundwater activity and possible impact of proposed bills.Wells & Seller’s Disclosure NoticeChanges made to inform buyers, sellers, and realtors for properties with wells.Updated Hydro ZonesA new look at all areas that influence the Barton Springs segment of the Edwards...
The October 2014 Aquifer Bulletin is now available.   
Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District 
staff have collaborated to put together a wide range 
of articles dealing with hot topics these days.

Topics include: 
Summer Groundwater Roller Coaster
Discussion of unusual in-and-out of drought declarations this summer.
Permitting Summary
Summary of Mar-Sept 2014 permits.
From the GM’s Desk
Discussion of Legislative groundwater activity and possible impact of proposed bills.
Wells & Seller’s Disclosure Notice
Changes made to inform buyers, sellers, and realtors for properties with wells.
Updated Hydro Zones
A new look at all areas that influence the Barton Springs segment of the Edwards.
Traces of the Past
A historic account of an early dye trace.
Conservation Rate Structures
A look at water rates to encourage conservation.
Recent Well Drilling Activity
A look at trends in the District and Travis Counties
Precinct 2 Director Election Information
Links to information about election day and early voting locations

Posted: October 16, 2014 13:15   Go to blog
Valuing Every Drop: Join Ceres in Protecting Scarce Water ResourcesOctober 16, 2014 10:44
Our Work
Visit the Ceres website to learn more about our work Valuing Every Drop.

Ceres' water initiatives focus on three key sectors - water utilities, oil and gas, and agriculture. Together, these sectors are responsible for more than 90% of water consumption in the United States...
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Our Work
Visit the Ceres website to learn more about our work Valuing Every Drop.

Ceres' water initiatives focus on three key sectors - water utilities, oil and gas, and agriculture. Together, these sectors are responsible for more than 90% of water consumption in the United States.
Press & Media
Ceres 25th Anniversary Story: Getting Smarter About Water Use, Ceres

Interview: Q&A with Sharlene Leurig on financing water conservation, The Texas Tribune
Blog Post: The Quest for Sustainable Corn in Iowa, National Geographic
Video: Ceres' Barton Discusses Water, Climate Risks Facing U.S. Corn Sector, E&E TV
Blog Post: Does Water Conservation Have to Be the Enemy of Financial Stability, National Geographic
Article: Hydraulic Fracturing, Lessons from the US, China Water Risk
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Like every drop, every donation helps keep our work flowing.
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Reports
Bond Financing Distributed Water Systems
Across the U.S., communities are planning major investments in water conservation and green stormwater infrastructure to manage droughts and floods. While these distributed approaches to managing water are often more cost-effective than building new reservoirs, pipelines, tunnels and treatment plants, figuring out how to fund them is challenged by old financing structures. With limited cash available for distributed water solutions, it is no surprise that these types of investments struggle to keep pace with debt-financed centralized infrastructure. This report asks the question, can we learn from U.S. cities how to make better use of the bond market to finance distributed infrastructure? Read the report.
Measuring and Mitigating Water Revenue Variability
As water utilities across North America look to finance the replacement and expansion of outdated water delivery systems, the need for confident revenue projections grows. This report examines real financial and water use data from three North American water utilities to demonstrate how rate structures can mitigate or intensify revenue variability. It also introduces alternative financial and pricing strategies that can assist water utilities in stabilizing revenue without compromising their commitment to water conservation.
Read the report.

Get in Touch
Share your stories with Ceres and stay in touch with our team by email.
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@BrookeDBarton
@FreymanCer
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@elizabroberts
Dear friends, Last month 400,000 people - including representatives of the world's largest companies and financial firms  - came together in New York City to march and raise their voices in support of climate action. Climate change is poised to affect every aspect of our economy and our lives - including the vital water supplies we all depend on. At Ceres, we are working to elevate the voice of businesses and investors in support of tackling climate change and protecting freshwater for the future.
Increasingly, this means grappling with the trade-offs posed by the growing collision between energy development and strained water supplies. It means moving away from water utility revenue models that emphasize ever-increasing water sales in times of intensifying droughts. It means identifying ways for farmers who supply major food companies to irrigate their fields with less water while also saving energy.
I believe that we are making progress on all these fronts. Although there is still much to do, with your partnership we can build an economy that is truly sustainable.
Sincerely,
Brooke Barton New BrookeSignature
Brooke Barton
Water Program Director
Ceres
News & Updates
Examining Water Risks as Hydraulic Fracturing Goes Global
Over 3,600 scientists, government representatives and businesses people from 140 countries came together last month at World Water Week in Stockholm to find solutions to the growing conflict between our energy and water demands. Ceres' Monika Freyman presented insights on water supply risks in regions of significant hydraulic fracturing and highlighted relevant lessons learned from the U.S. as shale energy development is poised to go global. Watch a video of the session.

Amidst Devastating Drought, California Companies Take Action 
Driscolls FarmIt's in the news and on the minds of many - the ongoing drought in California, now entering its fourth year. In the face of growing water constraints, some California companies are advancing innovative solutions for reducing water use and stewarding resources for the future success of their businesses, communities and natural systems:
  • PG&E is helping Central Valley farmers reduce their water and electricity use at the same time - saving both resources and money;
  • Driscoll's Berries has partnered with local landowners, farmers and government agencies to help solve the Pajaro Valley's groundwater crisis;
  • KB Home is building "Double Zero" homes in Antelope Valley that are both energy and water efficient, using less than half the water of an average home;
  • Campbell's, which processes 14 million pounds of tomatoes every day at its plant in Dixon, California, is working with local farmers to reduce water use by 20% per pound of tomato by 2020.
Events
Save the Date: Ceres' 2015 Conference
May 13-14, 2015
San Francisco, CA

Join us at the annual Ceres Conference next May 13-14 at the Fairmont Hotel in San Francisco. Each year the conference brings together more than 600 corporate sustainability leaders, the country's largest institutional investors, and leading social and environmental advocates to mobilize action on the world's most significant sustainability challenges, including water. Registration opens in December.
Webinars
Scaling Up Distributed Water Solutions
Wednesday, November 5
2:00-3:00 pm ET

Cities from Philadelphia to Los Angeles are planning to spend billions of dollars on distributed water projects - including landscaping irrigation retrofits, stormwater infiltration and water-efficient building systems - to augment their water supplies and help them meet clean water mandates. This webinar explores how some of the largest U.S. cities are using bonds to fund distributed infrastructure.
Learn more and register here.
Wait, you missed it? Explore Ceres' Agricultural Stranded Assets webinar
In September, Ceres hosted a webinar on the Environmental Drivers of Stranded Assets and Volatility in Agricultural Markets with guest speakers from the Smith School of Enterprise and GMO Renewable Resources.
Download the presentation here.
Ceres is an advocate for sustainability leadership that mobilizes a powerful network of investors, companies and public interest groups to build a sustainable global economy.
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Posted: October 16, 2014 10:44   Go to blog
Waterblogue A conversation about sustainable water by David Venhuizen October 16, 2014 10:28

Can Dripping Springs, and developers there, bust out of the 19th century? Or will they choose to remain stuck there. Because, you know, that is a choice they are free to make.
It’s a simple proposition, really. If your aim is to maximize use of the water resource we mistakenly call “wastewater” to defray demands on the area’s water supplies, then it just makes sense to design the “waste” water system around that principle...

Can Dripping Springs, and developers there, bust out of the 19th century?

Or will they choose to remain stuck there. Because, you know, that is a choice they are free to make.
It’s a simple proposition, really. If your aim is to maximize use of the water resource we mistakenly call “wastewater” to defray demands on the area’s water supplies, then it just makes sense to design the “waste” water system around that principle. It doesn’t make sense to instead use a large majority of the money dedicated to this function to build a large-scale system of pipes and pump stations focused on making what’s misperceived as a nuisance to go “away”, then to spend even more money on another large-scale system of pipes and pumps to run the reclaimed water back to where it came from in the first place!

That’s the standard MO of our mainstream institutions, like the City of Dripping Springs and the engineers who advise it and developers whose projects would feed into the city’s centralized wastewater system. This centralized management concept was a response to the conditions considered paramount in the 19th century. The industrial revolution was in full force, city populations were exploding, the stuff was littering the streets, creating a stench and a serious threat of epidemic disease. The response was to pipe it “away”, to be deposited in the most conveniently available water body. Later, as it was realized those water bodies were being turned into foul open sewers, creating a threat of disease in downstream cities that withdrew their water supplies from them, treatment at the end of the pipe was considered, and eventually adopted as the standard.

The intellectual leadership of the centralized pipe-it-away strategy was centered in well-watered areas like northern Europe and the northeastern and midwestern areas of the US. So the resource value of that “waste” water was never part of the equation. This water, and the nutrients it contains, was viewed solely and exclusively as a nuisance, to be made to go to that magical place we call “away” – the working definition of which is apparently “no longer noticeable by me.” This centralized pipe-it-away strategy became institutionalized as the manner in which cities manage wastewater.
Of course, that strategy flies in the face of the circumstances confronting us here in Central Texas in the 21st century – that water, all water, is a valuable resource which we can no longer afford to so cavalierly waste by addressing it solely and exclusively as if it were just a nuisance, simply because that is what the prevailing mental model dictates. Rather, it’s imperative we practically maximize the resource value of that water, using it to defray demands on the area’s water supplies, which are being stressed by both chronic drought and population growth.

In the Texas Hill Country, we also have an issue with surface discharge of wastewater, even when treated to the highest standards that the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) has so far formulated. And before proceeding I’d note that this issue would remain even if the whole system were to operate perfectly all the time. But of course, it will not; there will inevitably be “incidents”. Which brings up the issue of the vulnerability created by centralization. I’ve often said, not entirely tongue-in-cheek, that the real point of regionalization – TCEQ-speak for centralizing flow from as far and wide as can be attained – is to gather all this stuff together at one point where it can really do some damage. Indeed, the whole organizational strategy is a “vulnerability magnet”. Large flows being run through one treatment plant or one lift station or one transmission main means that any mishap may create large impacts.

Back to the issue with discharge in the Hill Country, the major problem is those nutrients in the wastewater, in particular nitrogen. A discharge of the magnitude that an expanded Dripping Springs system would create, centralizing wastewater flow from developments for miles around the city in every direction, would make the receiving stream effluent-dominated. This would be partly an artifact of the drawdown of local aquifers drying up springs and thus reducing natural streamflow – again highlighting how critical it is to defray demands on these local water resources – but in larger part due simply to the magnitude of the wastewater flow. Highlighting the problematic nature of “permitted pollution” when the flow has been centralized so that, even with low concentration limits, the mass loadings may still be “large”. The nitrogen would cause chronic algal blooms in the creeks, making them very green most of the time, and then depleting oxygen in the water when the algae die off, degrading the riparian environment.

This is deemed an aesthetic affront by downstream landowners. But even more critical, the stream that would receive Dripping Springs’ discharge is Onion Creek, a major source of recharge to the Edwards Aquifer. That’s a sole source aquifer supplying water to about 60,000 people and is the source of Barton Springs, which is home to endangered species. So there’s great antipathy to any plan by Dripping Springs to discharge.

The “standard” option is to continue to “land apply” the effluent from its wastewater treatment plant – “irrigating” land for the sole purpose of making the water go “away” rather than to enhance the landscape or grow a cash crop – which the city does under its current permit. This practice is more accurately termed “land dumping”, and in this region, in this time, it is an unconscionable waste of this water resource.

At least discharge would have some utility, providing more constant flow in the creek, enhancing the riparian environment, and a more constant recharge of the Edwards Aquifer. That is, it would have utility if the water were to be treated to a standard that would preclude the “insults” noted above.
In regard to nutrients, that is technically possible – albeit unlikely to be required by TCEQ – but it would be quite expensive. Burnet discovered that treating to a higher standard to allow them to discharge into Hamilton Creek, which eventually flows into the Highland Lakes, would add about $10 million to the cost of their treatment plant. But that still won’t attain the high removal rate demanded for discharge into Hill Country creeks that recharge the Edwards Aquifer.
But nutrients aren’t all there is to be concerned about. There are also “contaminants of emerging concern” – pharmaceuticals, in particular endocrine disruptors. What it would cost to make discharge “safe” in this regard is an open question – another subject for another time. Suffice it to note here that TCEQ has no standards addressing these pollutants, thus there is no requirement to even consider what might be “safe”.

The latest word is that the overwhelming dissatisfaction with a discharge scheme has urged Dripping Springs to drop its plans to seek a discharge permit – for the present. It’s unclear if that means it would just expand its “land dumping” system (a rather costly proposition, due to the land requirements, so Dripping Springs might soon decide that’s just too expensive and would request a permit to discharge). Or would the city pursue any and all opportunities to route the treated effluent to beneficial reuse? Likely mainly within the developments generating the flow as few other opportunities have been identified, the 8-acre city park being the only one mentioned in the version of the Preliminary Engineering Planning Report (PERP) the city released last summer.

Which brings us to how the city would create a system plan predicated on beneficial reuse of this water resource to defray demand on other water supplies. The city appears to be leaning toward simply appending onto the already costly 19th century conventional centralized wastewater system another whole set of costly infrastructure to redistribute the water, once treated, back to the development that generated it. Note, however, that as TCEQ presently interprets its rules, the city will still be required to have a full-blown “disposal” system in place regardless of how much of that water they expect to route to beneficial reuse, making that whole concept somewhat problematic if indeed no discharge option would be sought. This focus of TCEQ rules, as currently applied, on “disposal” of a perceived nuisance, to the exclusion of focusing on integrated management of water resources, is an issue for any sort of plan the city may consider, highlighting the need to press TCEQ to reconsider that focus.

Indeed the city’s centralized plan would be costly. Dripping Springs is keeping its present engineering analyses close to the vest, but according to the version of the PERP released last summer, the three interceptor mains in that plan – denoted “east”, “west” and “south” (leaving us to wonder what will be done with development that may occur to the north) – and their associated lift stations would have a total cost of about $17.5 million. These are costs, along with the estimated $8.1 million for treatment plant expansion and an estimated $1 million for permitting, that must be sunk into the system prior to being able to provide service to the first house in the developments this system would cover. Then there is the cost of centralized collection infrastructure within the developments, to get their wastewater to those interceptors, no doubt running into the 10’s of millions at complete buildout.

And for this, all they get is “disposal” of a perceived nuisance!
With, as noted, the issue of how the water would be “disposed of”, if it is not discharged, still to be resolved – and paid for. If it is to be redistributed back to the far flung developments generating the flow, the facilities to do that will add many more millions to the overall cost of the complete system.
Far less costly, in both up-front and long-term costs, would be the creation of a 21st century system that would be designed around reuse, rather than “disposal”, of this water resource right from its point of generation. The city could pursue a decentralized concept strategy, focused on treatment and reuse of this water as close to where it is generated as practical, obviating the high cost of both the conventional centralized collection system and the reclaimed water distribution system.
Entailing a number of small-scale systems designed into rather than appended onto development, it is highly doubtful that the city could unilaterally impose that sort of system. The large developments around Dripping Springs are all planning – indeed they have obtained TCEQ permits for – smaller conventional centralized systems within each of them, featuring “land dumping” as the intended fate of the water. In fact, Dripping Springs has “sponsored” the permit for one of those developments, so is actively promoting this strategy. The development agreement with another large project specifies that the wastewater generated in that development must be run into the city interceptor whenever it is built, despite the development-scale system being in place. So if the city does develop interceptors that would drain wastewater from those developments to an expanded centralized plant, then these development-scale systems would be stranded assets, sunk costs incurred simply to allow development to begin prior to completion of the city interceptor, then to be abandoned, basically wasting the fiscal resources required to install them.

It’s clear then that Dripping Springs could pursue a decentralized concept strategy to expand service capacity to encompass those developments only if each of them were to cooperate in planning, designing, permitting and implementing the decentralized system, instead of those development-scale centralized systems they’re presently planning to build. But of course, unless Dripping Springs presumes a leadership role, the developers have no impetus to consider that. They must presume they’d have to abandon any sort of development-scale system and run their wastewater “away” into the city’s centralized system whenever interceptors were extended to their properties.
To pursue a decentralized concept strategy it must be determined how such a system would be organized and how it could be permitted, given the “disposal”-centric focus of how TCEQ wields its rule system. This is a complex subject that does not well lend itself to this medium. Complicated by the decentralized concept remaining “non-mainstream” despite it having been out there for quite a long time – I defined the decentralized concept in 1986, and it was “ratified” as a fully legitimate strategy in a 1996 report to Congress, among other milestones – so its means and methods remain largely unfamiliar to regulators, engineers and operating authorities. Further, being designed into rather than appended onto development, the details would be sensitive to context; while there are recognized organizing principles, there is no “one size fits all” formula.

For the interested reader, a broad overview is “The Decentralized Concept of Wastewater Management” (in the “Decentralized Concept” menu at www.venhuizen-ww.com), and a basic review of those organizing principles are set forth in this document, reviewing wastewater management options in the nearby community of Wimberley. But a review of exactly how to design a decentralized concept system for any given project in and around Dripping Springs is properly the subject of a PERP for each project, not something that can be credibly described here, absent any context. The means and methods are, however, all well understood technologies that can readily be implemented to cost efficiently maximize reuse of this water resource.

Highlighting that the most salient feature of a decentralized concept strategy in the context of this region is the “short-stopping” of the long water loops characteristic of the conventional centralized strategy, so that reuse of the water resource would be maximized at the least cost. It is this 21st century imperative that should motivate Dripping Springs and the developers working in that area to explore the decentralized concept. A necessary part of that exploration is to press TCEQ to consider how it interprets and applies its present rules, and perhaps to consider the need for “better” rules that recognize our current water realities. None of this can be served up for the city or the developers as a fait accompli in this medium; it is a job they have to undertake. One which we all need them to undertake, for the benefit of this region’s citizens, current and future.
But from all indications to date, it does not appear they will even try – they just can’t seem to expand their mental model of wastewater management to encompass it. The result of which is that most of this wastewater will live down to its name for a long time to come, driving us ever further away from sustainable water. So the question is posed: Can Dripping Springs, and the developers there, bust out of the 19th century – or will they choose to remain stuck there?
Posted: October 16, 2014 10:28   Go to blog
Neighbor to Neighbor - News and EventsOctober 15, 2014 12:05
Neighbor to Neighbor News Pass it on...                     October 14, 2014
Hill Country News



Summit addresses Hill Country issues
"Everything from urban development to dance hall preservation was on the agenda at the Hill Country Alliance 2014 Leadership Summit, held Thursday at the Nimitz Hotel Ballroom." Read the full article from the Fredericksburg Standard.

Keeping Open Spaces Open
“We are reaching a point in Texas where simply standing on common ground is not enough...
Neighbor to Neighbor News Pass it on...                    
October 14, 2014

Hill Country News




Summit addresses Hill Country issues
"Everything from urban development to dance hall preservation was on the agenda at the Hill Country Alliance 2014 Leadership Summit, held Thursday at the Nimitz Hotel Ballroom." Read the full article from the Fredericksburg Standard.

Keeping Open Spaces Open
“We are reaching a point in Texas where simply standing on common ground is not enough. The lives of urban and rural Texans are irreversibly intertwined, so we must all join forces to create and define initiatives and policies that conserve the common good, while protecting the heritage of private landowners.” Read more of David K. Langford's guest blog for the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation.

Harvest that Rain!
Most food growers rely on tap water to keep their plants alive during dry weather, but gardeners are discovering that chemicals in tap water harm the soil organisms that plants depend upon to absorb nutrients. As a result, more and more gardeners are storing rainwater. Read more from Sustainable Food Center.

Bracken Bat Cave needs your help
For the past year, San Antonio City officials, Bat Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy and many other organizations and community leaders have been searching for a solution to avert a 3,500-home development over the Edwards Aquifer and adjacent to Bracken Cave Preserve. Next week, San Antonio's city council will meet to vote on whether to invest $5 million from their Edwards Aquifer Protection Program toward the purchase of the property and a conservation easement to protect aquifer recharge. Learn more from BCI.

Citizens Rule the Night at City Council
City Council chambers filled Wednesday evening with more than 100 people who signed up to speak for or against the proposed SAWS-Vista Ridge Consortium water agreement. Individuals were given two minutes to express their views, while group representatives were allotted five minutes. Read more from the Rivard Report.

When private property rights clash with the public good
“I have never understood why in Texas zoning laws are good for city mice but not for country mice, especially as we lose more and more of the open land that is necessary to our survival as a species every year, but that is the way it is and there seems to be no way to change it until Texans get tired of seeing our state gobbled up by strip malls and truck stops and march on the state capitol armed with shotguns and pruning hooks.” Read this personal story about the Hill Country, by Lonn Taylor, featured in The Big Bend Sentinel. Learn more about County Authority in Texas here.

Public Meeting: Vision for FM 150, October 16 in Driftwood
The public is invited to learn more about the process to develop a Roadway Character Plan for FM 150 from near Arroyo Ranch Road northwest through the Driftwood to RR 12 in Dripping Springs at an October 16 meeting. Hays County Commissioners Will Conley and Ray Whisenant are hosting the meeting to share information about the roadway and gather ideas from the public about what this important cross-county road needs to look like as changes are phased in to improve mobility and safety. Details


Art Rain Barrel Auction raises funds for Hill Country Schools
Artists from around the Hill Country have donated their time and talent decorating beautiful rain barrels to help raise awareness about rainwater harvesting and the 2014 Rainwater Revival. These unique custom painted rain barrels are being auctioned off through the end of the Rainwater Revival, October 25 at 4:00pm. All proceeds from this auction will fund grants for local schools to be used for rainwater harvesting projects and water conservation education. Even if you don't need a rain barrel you can still support the Rainwater Revival School Grant Fund with a donation by visting the auction page below.




Upcoming Events
October
October 15 in Junction - SLWA Guadalupe Bass Workshop - Details
October 16 in Driftwood - Public Meeting: Vision for FM 150 - Details
October 16 in San Antonio - Teaming with Wildlife: The State of Nature in Texas, presented by Compassionate San Antonio - Details
October 16 in Boerne - Hill Country Water: Myths and Truths - Milan J Michalec of the HCA and CCGCD will lead a hands on presentation on the myths of groundwater supplies, policy, and planning - Details
October 16 in Boerne - Hill Country Agri-land workshop - Details
October 17-19 in Alpine - Society for Ecological Restoration Annual Conference: Ecological Restoration in the Southwest - Details

October 23 in Boerne - 2014 Boerne Water Forum: Community Growth and Water Quality ARE Compatible - Details
October 24 in Utopia - Stars over Utopia - Learn how to protect our night skies and do some stargazing - Details

October 25 in Dripping Springs - HCA's 5th Annual Rainwater Revival! - Details
October 25 in Wimberley - A Whole Farm Approach to Improving the Water Cycle, presented by HMI - Details

October 29 in Austin - Great Places and Healthy People, presented by Congress for the New Urbanism - Details

October 30 in Austin - Balcones Canyonland Preserve Infrastructure Workshop - Details

Posted: October 15, 2014 12:05   Go to blog
Lonn Taylor: When private property rights clash with the public good ... Big Bend SentnelOctober 10, 2014 10:23
The Big Bend SentinelOctober 9, 2014The Rambling BoyBy LONN TAYLORWhen private property rights clash with the public good            When my wife, Dedie, and I ramble over to San Antonio or Austin we always try to time our trip so that we arrive in Junction at lunch time. The attraction there is Cooper’s Bar-B-Que and Grill, located on US 377 just a few hundred feet north of its intersection with Interstate 10...
The Big Bend Sentinel
October 9, 2014
The Rambling Boy
By LONN TAYLOR
When private property rights clash with the public good
            
When my wife, Dedie, and I ramble over to San Antonio or Austin we always try to time our trip so that we arrive in Junction at lunch time. The attraction there is Cooper’s Bar-B-Que and Grill, located on US 377 just a few hundred feet north of its intersection with Interstate 10. It is an easy turn off the Interstate and if you have your car windows down you can smell the meat cooking on the outdoor open pit before you make the turn. Cooper’s beef brisket is delicious and their sauce is mouth-watering. 

            Junction is about the size of Marfa, with a population of 2,545, and it is the county seat of Kimble County. The town was laid out in the 1870s at the confluence of the North and South Llano rivers, thus its name. Both rivers run over limestone bottoms there and the water is clear and cool. There is a lovely park with picnic tables under some live oak trees along the river on the east side of town, where the Interstate swoops down from cliffs above the river. A billboard on the Interstate describes Junction as “The Front Porch of West Texas.”  Dedie and I always feel that we are halfway home when we get there, even though it is still a long way to Fort Davis. It is a lovely place.

            It is also the site of a tragic environmental disaster, one that should be a warning to all Texans. About a thousand feet south of Cooper’s US 377 crosses the Llano on a concrete bridge. Until recently, both banks of the river were lined with live oaks. One on the north bank, estimated to be several hundred years old, was known to local residents as the Heritage Oak. James Bradbury, a rancher killed by Indians in 1869, was said to be buried under it in an unmarked grave. As of last week the oaks, including the Heritage Oak, were gone, bulldozed to make way for an 8-acre Pilot Flying J truck stop. No one bothered to look for Bradbury’s remains before the trees went down.

            The property belongs to a Kerrville woman, Janet Meek, who leased it to Pilot Flying J. She told the Junction Eagle that she had a verbal agreement with Flying J to preserve the Heritage Oak but that they disregarded it. She had an attack of lessor’s remorse and camped out under the tree all night in protest, but got out of the way when the bulldozers arrived.

            The trees are actually the least of the problem. Local environmentalists point out that the runoff  from the truck stop’s 8-acre paved  parking lot could pollute the fragile but currently pristine Llano River. Buzz Hull, the co-owner of Cooper’s, says, “This could be the end of the Llano River as we have known it for all of our lives.”  Bill Neiman, whose Native American Seeds farm is several miles downstream, says, “We have a very real fear that the river will be harmed and polluted.”
          
  How can this happen in this age of environmental awareness? The answer lies in a combination of  short-sighted civic vision and Texans’ obsession with private property rights.

            It seems that Junction’s public officials are in favor of the truck stop, which will be outside of the city limits. They see the promised 61 jobs and the thousands of truckers who will stop there overnight as short-term economic benefits that outweigh the possible long-term damage to the river. The city council might have prevented construction by annexing the site and bringing it under the city’s zoning ordinances, but they declined to do that. Now they are trying to persuade Ms. Meek to agree to a voluntary annexation of the site so that the city can collect an estimated $180,000 in sales tax revenues.

            The heart of the problem is that no one in Texas can control the use of land that is not within city limits where zoning laws apply. In many states county commissioners have zoning authority and can use it to regulate land use and prevent undesirable construction, but not in Texas, where unlimited property rights are somehow connected with the Alamo, and a rural property owner can do anything he wants to with his property, no matter how disastrous the results may be for future generations.

My sister-in-law in England lives in Cassington, Oxfordshire, an idyllic village of 500 people  that is exactly 5 miles from the center of Oxford, a city of 160,000. Cassington is surrounded by green fields and forests. Oxford stops dead at the Woodstock Road Roundabout. Beyond that woods and pastures stretch all the way to Cassington, because that land is strictly zoned for agricultural use.  There is no straggle of used-car dealers, motels, and welding shops. Oxford is on one side of the traffic circle, green and pleasant England is on the other.

 I have never understood why in Texas zoning laws are good for city mice but not for country mice, especially as we lose more and more of the open land that is necessary to our survival as a species every year, but that is the way it is and there seems to be no way to change it until Texans get tired of seeing our state gobbled up by strip malls and truck stops and march on the state capitol armed with shotguns and pruning hooks.
           
 There is one stop-gap until the revolution comes. Various nonprofit groups have created conservation easements, through which a landowner essentially sells his development rights to the non-profit, which pledges not to use them so that the land will remain forever undeveloped. The Nature Conservancy has done this in the Big Bend, to the benefit of all.  Several years ago the state legislature created a program that would let the state get into the game. It is called the Texas Farm and Ranch Lands Conservation Program, and it provides funds through the General Land Office for nonprofit land trusts to use for the purchase of development rights. The only problem is that the legislature neglected to appropriate any money for the fund, so the program is pretty much on the shelf. If you care about Texas, write your legislator and let’s get it dusted off. In the meantime, mourn with me for those trees along the Llano, and for the river itself, and make sure it doesn’t happen where you live. 


Lonn Taylor is a historian and writer who lives in Fort Davis. He can be reached at taylorw@fortdavis.net.

Posted: October 10, 2014 10:23   Go to blog
2015 Texas Land Conservation Conference - Registration is now open!October 10, 2014 10:04


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Posted: October 10, 2014 10:04   Go to blog
Vista Ridge Project Creates More Questions Than AnswersOctober 08, 2014 14:00
By Amy Hardberger
October 06, 2014This blog (http://texaslivingwaters.org/vista-ridge-project-creates-questions-answers/) was written with the assistance of Tyson Broad with the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club.

For those who are keeping track, we are in year 4 of a statewide drought. Although some areas have received rainfall relief, the continuing drought has led many communities to ponder whether they have enough water for their future and, if not, where more water can be procured. Unfortunately, new water isn’t something that can easily be bought or delivered...
By
October 06, 2014
This blog (http://texaslivingwaters.org/vista-ridge-project-creates-questions-answers/)
was written with the assistance of Tyson Broad with the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club.

For those who are keeping track, we are in year 4 of a statewide drought. Although some areas have received rainfall relief, the continuing drought has led many communities to ponder whether they have enough water for their future and, if not, where more water can be procured. Unfortunately, new water isn’t something that can easily be bought or delivered. It’s expensive, the infrastructure is lacking and the locals often don’t want it exported away from their region.

Last spring, we posted a piece about a groundwater pipeline project brewing in San Antonio that touches on many of these issues. Since then, we haven’t written anything because most of the project details were in active negotiations and unavailable to the public. In July, a draft of the 500 page Vista Ridge contract finally appeared, but the final draft of the ever-changing agreement wasn’t made available until late September.

Despite a previously denied request for more time to review the document by two San Antonio Water Systems (SAWS) board of trustees, the SAWS board voted unanimously to approve the contract on September 29th, just one week after the contract was finalized. The approval process now shifts to San Antonio City Council. Based on the current schedule, council has approximately one month to digest the deal and vote on it.   There is a lot to say about an estimated $3.4 billion deal to move 50,000 acre-feet of water a year 142 miles across Texas and a lot of questions still need to be answered.

Demand Projections: What Defines “Need”?
Underlying any discussion about a water purchase and transfer process is the need to demonstrate that the water is needed and, if so, when is it needed and for what uses. This project is essentially a take-or-pay contract for 50,000 acre-feet of water annually; meaning, if the water arrives, the city must pay for it. This represents roughly a 20% increase of the city’s current supplies. SAWS has argued that this water is necessary to supply the predicted growth in the city. Clearly, no one wants the city to run out of water, but is that really a possibility? Not according to SAWS.

SAWS’s own projections show that under normal rainfall conditions, the city will not need any additional water for many decades. This water is for drought, but it’s more complex than that. SAWS has articulated that bringing this project online means we will have abundant, not just adequate, water during a drought of record. The word abundant is important here. It demonstrates that SAWS is not just preparing the city to survive a drought of record; they are trying to avoid stage 3 and 4 drought restrictions during such a drought, should it occur. This means that the city is agreeing to commit ratepayers to a huge financial commitment for something we may only use in very limited circumstances, but will pay for it all the time.

Using a power analogy, the city is building a base load power plant – one that will work 365 days a year – in order to meet limited peak needs in summer. This makes no financial sense. If you are going to build something to manage high demands over limited periods of time, you should build something that can be turned on and off and only provides resources to cover the peak needs, not provide excess water for years. In a presentation given by SAWS’s own Chief Financial Officer, he explicitly stated it is not a prudent business practice to purchase an ongoing water supply only for drought needs. Further he explained that if the city chose to do this, the maximum amount SAWS could spend to be fiscally responsible is $1,400 per acre-foot and should be much less to ensure the utility doesn’t lose money. Current projections for this project are $2,220 per acre-foot.

Another problem with the demand projections is that they are based on assumptions that aren’t supported by actual measured data. SAWS’s projections are built on assumptions about how the city will behave under extended drought. The problem is that San Antonio is actually using less water than was predicted in the fourth year of low rainfall. If this trend continues, the point at which the city may actually need water is later than predicted; therefore, we will be paying for water we don’t need for an even longer time.

Finally, there is the unknown factor of how much the increase in rates will reduce use. SAWS’s board trustee Reed Williams has publically stated that higher bills will reduce usage. He’s absolutely right. Water is interesting economically because there is a certain demand level that is static: water we need to live. But there is also an elastic portion: water we could forego using without affecting our daily lives. This includes many outdoor water needs, but could also include reductions in the commercial and industrial sectors when high prices motivate increased efficiency. This project will greatly increase bills, which will most certainly reduce demand. This reduction in demand is another reason why this is more water than the city needs.

Who Pays and How Much
Once a utility has demonstrated that the need for the water is there, the discussion shifts to cost and who is going to pay for it. All of the SAWS messaging has been clear that the project is to provide for new growth while avoiding drought stages 3 & 4. Yet, existing ratepayers will pay for the new project in its entirety. This raises several concerns.

First, it contravenes a clear message given last May by the city council and ratepayers that growth should help pay for itself.   That debate about impact fees involved a proposed 3% rate hike over 10 years and council voted 9-2 that new supply infrastructure costs should be borne in part by homes creating the demand. Unfortunately, due to limitations in the law, the expenses for the Vista Ridge Project can’t be passed along because the city won’t be paying the capital costs. Ratepayers will foot the bill.
Second, if ratepayers are going to be responsible, SAWS needs to provide a clear picture of how much more they will be paying each month. SAWS has stated that this project will require a maximum of a 16% increase, but haven’t publically explained how that number was calculated. It is hard to imagine they can guarantee that number when we won’t know the final cost of the project until it is built, plus integration and O&M costs are also not yet known. Further, SAWS expects several other rate increases will be needed for wastewater and other water supply needs yet they haven’t released a cumulative total of all these increases and what it will mean to the average ratepayer. The median income of San Antonio is roughly $42,000 a year. A large rate increase will greatly affect the bottom line of thousands of local households.

Understanding both the demand scenarios and the final costs of the project are critical in ensuring the city can truly afford the project. Utilities pay for projects through rates. If the citizens aren’t using the water because they are conserving it or because it is raining, the city will have to find a way to pay for that water. SAWS has maintained that in the short term, the city will execute short-term contracts to sell portions of the water to other municipalities, but none of these buyers have been identified yet, which means city council needs to be sure San Antonio can pay for the water if those contracts don’t come to pass.

What about the Water?
Even if all the above concerns are quelled, there are still significant questions about whether the water will be available over the life of the 30-year contract. Texas groundwater law isn’t an easy thing to figure out, but what we do know is that groundwater is the property of the landowner, but can be regulated by groundwater conservation districts through a permitting process.

The Post Oak Savannah Groundwater Conservation District has regulatory authority over this project. Although they authorized (in 2009) the partners in the Vista Ridge project to withdraw more the 70,000 acre-feet from the aquifer, there are several questions regarding the reliability and sustainability of pumping this volume of water. First, Post Oak Savannah District has, through their groundwater management area process (completed in 2010), determined that only about 50,000 acre-feet of water can be pumped within the district. But even this of volume of pumping will result in 300 feet of drawdown from the Simsboro Aquifer.

Given that the groundwater district has already granted permits for more than 100,000 acre-feet, it is uncertain how this dilemma will be resolved. While the partners in the Vista Ridge project have agreed to assume this risk, SAWS should provide the results of their own analysis of groundwater availability to assuage concerns that this project is not sustainable and will only mine the aquifer.

The Need for Public Process
Finally there is the issue of process. If this project is the right project at the right time and at the right cost, it requires the education and endorsement of those who will ultimately pay for it: the ratepayers. The right project will withstand the scrutiny of review and time.

Thus far, a truly public process has been lacking. SAWS did make 5 contract negotiation sessions open to the public, but these were during the day and didn’t allow any public input. People were only able to sit in the back of the room and listen to negotiators talk. The size of this deal requires more public vetting.

During the 2012 roll out of their Water Management Plan (WMP), in addition to private presentations to neighborhood and interest groups, SAWS held five public meetings over several months. Presentations were given that discussed demand projections, water supply projects and projected rate increases. These meetings also gave the public the opportunity to make statements and ask questions. The rate increase approved by city council along with the WMP was 5.1%. The Vista Ridge project alone is over three times that increase, but to date, there have been no similar meetings for this project.

Last week, one hearing was finally scheduled after a town hall demonstrated the need for public input. The hearing will take place 6:00 this Wednesday, October 8th at city council. We encourage anyone who wants more information or wishes to state their opinion to attend the meeting. You can sign in to speak on-line or in person. Please take this chance to encourage council to take a hard look at all the dimensions of this project before making a decision. It may be the only chance you get.





Posted: October 08, 2014 14:00   Go to blog

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