News

THE TEXAS TRIBUNE: roundwater Wars Brewing in Austin's Suburbs: by Neena Satija Jan. 23, 2015 January 26, 2015 17:08


WIMBERLEY — In a classic example of the gaps in Texas' patchwork approach to regulating groundwater, an unprecedented amount of water may soon be pumped from underneath already parched Hays County with virtually no oversight.
Houston-based Electro Purification hopes to eventually pump 5 million gallons of water daily from the Trinity Aquifer, and sell it to some of Austin's fastest-growing Hill Country suburbs, including the town of Buda and a new subdivision planned near Kyle...


WIMBERLEY — In a classic example of the gaps in Texas' patchwork approach to regulating groundwater, an unprecedented amount of water may soon be pumped from underneath already parched Hays County with virtually no oversight.

Houston-based Electro Purification hopes to eventually pump 5 million gallons of water daily from the Trinity Aquifer, and sell it to some of Austin's fastest-growing Hill Country suburbs, including the town of Buda and a new subdivision planned near Kyle.

It's by far the biggest commercial pumping project in the area, but it won't be subject to any regulation because the well fields are in a regulatory "no-man's land," as some lawyers like to call it.


Electro Purification's wells (the yellow dots on the map)
 are outside any regulator's purview. They're also near many other 
wells that depend on the Trinity Aquifer (the blue and green dots).  

Graphic by: Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District. 
About 100 groundwater conservation districts across Texas limit how much water users can pump from aquifers in an effort to protect the resource. 

But Electro Purification's well fields are in an area where no district governs the Trinity Aquifer. The wells are located in the Edwards Aquifer Authority's jurisdiction — but the authority doesn't oversee the Trinity, which is a groundwater formation that lies under the Edwards in Hays County.

Since it's not operating within a groundwater conservation district, Electro Purification is subject only to the century-plus-old "rule of capture" — which basically allows it to pump as much water as it wants with no liability on how that affects neighbors. The company only needed to lease the land for its well fields, secure water rights from the landowners, and get a permit to drill through the Edwards Aquifer to the underlying Trinity. It is is not required to report its pumping activities to any authority.

"That just really seems like it goes beyond the good will intention of the law," said state Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, who represents Hays County. "To find this area that’s just right outside of a district, that really concerns me."

Electro Purification did not respond to requests for comment, but the company has disputed that its pumping will affect anyone, and Buda has promised that a mitigation plan will be in place for anyone impacted. But local residents and hydrologists are deeply worried. Shallow residential wells — which provide water for most people in this exploding suburban county outside Austin — have already gone dry during the ongoing drought, and they fear a huge amount of pumping in a focused area will only make things worse.

"My district and others, and you all, I gather, are concerned," Brian Hunt said at a packed meeting of over 200 people at the Wimberley Community Center on Wednesday night, just a few miles from the well fields. "This is a real conundrum for us."
Hunt is a hydrologist for the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District, which manages the Trinity and Edwards aquifers in some parts of Hays and Travis County. And he was speaking at a meeting of the Hays-Trinity Groundwater Conservation District, which governs the Trinity Aquifer in western Hays County. Electro Purification's well fields are located just outside both districts' boundaries.

Hunt said such a huge amount of groundwater withdrawal in one area could cause the water table in hundreds of nearby residential wells to drop more than 50 feet in just one year. That would force people to spend tens of thousands of dollars lowering their pumps. Some nearby residents have designed bumper stickers that read, "Buda sucks us dry."
"I don't have money to dig a deeper well," pleaded Janice Rogers, one of several Hays County residents who spoke at the meeting. "All I have is the little house I live in." She added that she doesn't have the money to install a rainwater collection system, either, which many of her neighbors have done to bypass issues with groundwater availability.

Hydrologists across Central Texas are still collecting data on what effects Electro Purification's pumping might have. But Hunt and Raymond Slade, an Austin-based hydrologist who is retired from the U.S. Geological Survey, said the Trinity Aquifer can sustain far less pumping than other aquifers, like the Edwards.

"The holes are much smaller" in the rocks where Trinity water moves through, Slade said. "They don’t have caves." If someone pumps a lot of water from the Trinity, "a lot of [new] water can't move in quickly to fill in gaps." That affects nearby pumpers, who have to look farther underground for water.

The project has businesses and schools worried, too. Many attending the meeting said they'd heard about it because St. Stephen's Episcopal School in Wimberley, which relies on water from the Trinity, had sent a note to students.

But there's little anyone can do to stop Electro Purification.

The Hays-Trinity Groundwater Conservation District could try to annex the unregulated portion of the Trinity, but that's not an easy process and may require the Legislature to act. And even if that is successful, the district is basically broke. It has no taxing authority or even the ability to charge groundwater production fees. Only the Legislature can change that.
Isaac, the local state representative, said he's not yet sure what is doable. “At this point, I’m trying to study the issues and learn more about it before we decide to change the Texas Constitution and take the rule of capture away from everybody," he said in a phone interview Wednesday. He added that legislators are unlikely to agree to give the Hays-Trinity district taxing authority in this political environment.

But a local lawmaker could easily give his own constituents' groundwater conservation district the authority to charge more fees, and no one would challenge him, said Greg Ellis, the district's general counsel.

“It’s almost unheard of in the Senate for an outside senator to interfere with a local bill," Ellis said.

“It’s almost the same in the House.”

Isaac said his real priority is addressing the patchwork system of groundwater regulation in Texas, where districts are drawn on county lines — not aquifer lines. That especially affects the huge Trinity Aquifer, which stretches across such a huge portion of the state. Unregulated pumping in the Trinity is also happening in Comal and western Travis County, he noted.

"We can't monitor that activity. We don't know what's going on, and it's the exact same aquifer," Isaac said. “Clearly, there are some gaps in maintaining and managing the aquifer that we need to address this session."
Go to Texas Tribune.
Posted: January 26, 2015 17:08   Go to blog
Hays County Press Release: Court Forms Groundwater CommitteeJanuary 26, 2015 10:06




Hays County, Texaswww.co.hays.tx.usFollow us at www.twitter.com/hayscountygov                              www.facebook.com/hayscountytexaswww.haysinformed.comfor Countywide Emergency InfoInformation for the News MediaJan...




Hays County, Texas
                              www.facebook.com/hayscountytexas
www.haysinformed.comfor Countywide Emergency Info
Information for the News Media
Jan. 23, 2015




Hays County Commissioners Court Forms Committee to Further Groundwater Pumping Discussions with Public

Hays County Courthouse, San Marcos, TX – The Hays County Commissioners Court voted unanimously Tuesday to form a committee that would hold public forums to discuss concerns over groundwater pumping, particularly in areas where conservation districts have no authority, in the interest of protecting private land rights while promoting public responsibility.
The vote came following public comment and discussion from Court members, concerned citizens and representatives and partners of Electro Purification, Inc., about proposed pumping in Western Hays County over the Trinity Aquifer. Electro Purification has current and expected contracts to provide as much as 1.8 billion gallons of water annually within 10 to 20 years to cities, water supply companies and proposed subdivisions primarily along the I-35 corridor in Hays County. Landowners in the same area have concerns that removing that much water from the aquifer would render their wells useless, as the water level could drop far below current levels.
Company representatives assured the Court that while the final amount of water that would be pumped is not close to being set, they intend to introduce mitigation measures to ensure that that private citizens would not have their wells depleted due to pumping, a major concern among citizens who spoke to the Court.
Acknowledging that the County is very limited in what it can legally require in areas not governed by groundwater districts (which are also limited in authority), Precinct 4 Commissioner Ray Whisenant of Dripping Springs said that it would be difficult to say there would be no effect on private wells if that much water is removed and that it could be years before any effect is actually noticed, too late for mitigation. Whisenant formerly owned a well-drilling company in Dripping Springs.
In 1904 the Texas Supreme Court adopted the “rule of capture” that allows landowners to pump and capture whatever water is available, regardless of the effects on neighboring wells. The land in question is privately owned and lies outside the boundaries of any area groundwater conservation districts, which generally have the authority to promulgate rules for conserving, protecting, recharging and preventing waste of groundwater.
            “The County’s goal in forming this committee is to learn what actions private companies such as Electro Purification are planning, how it might affect our area now and in the future, and how we can work together with private companies to ensure that our citizens are not deprived of the water they need,” Precinct 3 Commissioner Will Conley of Wimberley said. “We plan to invite representatives from Electro Purification, Edwards Aquifer Authority, Hays-Trinity Groundwater Conservation District, Sen. Donna Campbell, Rep. Jason Isaac, City of Mountain City, Goforth Special Utility District and the City of Buda to join the committee and provide information so that we can hold public meetings to discuss private rights and public responsibility for water capture.”
Posted: January 26, 2015 10:06   Go to blog
Response to Electro Purification LetterJanuary 23, 2015 15:44
January 19, 2015The Honorable Burt Cobb, County Judge
Hays County Courthouse
111 E. San Antonio St., Ste. 300
San Marcos, Texas 78666

The Honorable Debbie Gonzales Ingalsbe, Commissioner, Pct. 1
Hays County Courthouse
111 E. San Antonio St., Ste. 304
San Marcos, Texas 78666

The Honorable Mark Jones, Commissioner, Pct. 2
P.O. Box 1180
5458 FM 2770 at Crystal Meadow Drive
Kyle, Texas 78640

The Honorable Will Conley, Commissioner, Pct. 3
P.O. Box 2085
14306 RR 12, Suite 11
Wimberley, Texas 78676

The Honorable Ray Whisenant, Commissioner, Pct...
January 19, 2015
The Honorable Burt Cobb, County Judge
Hays County Courthouse
111 E. San Antonio St., Ste. 300
San Marcos, Texas 78666

The Honorable Debbie Gonzales Ingalsbe, Commissioner, Pct. 1
Hays County Courthouse
111 E. San Antonio St., Ste. 304
San Marcos, Texas 78666

The Honorable Mark Jones, Commissioner, Pct. 2
P.O. Box 1180
5458 FM 2770 at Crystal Meadow Drive
Kyle, Texas 78640

The Honorable Will Conley, Commissioner, Pct. 3
P.O. Box 2085
14306 RR 12, Suite 11
Wimberley, Texas 78676

The Honorable Ray Whisenant, Commissioner, Pct. 4
195 Roger Hanks Parkway
Dripping Springs, TX 78620

    Re: Electro Purification LLC's water development activities in Hays County

Dear Judge Cobb and Commissioners:

    We are writing to provide you with some factual background regarding the activities of
Electro Purification, LLC in Hays County, in response to the recent splash of disinformation
circulating within the County. Electro Purification prides itself in its corporate citizenship, and
believes in the benefits of informed decision making.

    We are a small company focused on providing wholesale water supplies to communities
looking to meet immediate short falls in their water supply inventories and provide at least a ten
to fifteen year bridge to facilitate the individual customer communities with the opportunity to
develop longer term water supplies. Our water source supplies are designed to be capable of
contributing to each community's water supply inventory over a longer period of time than
simply the bridge period, particularly when coupled with the longer term supply developed
during the bridge period. Properly managed they will be capable of being utilized in perpetuity.
  
 Electro Purification is selective in the markets it seeks to provide water to for multiple
reasons. First, our objective is to address identifiable needs in smaller markets. In addition to
meeting the known water supply need, we find that our projects aid the local water supplier by
assuming the risk of the capital investment associated with the development of the project, and
convert it into a much more palatable cost capable of being incorporated into period rate
increases of the water customer to its end-users.

   We ourselves are risk adverse in our investment strategy. Accordingly, in addition to
marketing to customers with a quantifiable need, we identify our water supply based upon its
potential capability of meeting the projected demand on a sustainable basis. We do not speculate
about the water. Instead, we rely upon professional advice from qualified geoscientists and
hydro geologists knowledgeable of the groundwater in the area based upon a proven track record
of drilling and study of the region.
  
 Once we have identified both the potential customer and water supply source, we initiate
our land acquisition through long term groundwater leasing with local landowners overlying the
identified groundwater source. Both our groundwater leases and our water supply contracts
contain what we call our "proven capacity" clause. Specifically, the lease provides an exit
mechanism if the results of well testing performed on the property demonstrates that the property
is not capable of producing a sustainable volume of water necessary to participate in the project.
Similarly, our water supply contracts all include a "feasibility period." This contract term allows
us to work with our hydrogeologists to develop adequate water supply sources to meet the
contractual commitments to our customers. In particular, it allows us to acquire more additional,
and/or different, properties for inclusion in the project as necessary to both produce the volume
of water necessary to meet our contractual commitments as well as provide buffer zones for our
wells to minimize potential impacts to and from neighboring landowners.

   Another feature of our business model is the fact that our wells are deeper that those
customarily drilled in Hays County for domestic and livestock purposes, as well as use for
irrigation of crops. Based upon our research, many of the domestic wells, as well as small
agricultural wells, drilled in Hays County are completed in the Upper Trinity Aquifer at depths
ranging from 0 feet to approximately 600 feet below surface elevation. For this reason, we
complete our wells in the Middle Trinity Aquifer. In fact, most all of our production occurs from
the base of the Middle Trinity Aquifer, also known as the Cow Creek Formation, at depths
ranging from 800 feet to 900 feet below surface elevation.
 
  Not discussed in the recent wave of fear-mongering propaganda is the fact that there is a
hydraulic disconnect between the Upper and Middle Trinity Aquifers. We often allow our
landowner-lessors to continue to produce groundwater from the Upper Trinity Aquifer on our
leases for their beneficial use, because of our confidence in the local hydrogeology and the fact
that the Upper and Middle Trinity Aquifers have little to no interaction.

    Electro Purification is mindful of the role of groundwater districts in the management of
the State's groundwater resources. To this end, we have an excellent track record of dutiful
compliance with all applicable groundwater regulation. Additionally, even in locations of
potential groundwater projects where groundwater regulation is not in place, we remain mindful
of the principles of groundwater management traditionally implemented by local groundwater
district to protect and conserve groundwater and prevent waste while facilitating the maximum
beneficial use of the resource. According, we site our wells with prior knowledge of the location
of property lines on our groundwater leases, as well as the proximity to any neighboring wells,
particularly if they appear to have been completed in a formation where we plan to complete our
wells and produce groundwater. We do not operate like irresponsible teenagers whose parents
left them at the house, along with the car keys, for the weekend unsupervised.
 
  To this end, we also want to dispel the rumor that Electro Purification we will be turning
on our pumps and immediately producing almost 6 million gallons a day ("MGD") from the
area. In addition to the other safeguards in our business model which require we prove-up water
available before implementing any contract and commencing operations, all of our contracts
contemplate a growth curve over time. With respect to our contracts for production on the
Middle Trinity Aquifer in Hays County, we are looking at "ramping up" our production over a
ten year period. This planned growth will allow us and our customers to both observe the
Aquifer's responses to our production, and other pumping in the area, but to respond to any
potentially adverse impacts. Again, Electro Purification prides itself in our Stewardship of the
resource as well as our commitment to be here for the long-term.

    We are also aware that there is some concern about possible impacts from our proposed
well field on existing wells in the Middle Trinity Aquifer. For this reason we have evaluated the
benefits of developing a mitigation program to address impacts, if any, of our project. We are
working with our hydrogeologists to identify and evaluate the potential area that could be
influenced by production from our project to develop potential mitigation programs, both
prophylactically and in the event there are any documentable impacts from the project. We plan
to discuss these program plans with other hydrogeologists knowledgeable of the Middle Trinity
Aquifer in the region including local groundwater districts in the area.

    Electro Purification is also mindful of the property rights concept associated with
groundwater leasing and production. This includes the lawful right of local landowners to lease
their property for a profit in the form of payment of bonuses and royalties associated with our
exploration for and production of groundwater, as well as the right to exercise the rule of capture.
We do not, however, abuse these rights. We do not lease small "postage stamp" size tracts with
the intent to over pump them producing l 0 to 20 or more times the number of acre-feet of water
per acre of land acquired. Instead, we look for larger tracts of land that will support both a fair
acre-foot to acre ratio and provide a buffer to ameliorate potential impacts to neighboring
landowners. We also try to make our projects community assets by engaging and leasing, or
attempting to lease, land from multiple landowners who will benefit from participation in the
project. The additional acreage also provides us with a buffer against competing production.

    Finally, it is imperative to recognize that Electro Purification selects its potential well
field locations based upon proximity io its potential customer market and groundwater
availability - not the existence or non-existence of a groundwater district. Much "hoopla" has
been made about our proposed well field along Hwy 150 approximately 5.5 miles outside of
Wimberley in western Hays County because it is in a so-called "unregulated area." The term has
morphed from a simple description of the fact that there is no groundwater district overlying the
area, to a label that we are like thieves in the night who snuck onto the scene and set up shop to
steal groundwater belonging to someone, rather than produce groundwater owned by the
landowners from whom we lawfully have negotiated and secured groundwater leases.

   Nothing could be further from the truth. As noted above, Electro Purification includes in
its groundwater leases an exit mechanism to be exercised in the event the groundwater beneath a
tract of land proves to be unsatisfactory for purposes of its inclusion of in a sustainable
groundwater supply project. While the specific language of the provision can vary slightly from
lease to lease based upon specific negotiations with the affected landowner, the basic principal
remains constant. Specifically, Electro Purification secures the right in each of its leases to drill
test wells on the property. We then conduct aquifer testing, also known as "pump tests", on those
wells to determine the characteristics of the aquifer, as well as confirm the presence of any
geologic features such as faulting that our Hydrogeologist(s) may have identified in their review
of available mapping or logs of neighboring wells as part of our due diligence. During these
pump tests we also observe the impacts, if any, to neighboring wells. Based upon the results of
these tests we evaluate the potential success of the individual well, and the well field as a whole,
to provide a sustainable supply capable of satisfying Electro Purification's contractual
obligations without harming the Aquifer. If the results are not satisfactory, our options are (i) to
secure new or additional leases and repeat the process of drilling the test well and performing the
aquifer testing, and/or (ii) elect to notify our potential customer that the project is not feasible
and terminate the contract.

   Yes, the area along Hwy 150 where we have taken leases currently is not within the
boundaries of a groundwater district. In that sense, the area is presently "unregulated" by a
groundwater district. Given the educational level of citizens of Hays County, it is astounding
that there is no recognition of the true meaning of "unregulated," much less why this particular
area is in fact "unregulated." The fact that the area in question is not within a groundwater
district has been a conscious decision both historically, and more recently in response to a
petition by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to incorporate the area, along with
other ''unregulated areas" within Hays, Comal and Travis Counties into one or more groundwater
districts. The latter efforts have failed, in part because the two existing districts with regulatory
authority over groundwater have either declined to exercise the initiative or express any desire to
acquire the area or they were unable to undertake the responsibility for one or more reasons.

    What is more important, however, is why the area is "unregulated." The reason is simple.
Unlike those areas of the Trinity Aquifer further west, e.g., the region along Hwy 12 where the
Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District exercises jurisdiction, there are significant
groundwater supplies present. Moreover, in the area of Electro Purification's Project, which is
outside of the Hill Country Priority Groundwater Management Area (POMA) created by the
TCEQ in 1990, the saturated portion of the aquifer is substantially thicker, and the associated out
crop area provides for enhanced recharge. A copy of the POMA map depicting the location of
Electro Purification's Project in relation to the two existing groundwater districts (Hays Trinity
GCD and the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer District) is attached hereto as Appendix "A".

    Had the science established facts to the contrary, the area would have been made a part of
the Hill Country POMA, and/or a part of the Hays Trinity GCD or some other groundwater
district. In this instance, "unregulated" is a sign of good things.

            These good things include:

                1) Supplying water to approximately 25,000 water users in the Goforth SUD, City of Buda                 and the proposed Mountain City high-end residential development platted by Clark Wilson                 Homes; and

                2) Facilitating the continued growth of Hays County with an enhanced ad valorem tax base.
Sincerely,
Electro Purification LLC
Isl Tim Throckmorton, Manager
Isl Bart Fletcher, Manager

Appendix "A"
Map of the Hill Country PGMA depicting the general location
of Electro Purification's Hwy 150 Project Site vis-a-vis the
Hays Trinity GCD & Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District
Posted: January 23, 2015 15:44   Go to blog
Buda Council makes waves with water contract - Austin MonitorAustin MonitorJanuary 23, 2015 15:35
Buda Council makes waves with water contractMuch to the dismay of a standing-room-only crowd at Buda City Hall, City Council members approved a water supply contract Tuesday that would allow up to 1 million gallons per day for city use from the Trinity Aquifer in western Hays County.
Electro Purification, the Houston-based water supplier that is looking to extract water from the Cow Creek Formation of the Middle Trinity Aquifer, also has agreements with the Goforth Special Utility District and the developer of a future high-end, 2,200-home development in Mountain City’s extraterritorial jurisdiction for 3 million and 1...
Buda Council makes waves with water contract
Much to the dismay of a standing-room-only crowd at Buda City Hall, City Council members approved a water supply contract Tuesday that would allow up to 1 million gallons per day for city use from the Trinity Aquifer in western Hays County.

Electro Purification, the Houston-based water supplier that is looking to extract water from the Cow Creek Formation of the Middle Trinity Aquifer, also has agreements with the Goforth Special Utility District and the developer of a future high-end, 2,200-home development in Mountain City’s extraterritorial jurisdiction for 3 million and 1.3 million gallons of water per day, respectively.

Many area residents and officials in attendance at Tuesday night’s Buda Council meeting implored the elected officials to delay action on the water supply contract and allow for the dissemination and review of data surrounding the massive water-pumping project in western Hays County.

Concerns about domestic Trinity Aquifer wells going dry due to Electro Purification’s proposed well field have run rampant throughout Hays County in recent weeks.

Eileen Conley, Buda business owner and resident, told Council: “We do have an obligation to not take water from our neighbors who are relying on that for life.”

Representing the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District, board member Mary Stone asked Council to delay a decision on the contract, due to limited data available and a request to get one of their geoscientists to look at Electro Purification’s test wells and explore the potential impacts to neighboring wells, as well as the aquifer as a whole.

“Currently we have no site-specific data of this area, and we are concerned of the potential impact of people that live around that well site, as well as some of the area within the Trinity [Aquifer],” Stone said.

But despite pleas from several Hays County residents, the Barton Springs district and Hays County Commissioner Will Conley, Council voted 6-1 to move forward with the execution of a water supply contract. Buda’s agreement — unlike those with Goforth and Clark Wilson, the developer of the proposed Anthem subdivision just outside Mountain City — will have a mitigation clause in place that could put Electro Purification on the hook to repair or alleviate affected surrounding wells.

Still, Council’s vote was met with gasps, shock and nods of disapproval from those in attendance.

“I see some head-shaking out there [in the audience],” said Buda Mayor Todd Ruge. “However, there are two agreements already in place that do not have that mitigation plan as ours does. We have actually provided extra protection for those folks out there as part of the agreement, and that seemed to be the first question that came up tonight.”

Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District President Linda Kaye Rogers, who had also asked for a delay of the vote on the contract, said she was disappointed with Council’s decision.

“I am in tears,” she said. “I can’t believe that they would do this — that they would defy the county commissioners’ request, all the requests of the people that came in tonight — and that they would go forward with inadequate and incomplete information. They do not have all the information they need to make this decision.”

Council Member Angela Kennedy, who cast the lone dissenting vote, said the residents who expressed worry had legitimate concerns of domestic wells potentially running dry.

“The hydrogeologist that we hired pretty much established that this project is going to have negative impacts on the surrounding residential/domestic wells,” Kennedy told the Monitor,adding that Buda has other opportunities for water supply and that she plainly disagreed with contracting with an organization that could negatively affect its residents and potentially impact sensitive environmental features like Jacobs Well in Wimberley.

Bob Harden, a hydrologist the city hired to review Electro Purification’s plan, told Council members that about 30 wells within 4 miles of the water supplier’s well field may see a decline of artesian pressure of approximately 200 to 300 feet or more.

Harden said water levels may fall below where the pumps are set in nearby domestic wells. However, he added, that could easily be alleviated by lowering the pumps.

Barton Springs District General Manager John Dupnik said that, in his estimation, it is quite likely that more wells could be affected than those described by Harden, though he did not have an exact number.

“It’s disappointing. Our board formally requested some time to conduct a technical analysis of the data that we just received on Friday [Jan. 16],” Dupnik said. “So we haven’t had the opportunity to do that, we’re going to continue to do that, but I’m not sure what effect it will have. These contracts are binding. The consequences are still unknown to us.”

But the unknowns go beyond the potential impacts to surrounding domestic and commercial wells.

“We haven’t proved up this thing yet, [and] unless this thing proves up and we know we can take care of the city’s needs, the contract won’t go through,” Electro Purification principal Bart Fletcher told the Monitor.

Buda’s contract has an option period that gives Electro Purification nine months to prove that its well field can produce 5.65 million gallons of water per day, or MGD, which accounts for Buda’s 1 MGD, plus a 25 percent contingency, and Goforth’s and Wilson’s agreed amounts. If the company cannot provide the water quantity, then the city can get out of the contract.

Per Buda’s agreement, the city will pay $131,400 per year in reservation costs, and the company will have 18 months to construct the infrastructure necessary to pipe the water east.

Once the water is able to be delivered, Buda will pay a total of $658,825 in the first year of the 30-year contract — $593,125 for take or pay of 0.50 MGD, and $65,700 for a reservation fee for the remaining 0.50 MGD set aside for the city.

The first year’s delivery will amount to only one-half million gallons per day, though that amount will rise to the full 1 million MGD over five years, the agreement states.

Ruge said the city has spent about $80,000 hiring attorneys, hydrologists and engineers to study the project.

“We are doing our homework on this,” Ruge said. “When we enter into any kind of contract, we don’t take things like this lightly.”

Buda was first approached by Electro Purification in November 2011 to discuss a potential future water supply agreement. The matter was revisited in 2013 and last September the council directed staff to explore a contract for 1 MGD.

Buda Council makes waves with water contract

Much to the dismay of a standing-room-only crowd at Buda City Hall, City Council members approved a water supply contract Tuesday that would allow up to 1 million gallons per day for city use from the Trinity Aquifer in western Hays County.
Electro Purification, the Houston-based water supplier that is looking to extract water from the Cow Creek Formation of the Middle Trinity Aquifer, also has agreements with the Goforth Special Utility District and the developer of a future high-end, 2,200-home development in Mountain City’s extraterritorial jurisdiction for 3 million and 1.3 million gallons of water per day, respectively.
Many area residents and officials in attendance at Tuesday night’s Buda Council meeting implored the elected officials to delay action on the water supply contract and allow for the dissemination and review of data surrounding the massive water-pumping project in western Hays County.
Concerns about domestic Trinity Aquifer wells going dry due to Electro Purification’s proposed well field have run rampant throughout Hays County in recent weeks.
Eileen Conley, Buda business owner and resident, told Council: “We do have an obligation to not take water from our neighbors who are relying on that for life.”
Representing the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District, board member Mary Stone asked Council to delay a decision on the contract, due to limited data available and a request to get one of their geoscientists to look at Electro Purification’s test wells and explore the potential impacts to neighboring wells, as well as the aquifer as a whole.
“Currently we have no site-specific data of this area, and we are concerned of the potential impact of people that live around that well site, as well as some of the area within the Trinity [Aquifer],” Stone said.
But despite pleas from several Hays County residents, the Barton Springs district and Hays County Commissioner Will Conley, Council voted 6-1 to move forward with the execution of a water supply contract. Buda’s agreement — unlike those with Goforth and Clark Wilson, the developer of the proposed Anthem subdivision just outside Mountain City — will have a mitigation clause in place that could put Electro Purification on the hook to repair or alleviate affected surrounding wells.
Still, Council’s vote was met with gasps, shock and nods of disapproval from those in attendance.
“I see some head-shaking out there [in the audience],” said Buda Mayor Todd Ruge. “However, there are two agreements already in place that do not have that mitigation plan as ours does. We have actually provided extra protection for those folks out there as part of the agreement, and that seemed to be the first question that came up tonight.”
Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District President Linda Kaye Rogers, who had also asked for a delay of the vote on the contract, said she was disappointed with Council’s decision.
“I am in tears,” she said. “I can’t believe that they would do this — that they would defy the county commissioners’ request, all the requests of the people that came in tonight — and that they would go forward with inadequate and incomplete information. They do not have all the information they need to make this decision.”
Council Member Angela Kennedy, who cast the lone dissenting vote, said the residents who expressed worry had legitimate concerns of domestic wells potentially running dry.
“The hydrogeologist that we hired pretty much established that this project is going to have negative impacts on the surrounding residential/domestic wells,” Kennedy told the Monitor, adding that Buda has other opportunities for water supply and that she plainly disagreed with contracting with an organization that could negatively affect its residents and potentially impact sensitive environmental features like Jacobs Well in Wimberley.
Bob Harden, a hydrologist the city hired to review Electro Purification’s plan, told Council members that about 30 wells within 4 miles of the water supplier’s well field may see a decline of artesian pressure of approximately 200 to 300 feet or more.
Harden said water levels may fall below where the pumps are set in nearby domestic wells. However, he added, that could easily be alleviated by lowering the pumps.
Barton Springs District General Manager John Dupnik said that, in his estimation, it is quite likely that more wells could be affected than those described by Harden, though he did not have an exact number.
“It’s disappointing. Our board formally requested some time to conduct a technical analysis of the data that we just received on Friday [Jan. 16],” Dupnik said. “So we haven’t had the opportunity to do that, we’re going to continue to do that, but I’m not sure what effect it will have. These contracts are binding. The consequences are still unknown to us.”
But the unknowns go beyond the potential impacts to surrounding domestic and commercial wells.
“We haven’t proved up this thing yet, [and] unless this thing proves up and we know we can take care of the city’s needs, the contract won’t go through,” Electro Purification principal Bart Fletcher told the Monitor.
Buda’s contract has an option period that gives Electro Purification nine months to prove that its well field can produce 5.65 million gallons of water per day, or MGD, which accounts for Buda’s 1 MGD, plus a 25 percent contingency, and Goforth’s and Wilson’s agreed amounts. If the company cannot provide the water quantity, then the city can get out of the contract.
Per Buda’s agreement, the city will pay $131,400 per year in reservation costs, and the company will have 18 months to construct the infrastructure necessary to pipe the water east.
Once the water is able to be delivered, Buda will pay a total of $658,825 in the first year of the 30-year contract — $593,125 for take or pay of 0.50 MGD, and $65,700 for a reservation fee for the remaining 0.50 MGD set aside for the city.
The first year’s delivery will amount to only one-half million gallons per day, though that amount will rise to the full 1 million MGD over five years, the agreement states.
Ruge said the city has spent about $80,000 hiring attorneys, hydrologists and engineers to study the project.
“We are doing our homework on this,” Ruge said. “When we enter into any kind of contract, we don’t take things like this lightly.”
Buda was first approached by Electro Purification in November 2011 to discuss a potential future water supply agreement. The matter was revisited in 2013 and last September the council directed staff to explore a contract for 1 MGD.
- See more at: http://www.austinmonitor.com/stories/2015/01/buda-makes-waves-with-water-contract/#sthash.hIjtayfO.dpuf

Buda Council makes waves with water contract

Much to the dismay of a standing-room-only crowd at Buda City Hall, City Council members approved a water supply contract Tuesday that would allow up to 1 million gallons per day for city use from the Trinity Aquifer in western Hays County.
Electro Purification, the Houston-based water supplier that is looking to extract water from the Cow Creek Formation of the Middle Trinity Aquifer, also has agreements with the Goforth Special Utility District and the developer of a future high-end, 2,200-home development in Mountain City’s extraterritorial jurisdiction for 3 million and 1.3 million gallons of water per day, respectively.
Many area residents and officials in attendance at Tuesday night’s Buda Council meeting implored the elected officials to delay action on the water supply contract and allow for the dissemination and review of data surrounding the massive water-pumping project in western Hays County.
Concerns about domestic Trinity Aquifer wells going dry due to Electro Purification’s proposed well field have run rampant throughout Hays County in recent weeks.
Eileen Conley, Buda business owner and resident, told Council: “We do have an obligation to not take water from our neighbors who are relying on that for life.”
Representing the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District, board member Mary Stone asked Council to delay a decision on the contract, due to limited data available and a request to get one of their geoscientists to look at Electro Purification’s test wells and explore the potential impacts to neighboring wells, as well as the aquifer as a whole.
“Currently we have no site-specific data of this area, and we are concerned of the potential impact of people that live around that well site, as well as some of the area within the Trinity [Aquifer],” Stone said.
But despite pleas from several Hays County residents, the Barton Springs district and Hays County Commissioner Will Conley, Council voted 6-1 to move forward with the execution of a water supply contract. Buda’s agreement — unlike those with Goforth and Clark Wilson, the developer of the proposed Anthem subdivision just outside Mountain City — will have a mitigation clause in place that could put Electro Purification on the hook to repair or alleviate affected surrounding wells.
Still, Council’s vote was met with gasps, shock and nods of disapproval from those in attendance.
“I see some head-shaking out there [in the audience],” said Buda Mayor Todd Ruge. “However, there are two agreements already in place that do not have that mitigation plan as ours does. We have actually provided extra protection for those folks out there as part of the agreement, and that seemed to be the first question that came up tonight.”
Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District President Linda Kaye Rogers, who had also asked for a delay of the vote on the contract, said she was disappointed with Council’s decision.
“I am in tears,” she said. “I can’t believe that they would do this — that they would defy the county commissioners’ request, all the requests of the people that came in tonight — and that they would go forward with inadequate and incomplete information. They do not have all the information they need to make this decision.”
Council Member Angela Kennedy, who cast the lone dissenting vote, said the residents who expressed worry had legitimate concerns of domestic wells potentially running dry.
“The hydrogeologist that we hired pretty much established that this project is going to have negative impacts on the surrounding residential/domestic wells,” Kennedy told the Monitor, adding that Buda has other opportunities for water supply and that she plainly disagreed with contracting with an organization that could negatively affect its residents and potentially impact sensitive environmental features like Jacobs Well in Wimberley.
Bob Harden, a hydrologist the city hired to review Electro Purification’s plan, told Council members that about 30 wells within 4 miles of the water supplier’s well field may see a decline of artesian pressure of approximately 200 to 300 feet or more.
Harden said water levels may fall below where the pumps are set in nearby domestic wells. However, he added, that could easily be alleviated by lowering the pumps.
Barton Springs District General Manager John Dupnik said that, in his estimation, it is quite likely that more wells could be affected than those described by Harden, though he did not have an exact number.
“It’s disappointing. Our board formally requested some time to conduct a technical analysis of the data that we just received on Friday [Jan. 16],” Dupnik said. “So we haven’t had the opportunity to do that, we’re going to continue to do that, but I’m not sure what effect it will have. These contracts are binding. The consequences are still unknown to us.”
But the unknowns go beyond the potential impacts to surrounding domestic and commercial wells.
“We haven’t proved up this thing yet, [and] unless this thing proves up and we know we can take care of the city’s needs, the contract won’t go through,” Electro Purification principal Bart Fletcher told the Monitor.
Buda’s contract has an option period that gives Electro Purification nine months to prove that its well field can produce 5.65 million gallons of water per day, or MGD, which accounts for Buda’s 1 MGD, plus a 25 percent contingency, and Goforth’s and Wilson’s agreed amounts. If the company cannot provide the water quantity, then the city can get out of the contract.
Per Buda’s agreement, the city will pay $131,400 per year in reservation costs, and the company will have 18 months to construct the infrastructure necessary to pipe the water east.
Once the water is able to be delivered, Buda will pay a total of $658,825 in the first year of the 30-year contract — $593,125 for take or pay of 0.50 MGD, and $65,700 for a reservation fee for the remaining 0.50 MGD set aside for the city.
The first year’s delivery will amount to only one-half million gallons per day, though that amount will rise to the full 1 million MGD over five years, the agreement states.
Ruge said the city has spent about $80,000 hiring attorneys, hydrologists and engineers to study the project.
“We are doing our homework on this,” Ruge said. “When we enter into any kind of contract, we don’t take things like this lightly.”
Buda was first approached by Electro Purification in November 2011 to discuss a potential future water supply agreement. The matter was revisited in 2013 and last September the council directed staff to explore a contract for 1 MGD.
- See more at: http://www.austinmonitor.com/stories/2015/01/buda-makes-waves-with-water-contract/#sthash.hIjtayfO.dpuf

Buda Council makes waves with water contract

Much to the dismay of a standing-room-only crowd at Buda City Hall, City Council members approved a water supply contract Tuesday that would allow up to 1 million gallons per day for city use from the Trinity Aquifer in western Hays County.
Electro Purification, the Houston-based water supplier that is looking to extract water from the Cow Creek Formation of the Middle Trinity Aquifer, also has agreements with the Goforth Special Utility District and the developer of a future high-end, 2,200-home development in Mountain City’s extraterritorial jurisdiction for 3 million and 1.3 million gallons of water per day, respectively.
Many area residents and officials in attendance at Tuesday night’s Buda Council meeting implored the elected officials to delay action on the water supply contract and allow for the dissemination and review of data surrounding the massive water-pumping project in western Hays County.
Concerns about domestic Trinity Aquifer wells going dry due to Electro Purification’s proposed well field have run rampant throughout Hays County in recent weeks.
Eileen Conley, Buda business owner and resident, told Council: “We do have an obligation to not take water from our neighbors who are relying on that for life.”
Representing the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District, board member Mary Stone asked Council to delay a decision on the contract, due to limited data available and a request to get one of their geoscientists to look at Electro Purification’s test wells and explore the potential impacts to neighboring wells, as well as the aquifer as a whole.
“Currently we have no site-specific data of this area, and we are concerned of the potential impact of people that live around that well site, as well as some of the area within the Trinity [Aquifer],” Stone said.
But despite pleas from several Hays County residents, the Barton Springs district and Hays County Commissioner Will Conley, Council voted 6-1 to move forward with the execution of a water supply contract. Buda’s agreement — unlike those with Goforth and Clark Wilson, the developer of the proposed Anthem subdivision just outside Mountain City — will have a mitigation clause in place that could put Electro Purification on the hook to repair or alleviate affected surrounding wells.
Still, Council’s vote was met with gasps, shock and nods of disapproval from those in attendance.
“I see some head-shaking out there [in the audience],” said Buda Mayor Todd Ruge. “However, there are two agreements already in place that do not have that mitigation plan as ours does. We have actually provided extra protection for those folks out there as part of the agreement, and that seemed to be the first question that came up tonight.”
Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District President Linda Kaye Rogers, who had also asked for a delay of the vote on the contract, said she was disappointed with Council’s decision.
“I am in tears,” she said. “I can’t believe that they would do this — that they would defy the county commissioners’ request, all the requests of the people that came in tonight — and that they would go forward with inadequate and incomplete information. They do not have all the information they need to make this decision.”
Council Member Angela Kennedy, who cast the lone dissenting vote, said the residents who expressed worry had legitimate concerns of domestic wells potentially running dry.
“The hydrogeologist that we hired pretty much established that this project is going to have negative impacts on the surrounding residential/domestic wells,” Kennedy told the Monitor, adding that Buda has other opportunities for water supply and that she plainly disagreed with contracting with an organization that could negatively affect its residents and potentially impact sensitive environmental features like Jacobs Well in Wimberley.
Bob Harden, a hydrologist the city hired to review Electro Purification’s plan, told Council members that about 30 wells within 4 miles of the water supplier’s well field may see a decline of artesian pressure of approximately 200 to 300 feet or more.
Harden said water levels may fall below where the pumps are set in nearby domestic wells. However, he added, that could easily be alleviated by lowering the pumps.
Barton Springs District General Manager John Dupnik said that, in his estimation, it is quite likely that more wells could be affected than those described by Harden, though he did not have an exact number.
“It’s disappointing. Our board formally requested some time to conduct a technical analysis of the data that we just received on Friday [Jan. 16],” Dupnik said. “So we haven’t had the opportunity to do that, we’re going to continue to do that, but I’m not sure what effect it will have. These contracts are binding. The consequences are still unknown to us.”
But the unknowns go beyond the potential impacts to surrounding domestic and commercial wells.
“We haven’t proved up this thing yet, [and] unless this thing proves up and we know we can take care of the city’s needs, the contract won’t go through,” Electro Purification principal Bart Fletcher told the Monitor.
Buda’s contract has an option period that gives Electro Purification nine months to prove that its well field can produce 5.65 million gallons of water per day, or MGD, which accounts for Buda’s 1 MGD, plus a 25 percent contingency, and Goforth’s and Wilson’s agreed amounts. If the company cannot provide the water quantity, then the city can get out of the contract.
Per Buda’s agreement, the city will pay $131,400 per year in reservation costs, and the company will have 18 months to construct the infrastructure necessary to pipe the water east.
Once the water is able to be delivered, Buda will pay a total of $658,825 in the first year of the 30-year contract — $593,125 for take or pay of 0.50 MGD, and $65,700 for a reservation fee for the remaining 0.50 MGD set aside for the city.
The first year’s delivery will amount to only one-half million gallons per day, though that amount will rise to the full 1 million MGD over five years, the agreement states.
Ruge said the city has spent about $80,000 hiring attorneys, hydrologists and engineers to study the project.
“We are doing our homework on this,” Ruge said. “When we enter into any kind of contract, we don’t take things like this lightly.”
Buda was first approached by Electro Purification in November 2011 to discuss a potential future water supply agreement. The matter was revisited in 2013 and last September the council directed staff to explore a contract for 1 MGD.
- See more at: http://www.austinmonitor.com/stories/2015/01/buda-makes-waves-with-water-contract/#sthash.hIjtayfO.dpuf
Posted: January 23, 2015 15:35   Go to blog
Plan to Attend Texas Drought SummitJanuary 20, 2015 14:13
Texans Urged to Attend Drought Summit Coming January 29 in San AntonioIs the Texas drought over? Not for thousands of small farm and ranch families that have absorbed devastating losses and are struggling to stay in business.

All Texans who care about the survival of the state’s small farms and ranches are urged to attend the January 29 Texas Drought Summit at the Hilton San Antonio Airport Hotel in San Antonio...

Texans Urged to Attend Drought Summit Coming January 29 in San Antonio

Is the Texas drought over? Not for thousands of small farm and ranch families that have absorbed devastating losses and are struggling to stay in business.

All Texans who care about the survival of the state’s small farms and ranches are urged to attend the January 29 Texas Drought Summit at the Hilton San Antonio Airport Hotel in San Antonio.
Organizations that have already pledged to participate include the Texas Department of Agriculture, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service, Prairie View A&M University, USDA Farm Service Agency, USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service, and USDA Risk Management Agency.
Numerous agricultural trade associations, lenders, and equipment dealers from around the state are expected to attend on behalf of their members. Newly elected Texas Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller will speak.

The summit will take stock of damage done to date by the Texas drought, provide a forum for sharing lessons learned, and connect farmers and ranchers with grants, low-interest loans, and other disaster-related services and assistance. Lunch will be provided. A $25 registration fee is requested, but will be waived for those in need.

The day-long summit is being sponsored by Farm Aid, in partnership with the National Center for Appropriate Technology, Texas Organic Farmers and Gardeners Association, and Sustainable Food Center. National experts from Rural Advancement Foundation International and Farmers’ Legal Action Group will facilitate the discussion.

Immediately following the summit (January 30-31, in the same hotel), the annual Texas Organic Farmers & Gardeners Association (TOFGA) conference will offer a full slate of workshops on building farm and ranch resilience and preparing for increasing weather extremes.

Farm Aid is providing scholarships to 30 farm and ranch families that have suffered losses due to the drought, supporting their travel and registration for both the Drought Summit and TOFGA conference.

Space is limited. To get more information, register for either event, or apply for a scholarship, go to www.tofga.org.


. --30--        
Since 1976, the National Center for Appropriate Technology (NCAT) has been helping people by championing small-scale, local, and sustainable solutions that reduce poverty, promote healthy communities, and protect natural resources. More information is available at www.ncat.org or by calling 1-800-ASK-NCAT.
Posted: January 20, 2015 14:13   Go to blog
CARDtalk: CITIZEN ALERT - Unregulated Pumping Threatens Trinity AquiferJanuary 16, 2015 16:18


A Houston company, Electro Purification (EP), has drilled multiple unregulated commercial wells in the area of FM 3237 at FM 150, near Hays City Store.

Electro Purification wants to sell groundwater from these wells to a proposed subdivision in Mountain City, to the city of Buda, and to the Goforth Water District. The total amount of proposed pumping exceeds 5 million gallons per day - more than 1.8 billion gallons a year - greater than the combined total of the Wimberley Water Supply Corp., Aqua Texas, and Dripping Springs Water Supply Corp...


A Houston company, Electro Purification (EP), has drilled multiple unregulated commercial wells in the area of FM 3237 at FM 150, near Hays City Store.

Electro Purification wants to sell groundwater from these wells to a proposed subdivision in Mountain City, to the city of Buda, and to the Goforth Water District. The total amount of proposed pumping exceeds 5 million gallons per day - more than 1.8 billion gallons a year - greater than the combined total of the Wimberley Water Supply Corp., Aqua Texas, and Dripping Springs Water Supply Corp.

This excessive pumping would occur in the same part of the already declining Trinity Aquifer into which many local private wells are drilled. It would cause a serious drop in area water levels, likely depleting a large number of home and business wells on which western Hays residents have depended for years. That would negatively impact property values for those properties and, as word spread, for our area.

There is currently no regulatory entity that can manage this pumping to protect local well owners and their right to the water under their property. This location is just outside the eastern boundary and jurisdiction of our Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District (HTGCD). The EP wells are within the Edwards Aquifer Authority (EAA) jurisdictional boundaries; however the EAA only has authority over the Edwards Aquifer. Because of the flawed legislation that created the EAA, they have no authority to manage groundwater pumping from the Trinity Aquifer. These wells are being drilled THROUGH and BELOW the Edwards Aquifer into the underlying Trinity Aquifer, the aquifer that supplies the groundwater for western Hays County, including the Wimberley and Dripping Springs areas (not to mention most of Blanco, Kendall, Bandera and many other Texas counties). The Edwards Aquifer is the primary water source for San Antonio.

Aquifers are not self-contained units. Groundwater scientists believe that the waters of the Edwards Aquifer above and the Trinity Aquifer below comingle through cracks and fissures. This provides a crucial incentive for the Edwards Aquifer Authority to be concerned with excessive and unregulated pumping from the Trinity Aquifer.

Well owners in the vicinity of FM 3237 and FM 150, along with officials of all the area Groundwater Conservation Districts and the Hays County Commissioners Court, are alarmed by this potential over-pumping of the Trinity Aquifer by Electro Purification. Read the Wimberley View front page story in the January 8, 2015 issue. Read the public letter from Hays County Commissioner Will Conley.

We urge Citizens of Hays County to contact their elected officials and ask that action be taken to manage the proposed Electro Purification pumping to protect the water supply of hundreds of local well owners. Below are elected officials and agencies that should be contacted, and an upcoming local meeting schedule.

Agencies
Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District (HTGCD)
Website: haysgroundwater.com
Phone: 512-858-9253
Rick Broun - manager2@haysgroundwater.com


Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BSEACD)
Website: www.bseacd.org
Phone: (512) 282-8441
Email: bseacd@bseacd.org


Edwards Aquifer Authority (EAA)
Website: www.edwardsaquifer.org
Phone: (210) 222-2204 or 1-800-292-1047
Email: info@edwardsaquifer.org


Plum Creek Conservation District (PCCD)
Website: www.pccd.org
Phone: 512.398.2383
Email: info@pccd.org


Texas Water Development Board (TWDB)
Website: www.twdb.state.tx.us
Phone: 512-463-7847


Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ)
Website: www.tceq.state.tx.us
Phone: 512-239-1000 or 512-239-5500 (Office of the Commissioners)
Email: see website


Elected Officials

Hays County Commissioners Court
Website: www.co.hays.tx.us/commissioners-court.aspx
Contact information under individual Commissioners


State Representative Jason Isaac
Website: www.isaacfortexas.com
Phone: (512) 463-0647 Capitol Office, Email: Jason.Isaac@house.state.tx.us


State Senator Judith Zaffirini
Website: www.zaffirini.senate.state.tx.us
Phone: (512) 463-0121
Email: submit form on website


State Senator Donna Campbell
Website: www.campbell.senate.state.tx.us
Phone: (512) 463-0125
Email: submit form on website


Meetings
Below are several upcoming public meetings if you wish to voice your concern and spread information about this situation:

Thursday, January 15th, 6:00 p.m.
Barton Springs Edward Aquifer Conservation District (BSEACD)
1124 Regal Row, Austin
On the agenda for Discussion and possible Action. Item 4A.
Citizens Comment period available.


Tuesday, January 20th at 6 p.m. (not usual 6:30 p.m.)
Buda City Council Meeting (agenda not yet available)
Buda City Hall, 121 Main Street
Buda has not yet signed a contract with Electro Purification. It is reported that Electro Purification will make a presentation to the Buda Council on the 20th.
Citizens Comment period available.


Wednesday, January 21st at 6:00 p.m.
Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District
Wimberley Community Center, 14068 Ranch Road 12, Wimberley, near Brookshire Bros. store. 


Members of the HTGCD are familiar with the situation, but will be interested in input.
Citizens Comment period available. 


- CARD Steering Committee
Posted: January 16, 2015 16:18   Go to blog
Commissioner Conley Addresses Un-Regulated Well's in Hays CountyJanuary 14, 2015 16:53




 Will Conley        Commissioner Hays County, Texas     512-847-3159      will.conley@co.hays.tx.us

Un-Regulated Well Field Development in Hays County

Fellow Citizens,
    It has been brought to my attention that there is a large un-regulated well field being developedin mid-western HaysCounty near FM 3237.The company developing thisproject is a Houston-basedcompany called Electro Purification LLC.They propose todeliver to potential customersaround 6,000 acre feet of water per year out of this areaof the TrinityAquifer. As the representative of Precinct3, this gives me a greatdeal of concern...




 Will Conley
        Commissioner Hays County, Texas
     512-847-3159 


Un-Regulated Well Field Development in Hays County


Fellow Citizens,

    It has been brought to my attention that there is a large un-regulated well field being developedin mid-western HaysCounty near FM 3237.The company developing thisproject is a Houston-basedcompany called Electro Purification LLC.They propose todeliver to potential customersaround 6,000 acre feet of water per year out of this areaof the TrinityAquifer. As the representative of Precinct3, this gives me a greatdeal of concern. Firstly, I am worried about the potential impact on residential and commercial wells in the nearby area. Secondly, I am wary    ofthe overall health of the Trinity Aquifer in Hays County. Someactions have been takenout of the Precinct3 office that I would like to bring to your attention.

    Commissioner Whisenant, RepresentativeIsaac, and I met with the principals of ElectroPurification around January, 8th2015. We each expressedour concerns over this amount of water being distributed out of this area. Electro Purification and theirrepresentatives ensured usthat the proper studieshave been done and thatthey felt confident their projectwouldn’t negativelyimpact the surrounding area or the Trinity Aquifer. I asked them to considerfive points.

1.                 An exit strategy to the project;

2.                   A binding agreement that protected area well owners,should the projectnegatively impact                 their water supplies;

3.                   Sharing their costs in the project at this point intime;

4.                   sharing thedata associated with theproject;

5.                   Providing copies of any contracts or letters of intent they may have with potential customers


Electro Purification stated thatthey would provide the information requested in items 4 and 5. However, they asked formore time to consider theirlevel of comforton requests 1, 2 and
3. At this time, I have received no information.I have asked in two differentemails that they at least provide the well data to my office. I am hopeful thatthey will respond tothese requests, as it would provide us with an opportunity tohave a real conversation about the impact oftheir proposed operations.


    I, along with many of my colleagues, havediscussed this issue with thegroundwater districts in Hays County.We have asked that theygettogether and see if they can develop some reasonable legislation that might cover this gap in groundwaterregulatory authority in our community.To my knowledge the groundwater districtsare working together and will tryto deliver something to Representative Isaacin thenear future. This isa complicated issuethat will warrant atremendous amount of discussion. However I am optimisticthat our groundwater districts, working with Representative Isaac can come up witha good solution. The rule of capture should not be the only rule that appliestoa corporate entity withthe intentions of commercial distribution of water resources. I believe there must be some accountability on this wholeprocess beyond free market principles that will protect theprivate property rights of land ownersin an impacted area.

    As of yesterday, the Precinct 3 office has filed Public Information Act requests with thefollowing politicalsubdivisions: the City of Kyle, Mountain City, the City ofBuda, and Goforth Special Utility District. We filed these requests to ensure we have allinformation available in order to make the best decisions moving forward in our representation of the citizens of Hays County.We need to understand the entirety of theissue. If any information has been shared or discussed with these political subdivisions, access to that information will allow us to betterassess the situation. I do not want to imply that these political subdivisions aren’t cooperating with informal request. I believe thatimplementing formal requestswas simply the best way to move forwardin atimely manner. Hopefully, the Precinct 3 office will receive information from these entitiesin the near future that helpsus better understand the issues at hand.
   Commissioner WhisenantandI have placed an agenda item onthe Commissioners Court agendafor next Tuesday, January20th. In this Courtsession I plan to share with the Court the information we may haveabout this project.We will also discuss next steps.I assume this will beone of many meetingsthat we will have on this issue.

    In closing, this is a verydifficult and complicated issue. Thisproposed project may also havea direct impact on many peoplethroughout Hays County. It is important in thistime of tremendous change in HaysCounty that we do things wisely and carefully. We must also maintain our core principlesand beliefs. As difficultas that can be, it is the challengethat is before ustoday. I am confident with hard work, good government, and principled positions we will meet these challenges and leave Hays County and its people a betterand brighter future.


Sincerely,



Will Conley

Hays County Commissioner, Precinct3

Posted: January 14, 2015 16:53   Go to blog
LCRA Water Management Plan - TCEQ Stakeholder Mtg. Jan. 7 January 14, 2015 16:53


The TCEQ will hold a stakeholder input meeting on
the LCRA Water Management Plan
January 7, 2015, 10:00 a.m.
TCEQ's Offices at 12100 Park Thirty-Five Circle
Building E, Room 201, Austin, Texas.   



"As part of the TCEQ's review of LCRA's amended water management plan (WMP), TCEQ is holding a stakeholder meeting to obtain input from Colorado River Basin stakeholders," Deputy Director L'Oreal W. Stepney said in a letter sent out on December 11, 2014. "We are specifically seeking comments on the amended application and TCEQ's report; however, any information is welcome...


The TCEQ will hold a stakeholder input meeting on
the LCRA Water Management Plan
January 7, 2015, 10:00 a.m.
TCEQ's Offices at 12100 Park Thirty-Five Circle
Building E, Room 201, Austin, Texas.   




"As part of the TCEQ's review of LCRA's amended water management plan (WMP), TCEQ is holding a stakeholder meeting to obtain input from Colorado River Basin stakeholders," Deputy Director L'Oreal W. Stepney said in a letter sent out on December 11, 2014. "We are specifically seeking comments on the amended application and TCEQ's report; however, any information is welcome."  "If you are unable to attend the scheduled meeting, you may submit written comments by January 30, 2015."  Click to see TCEQ notification letter for details.  
Environmental Stewardship (ES) has prepared extensive comments in a letter that will be submitted to the agency (and distributed through our network) and presented as oral comments at the stakeholder meeting.
ES' comments are based on Water Management and Planing Principles developed by a group of stakeholders in the basin.  Those principles form the foundation of the comments contained in the letter. The following is part of the opening remarks: 

ES will attempt to show, through its letter and input throughout the remaining portion of this review process, that:

 

A1. External factors have had catastrophic impacts: The current drought has demonstrated that the current water management plan (WMP) has not adequately addressed several external factors[i] that have catastrophically impacted the basin, and, if left unchecked, will sabotage any attempt to meet the WMP's objectives unless likewise managed.

 
A2. The extent and severity of this drought is man-made: The drought has demonstrated that, though the lack of rain[ii] has brought us to this condition, the extent and severity of the drought is primarily a man-made phenomenon. This drought is likely worse than the drought-of-record due to man's management practices and unrealistic expectations[iii] (some of which have been codified in law).
 
A3. Conjunctive management is needed: Future management practices will, of necessity, need to include conjunctive[iv] management of the land, the surface waters, and the aquifers that intersect the basin.
 
A4. Environmental flows are essential: Future management practices must guarantee a solid base of environmental flows to meet critical subsistence and threshold flow needs of the river and bay[v]. Environmental flows are essential water demands.


Environmental Stewardship is especially interested in gaining agreement and support that the WMP guarantee

essential safety net environmental flows for the river and bay. 
 
 and include "LCRA WMP" in the subject line of your email.  

[i] In the upper contributing zone: the impacts of the following on Highland Lake inflows: Lack of brush control, small surface water impoundments, agricultural use of groundwater for irrigation (especially cotton). In the cities: the impacts of over-sizing water treatment and distribution systems such that they cannot be safely operated at reduced/drought flow levels without dropping below residual chlorine standards.
[ii] Rainfall records and trends tend to indicate that rainfall over the contributing zone of the upper basin has been as much as 30% greater during the first six years of the current drought when compared to the same period in the DOR.
[iii] It is not reasonable to expect that water supply will be adequate in drought and severe drought conditions to enable the supply and use of the same amount of water to FIRM customers during drought as these customers receive during wet conditions. There needs to be a means of recognizing and supplying "essential needs" while reducing and/or eliminating non-essential uses. Unfortunately this expectation has been written into the adjudication orders that created the LCRA water management plan and the terms and conditions the LCRA must meet in managing FIRM vs interruptible water.

[iv] Dictionary.com: conjunctive /kənˈdʒʌŋktɪv/ adjective1.joining; connective 2.joined 3.of or relating to conjunctions or their use 4.(logic) relating to, characterized by, or containing a conjunction noun5.a less common word for conjunction (sense 3) Derived Forms conjunctively,adverb.Word Origin C15: from Late Latin conjunctīvus,from Latin conjungereto conjoin.

[v] Lacking such line-in-the-sand safety-net practices, the Colorado river will, like the Rio Grande and the western Colorado River, cease to flow to its bay and cease to be a sound ecological environment. The lack of freshwater inflows will bring dramatic ecological and economic impacts to the bay system and those who depend on the bay for a livelihood ... and on Texas heritage.
_______________________

Background:
After a month of stakeholder meetings the LCRA Water Management Plan Amendments were approved by the LCRA Board and will be sent to Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) for review and approval. Stakeholders made adjustments to the proposed plan that improved environmental flows to the bay during drought conditions and provided improvements in interruptible flows to irrigation interests.   With these improvements, the stakeholders supported moving the plan to TCEQ for final review and approval.  The plan must be approved by TCEQ before it can be implemented. 

It isn't a perfect plan but it's the best we can do at this point in the process.   Though environmental flows to the bay were improved slightly, Matagorda Bay and its estuaries are still at significant risk during a repeat of the drought of record like we are currently experiencing.  Scientific studies, done during the LCRA-SAWS project, provide a wealth of information on what the river and bay need to stay healthy during drought, dry, and wet periods.  "Threshold" inflows to the bay, the most critical life-support for the bay during drought, are well below attainment levels approved by the TCEQ for the Colorado River and Matagorda Bay (see sidebar below for details). 

The LCRA Board, at the same meeting, approved funding for the Lane City Reservoir Project that will construct a 40,000 acre off-channel reservoir in Wharton County.  Though the reservoir will be of great benefit to the Highland Lakes, firm water customers and irrigation interests in the lower basin, it comes at a direct cost to the already stressed bay.  The reservoir is projected to capture as much as 90,000 acre-feet of water per year (filling the reservoir twice) that would otherwise flow into Matagorda Bay. As we proceed with final development of the Highland Lakes Water Management Plan, we will also need to amend the plan to take this new reservoir into consideration and secure the safety net on the bay and estuaries system

Environmental Stewardship's concerns:
After meeting with the LCRA staff and reviewing the modeling data, Environmental Stewardship submitted comments, and follow-up comments, to the staff and final comments to the Board that made the following points: 

1) The LCRA has made changes to the TCEQ recommended framework that arbitrarily deny water for environmental flows and do not adequately protect Matagorda Bay and estuaries. Though these concerns were reduced, they were not eliminated.

2) The LCRA has added a "caps model" that arbitrarily reduces water provided for environmental flows during critical drought periods while making more water available in "good times".  Again, these concerns were reduced, but not eliminated. 

3) The LCRA continues to demand surface water for power plant operations even though it has recently obtained permits from the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District for groundwater to supply the Bastrop Power Plant.  The LCRA staff included the groundwater use at the Lost Pines power plant.  This adjustment in the model resulted in increased flows in the lower basin and a 5,000 acre-foot/year increase in the combined storage of the Highland Lakes.   This is a very good and constructive amendment to the plan.   
 



Environmental Stewardship is especially interested in gaining agreement and support that the WMP guarantee

essential safety net environmental flows for the river and bay. 
 

 and include "LCRA WMP" in the subject line of your email.  
   
Posted: January 14, 2015 16:53   Go to blog
Los Angeles, City of WaterJanuary 04, 2015 14:27
The New York TimesLos Angeles, City of WaterBy JACQUES LESLIEDEC. 6, 2014 LOS ANGELES is the nation’s water archvillain, according to public perception, notorious for its
usurpation of water hundreds of miles away to slake the thirst of its ever-expanding population. As a character in “Chinatown,” the noirish 1974 film starring Jack Nicholson that churns through the city’s water history, puts it, “Either you bring the water to L.A., or you bring L.A. to the water.”
Getty ImagesRecently, however, Los Angeles has reduced its reliance on outside sources of water...

The New York Times

Los Angeles, City of Water

LOS ANGELES is the nation’s water archvillain, according to public perception, notorious for its
usurpation of water hundreds of miles away to slake the thirst of its ever-expanding population. As a character in “Chinatown,” the noirish 1974 film starring Jack Nicholson that churns through the city’s water history, puts it, “Either you bring the water to L.A., or you bring L.A. to the water.”
Posted: January 04, 2015 14:27   Go to blog
2015 Preview: States React to New Era of Water ScarcityJanuary 03, 2015 14:18
Friday, 02 January 2015 09:08Water is priority in state Legislatures and governors’ offices.
By Brett Walton
Circle of Blue
 Photo © Matt Black / Circle of BlueJohn Burchard, General Manager of the Alpaugh Community Services District in California’s Central Valley, walks a ditch bank on the outskirts of town. A horrific drought pushed water to the forefront of state politics in 2014...
Water is priority in state Legislatures and governors’ offices.

By Brett Walton
Circle of Blue
 
Photo © Matt Black / Circle of Blue
John Burchard, General Manager of the Alpaugh Community Services District in California’s 
Central Valley, walks a ditch bank on the outskirts of town. A horrific drought pushed water to the forefront of state politics in 2014. 
















California, its hand forced in 2014 by a nasty drought, brought its groundwater laws out of the Gold Rush era and into line with nearly every other state in the Union. New York’s Democratic governor banned fracking for natural gas, in large part because of concerns about water pollution.

Kansas debated how to cope with a shrinking Ogallala Aquifer, its main source of irrigation water. Voters in California, Florida, and Maine endorsed new state spending on water conservation, water treatment plants, pollution cleanup, and river restoration. And more than one dozen states, spooked by drought and needing guidance, discussed or submitted new water plans.

Taken together, these actions represent an awakening in the United States that water supplies are not as abundant as once thought. A series of severe droughts in recent years — from Texas in 2011 to the Midwest in 2012 to California today — is the frontline reality of a hotter, drier era that is forcing state leaders to take stock of their water assets and reevaluate laws, regulations, and investment strategies.
More is coming in 2015.

In states that voted for water spending, leaders this year will open the public purse. The Texas Water Development Board, a loan-making agency, will distribute funds from a $US 2 billion pot of money that voters approved in 2013. Applications for the first round of loans are due in February and the loans will close by December. Though much of the money will be spent on new pipes, wells, reservoirs, and treatment plants, state law requires at least 20 percent go toward water conservation and recycling.

The Florida Legislature also will spend a pile of cash, in its case from a fund seeded by real estate taxes and designated for land and water conservation. Approved at the ballot box in November, the fund could generate between $US 10 billion and $US 18 billion over 20 years for land purchases and infrastructure investments tied to improvements in water quality.

Montana lawmakers will consider a $US 336 million infrastructure package that was proposed by the Democratic governor. Thanks to an oil boom in neighboring North Dakota, border counties in the eastern third of the state are outgrowing their water and sewer grids. Roughly one-sixth of the package is dedicated to water, sewer, and irrigation projects.

In California, the nine-member California Water Commission is laying the groundwork for expending some of the $US 7.5 billion in bond money that voters approved in November. The commission, whose members are appointed by the governor, must write the rules for deciding priorities.

Groundwater on the Agenda

Debates about groundwater, as in 2014, will continue to echo in statehouses. Wisconsin, for one, will be a battleground for groundwater regulation. Lawmakers rejected a bill last session that would have forced regulators to approve new wells without considering cumulative effects of groundwater pumping on rivers and lakes. The Wisconsin League of Conservation Voters hopes to keep attention on the state’s aquifers, making groundwater legislation one of its top priorities in 2015. Their concern is well placed. An explosion of high-volume irrigation wells in central Wisconsin is causing streams to dry up.

The loudest chatter, however, may come from Texas, a state in which groundwater is essential to urban growth and agriculture. The regulatory landscape, though, has been muddled recently by court cases that suggest landowners should be compensated if their ability to pump groundwater is restricted. Texas faces shrinking water tables and high demand for groundwater, a combination of factors that is driving keen interest in the subterranean resource.

Texas lawmakers will consider two important issues, according to Mary Kelly, head of Parula, an Austin-based consultancy. First, they will look at the length of water-use permits that are handed out by groundwater management districts. Private developers that want to sell or lease groundwater to cities desire longer permits, to secure financing.

Lawmakers will also debate whether brackish groundwater, the slightly salty supplies that Texas has in abundance, should be regulated in the same way as fresh groundwater. Brackish groundwater was one of the issues that legislators in both chambers studied in depth during recess.

But changes in the state’s leadership add uncertainty to the legislative process this year, Kelly said.
“We have a lot of new faces in the Senate and the House, new committee chairs, as well as a new governor and lieutenant governor,” Kelly told Circle of Blue. “That makes it uncertain how much will move on water.”

In addition to new laws, several states — Arkansas, Colorado, Kansas, and Montana among them — will be finalizing water plans that were introduced in 2014. Both Arkansas and Colorado are proposing multibillion dollar infrastructure projects. In Arkansas’s case, new canals will wean farmers from unsustainable groundwater use. In Colorado, the growing cities of the Front Range are looking to move more water across the continental divide, from the Colorado River Basin.

Other states, meanwhile, will hope that long-running legal disputes will be resolved this year in the U.S. Supreme Court. Texas has sued New Mexico over declining flows in the Rio Grande, while Florida successfully petitioned the justices to consider Georgia’s use of water from shared rivers.

Even if lawmakers avoid big actions, the water plan discussions and lawsuits ensure that water will be a top-of-the policy-heap concern in 2015.
Posted: January 03, 2015 14:18   Go to blog
TRIB+Water Volume: 2 Issue: 25 December 17, 2014 10:47

Welcome to Trib+Water, a water news wrap-up and analysis prepared every other week by The Texas Tribune and the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University. We bring you the latest news and events concerning the river systems of Texas and important water issues on a state and regional level. Vol: 2 Issue: 25: ...

Welcome to Trib+Water, a water news wrap-up and analysis prepared every other week by The Texas Tribune and the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University. We bring you the latest news and events concerning the river systems of Texas and important water issues on a state and regional level.
Vol: 2 Issue: 25:


Treating water as a commodity neglects fundamental differences between the two resources that we ignore at our own peril, Sharlene Leurig, the water program director at Ceres, writes in TribTalk.


by Colin McDonald and Jessi Loerch



In which we review the latest from Colin's excellent Rio Grande adventure. Check out the dispatches and photos!





In this week’s Q&A, we interview James Griffin, the Bob Bullock Chair in Public Policy and Finance at Texas A&M’s Bush School of Government and Public Service.





The Texas Water Journal Forum, focusing on the early history of disputes over use of the Edwards Aquifer, will be held Jan. 20 at the JC Kellam Building at Texas State University in San Marcos.  





Experts on water conservation and agriculture say stewardship of private rural lands is the key to the future of conserving water in Texas, where 95 percent of the land is privately owned.





Naturalists from the Dallas/Fort Worth area joined Andrew Sansom of the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment for a tour of Big Spring where the Texas Stream Team is monitoring water quality.





The drop in groundwater levels in the El Paso area following a decade-long drought in the Upper Rio Grande Basin is particularly alarming because the rate of recharge in the area is too slow to compensate for the growing rate of pumping.





Farmers in the Upper Rio Grande Valley are struggling as water authorities have been forced to cut allotments because of the severe drought.







Using data from the Texas Water Development Board's reservoir status tracker, our auto-updating map visualizes the current state of Texas reservoirs.







 
Posted: December 17, 2014 10:47   Go to blog
Why water is not the new oilDecember 12, 2014 12:14
 Why water is not the new oilBy Sharlene Leurig, Dec. 8, 2014
Photo by Gabriel Cristóver Pérez
  “Water is the new oil.”

Nowhere is this platitude more recited than here in Texas, where homegrown oil-and-gas money — and now even global capital — is flowing into the next resource boom: groundwater.
T...

 Why water is not the new oil

Photo by Gabriel Cristóver Pérez

 
“Water is the new oil.”

Nowhere is this platitude more recited than here in Texas, where homegrown oil-and-gas money — and now even global capital — is flowing into the next resource boom: groundwater.
T. Boone Pickens’ Mesa Water, which was the first to acquire groundwater rights from landowners for export to thirsty communities, is just the best-known name in the state’s burgeoning groundwater market. It also includes BlueWater Systems, the Val Verde Water Company, Heritage Commodity and Forestar.

In October, Abengoa and BlueWater won approval for a $3.4 billion project to pipe groundwater 140 miles from Burleson and Milam counties to San Antonio.

We Texans are by no means alone in commoditizing water. The share price of Cadiz, the sponsor of a project that aims to mine and bank groundwater beneath the Mojave Desert and sell it to parts of drought-stricken California, has more than doubled in the past year. A new water futures market was launched this year in Australia.

It’s indisputable that there’s money to be made in water, especially as it becomes scarcer. But at what cost? Treating water as a commodity, no different than oil, neglects fundamental differences that we ignore at our peril. Here are three reasons why water is not the new oil:
  1. Oil has no value except in its production. Water, in stark contrast, creates value intrinsically. Flowing rivers enhance property values; dried-up riverbeds diminish them. Groundwater plays a critical role in this value creation, as its slow, steady seepage into rivers creates reliable baseflows beyond the uncertain supplies from unreliable rainfall. If that hydrological connection is severed through over-pumping, the value the water once created is lost.
  2. When an oil reservoir is depleted, the value of the land will decline, but the land itself will still have some use. When economically viable water has been removed from an aquifer, the usefulness of the land above it is irrevocably damaged.
  3. Oil will eventually be replaced by other forms of energy, but water will always be as necessary to future generations as it is for us today. While it may be economically rational to maximize oil production while it’s still in demand, there are many reasons not to maximize production of groundwater. Water provided freely by nature will always be more cost-effective than water produced through treatment or transported from far away.
So what do these fundamental differences mean for how we manage water and how we harness its economic value? We must manage water differently than oil — to sustain regional water resources and natural hydrological flows in the long term rather than maximizing production for short-term returns.

Yet decisions on whether to deplete or sustain aquifers often hinge on wide-ranging, often outdated, legal frameworks developed over a century ago.

In Montana and Oklahoma, where water above and below ground is the property of the state, pumping is limited to quantities that would not affect surface water flows. In California, new landmark legislation promotes improved groundwater management, but the law still lacks teeth to enforce pumping limits. Here in Texas, where groundwater is private property, courts have found that even reasonable groundwater regulation may be a “taking” of private property. These courts have even gone so far as to suggest that groundwater production be shaped in the image of oil and gas regulations, which are designed to maximize production.

Right now, individuals, local communities, corporations and investors have equal opportunity to destroy long-term economic value by over-pumping our groundwater resources. They’re also vulnerable to the global trend of aquifer depletion, which threatens long-term economic health and national security.

We can create water markets that protect groundwater for the future and meet our needs today, but those markets cannot mirror those of oil. To develop markets that work, we need consistent regulatory frameworks that limit groundwater use. With water use capped and sufficient water maintained for ecological and basic human needs, regulators can rationally structure trading between water users.

Today, these markets are far too rare, especially those that enable trading between hydrologically connected groundwater and surface water users. Given that all Texas rivers begin as groundwater, investing in the union of these legally divided water systems through integrated regulation and market-based water sharing has the potential to create value for all of us — both those of us who are alive today and generations far into the future.

Disclosure: T. Boone Pickens has been a major donor to The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.

Water program director at Ceres

Posted: December 12, 2014 12:14   Go to blog
TX H2O-Can we start thinking of water as a crop?December 12, 2014 11:03

Workers install a fence on the 77 Ranch as part of Water As A Crop’s cost-share program to promote sustainable land management. Photo by Craig Ficenec, Water As A Crop.

By Sara Carney

Water is not traditionally thought of as a crop, but Water As A Crop® and its partners are hoping to change that. This organization promotes the idea that water falling on private, rural land can be effectively conserved and marketed in a manner similar to crops...
4 Water As Crop Craig Ficenec

Workers install a fence on the 77 Ranch as part of
Water As A Crop’s cost-share program to promote
sustainable land management. 
Photo by Craig Ficenec, Water As A Crop.

By Sara Carney

Water is not traditionally thought of as a crop, but Water As A Crop® and its partners are hoping to change that. This organization promotes the idea that water falling on private, rural land can be effectively conserved and marketed in a manner similar to crops. In exchange for implementing conservation practices, rural landowners receive financial incentives to reimburse their costs. These conservation practices benefit investors and landowners and preserve water for rural and urban communities alike.

Water As A Crop was founded in 2009 by the Sand County Foundation, a private, nonprofit organization based in Madison, Wisconsin. The organization works nationwide to promote land and water stewardship.

 Following the foundation’s mission “to advance the use of ethical and scientifically sound land management practices and partnerships for the benefit of people and the environment,” Water As A Crop bridges gaps between rural and urban, private and federal, and corporate and individual. The program brings together landowners, local partners and stakeholders interested in funding water conservation in water-stressed areas, said Craig Ficenec, Water As A Crop program director.





Water As A Crop connects watershed stakeholders, including corporations and various conservation groups, interested in providing financial incentives to landowners who implement best management practices (BMPs). These incentives are then used to mitigate the costs of implementing conservation practices.

“The concept is to just get urban investors to reinvest in their water supply by targeting land management practices that will enhance that water supply,” said Blake Alldredge, former Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service associate.

“The premise of Water As A Crop is that much of the land is privately owned, especially in the state of Texas, meaning that the majority of the rainfall falling on the land is on private land,” Ficenec said. Therefore, its quality and quantity is, in part, subject to the management practices of that land.

Water As A Crop bridges gaps between rural and urban, private and federal, and corporate and individual. The program brings together landowners, local partners and stakeholders interested in funding water conservation in water-stressed areas.

However, there are barriers to proper water stewardship. For instance, urban water users often recognize the importance of clean water but may not fully understand private, rural landowners’ critical role in helping produce a clean, plentiful water supply. Some landowners may not be aware of BMPs that help maintain high water quality, or they may not have the financial resources to implement them.

Water As A Crop emphasizes the responsibility and potential impact both urban and rural residents have in water conservation. By implementing strategies that reduce runoff and conserve water, rural landowners provide clean water for urban residents, Ficenec said. In turn, urban residents and corporations should recognize the contributions of private landowners by investing in these conservation strategies.

“The overall idea with Water As A Crop is that if I [a landowner] save the folks in Houston — downstream from the Trinity — money by not having to clean up the water so much, then how can those dollars and those savings find their way back to the landowners in the watershed to do more conservation work and do it faster? That’s the whole concept,” said Gary Price, owner of the 77 Ranch in Navarro County.

Using partnerships to protect Texas water

Although the Sand County Foundation and Water As A Crop have nationwide interests, the struggle for water in Texas drew the program here.

“Texas is facing a lot of water issues and is going to need to depend on private lands and how landowners manage their private lands as a major component of how Texas delivers its water needs sustainably into the future,” Ficenec said.

Currently, the state water plan does not include recommendations on land management strategies to improve water conservation. Therefore, Texas is a prime candidate for a program wanting to test conservation and management strategies.

The amount of private land ownership, commercial interest and cooperative landowners are the three elements that led to Water As A Crop’s work in Texas, Ficenec said.

Because commercial water users’ profit margins can be greatly affected by water quality and quantity, there is potential for investments in water stewardship by corporations and other organizations, sources said. Seeing this potential, Water As A Crop partners with companies, such as MillerCoors, which uses water from the Richland-Chambers Reservoir to manufacture and brew beer.

“We started working in Texas and in partnership with MillerCoors, a water user in Fort Worth, who had interest in the watershed, how land is managed in the watershed and how that affects the water quality and quantity in the Richland-Chambers Reservoir, which in turn affects the water supply for its operations,” Ficenec said.

Besides MillerCoors, Water As A Crop has also helped coordinate funding from organizations such as the Dixon Water Foundation, Meadows Foundation and Knobloch Family Foundation to support conservation efforts in the Trinity River basin. A significant amount of funding was also provided by the U.S. Department of Agriculture–Natural Resources Conservation Service (USDA–NRCS) National Water Quality Initiative and Tarrant Regional Water District.
“Texas is facing a lot of water issues and is going to need to depend on private lands and how landowners manage their private lands as a major component of how Texas delivers its water needs sustainably into the future.”
Using this funding from collaborators, Sand County Foundation facilitated reimbursement to landowners for the costs of conservation practices such as building fences for rotational grazing and planting riparian buffers, sources said.

The 77 Ranch leads the way

One of the most significant factors in the implementation of Water As A Crop is the cooperation and involvement of local landowners, such as Gary and Sue Price of the 77 Ranch. Water As A Crop officials got to know Gary Price when he was awarded the Leopold Conservation Award from the Sand County Foundation and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department in 2007.

4 Water As A Crop P1030582 By Blake Alldredge

Ranchers Gary and Sue Price, owners of the
77 Ranch, were part of the Water As A Crop program.
Photo by Blake Alldredge.

 
As a rancher in the Trinity’s Chambers Creek Watershed, Price has implemented conservation strategies that have the potential to conserve water. He plants and manages native grasses to reduce water loss, while simultaneously managing forage for wildlife and livestock. The Prices also provide educational opportunities for rural and urban residents to learn about the importance of private lands in water conservation.





“We must work together to try to bridge some of those rural-urban gaps,” Price said. “One of the things that intrigued us about Water As A Crop is that we both see opportunity when we say that everybody’s drinking water comes across somebody’s ranch somewhere. So, that means that I play a vital role in a pretty big product.”

Because of his interest in private land stewardship and conservation, Price became the “anchor” for Water As A Crop’s work in the Chambers Creek Watershed, according to Ficenec. “He’s very cooperative and very interested in the concept of how private landowners can deliver water conservation and off-farm water benefits while they are also doing well for themselves by good land management.”
“We must work together to try to bridge some of those rural-urban gaps.”
The Prices’ collaboration with Water As A Crop has led to continual monitoring and data collection efforts on their land to identify the most effective land stewardship practices for conserving water. This information will be used to help landowners make management decisions and will allow investors to see the success of their investments.

Trinity Waters partnership proves fruitful

Water As A Crop’s collaboration with Gary Price also opened the door to a partnership with Trinity Waters, a Texas-based organization dedicated to the conservation of the Trinity River, which supplies water to more than 40 percent of the Texas population, according to the group.

From 2010 to 2012 the two organizations conducted a pilot project in which Trinity Waters served as the local implementing partner within the Trinity River Watershed. The project took place in Mill Creek, a tributary of Chambers Creek that supplies urban residents in Fort Worth and surrounding communities via the Richland-Chambers Reservoir and then joins the Trinity River downstream. There, the organizations collected data and educated local landowners through workshops.

4 Water As Crop Garyprice By Craig Ficenec

Through workshops given on the 77 Ranch, rancher Gary Price
educates landowners and others on the  importance of land stewardship
and its impacts on both land and water.
Photo by Blake Alldredge
“I think [Water As A Crop’s] role was to be the Johnny Appleseed, to help come and seed conservation practices in different areas,” said Kenneth Cook, Trinity Waters president and board chair.

The work that was initiated in Mill Creek by Water As A Crop and Trinity Waters led to the watershed being selected to participate in the Chambers Creek Water Quality Initiative, the only program in Texas that was part of the USDA-NRCS National Water Quality Initiative, sources said. This allowed federal funds into the area to assist with improving the water quality in Chambers Creek. Around $5 million was contributed to cost-share programs within the Chambers Creek Watershed in 2012 and 2013, Ficenec said.

“The true benefit of the pilot was to show the success and the conservation potential in that market that drew the federal funding attention to it, which was a large portion of the funds for the program,” Cook said.

Current efforts, near and far

In Texas, Water As A Crop is currently focused on monitoring and collecting data to compare the effectiveness of different management strategies in conserving water, Ficenec said. This data will allow the organization to better communicate to landowners and address questions regarding which management practices to implement. “It’s a matter of outreach and cooperation with landowners and trying to demonstrate the potential benefits to them, both in terms of production and profit,” Ficenec said.

“We try to partner with researchers at Texas A&M University and others to look at monitoring and modeling techniques that can come closer to answering those questions,” he said. “Because, obviously, if anyone wants to invest in promoting land conservation, which could be through direct financial incentives or outreach and education or whatnot, anyone investing in that wants to know there will be a return.”

Much of the monitoring is currently being done on the 77 Ranch. In particular, the amount of precipitation and discharge is being monitored to estimate how much water infiltrates the soil, said Dr. Bill Fox, Texas A&M AgriLife Research scientist.

“Currently, we are monitoring three small watersheds on Mr. Price’s ranch; they’re of different vegetation communities,” Fox said. Those areas are a tall grass prairie, a mid-grass prairie and a mesquite savannah, and each one reacts differently to water. The data being collected will calibrate the response of these three systems to rainfall and allow future comparisons to be made, he said.
Price has been actively involved in the continued monitoring and allows visitors to the ranch to gain a better understanding of how the monitoring is being done. He stresses the importance of the research, saying that there is nothing like having a landowner look at the monitoring devices and see the data produced, rather than simply reading about it on paper. Providing this information to landowners is key to empowering them in making important management decisions, he said.

“Our monitoring efforts and our research are not focused on trying to develop something to tell somebody to do what they need to do,” he said. “What we try to do is develop information so that people can make informed decisions based on their goals, their land needs, their families, whatever it may be.”

In addition to working along the Trinity River, Water As A Crop has been involved in various efforts around the nation, including a project in the central Big Sioux River of South Dakota, upstream of the iconic Sioux Falls. Reducing bacteria and sediments in the river are a primary concern for citizens and for Water As A Crop, Ficenec said.
“What we try to do is develop information so that people can make informed decisions based on their goals, their land needs, their families, whatever it may be.”
In this region, Water As A Crop is focusing on local soil conditions, which affect the amount of sediment runoff into these streams. The organization is encouraging landowners in the area to adopt practices such as adding cover crops or practicing no-till farming, Ficenec said.

Water As A Crop is also working in the Midwest, particularly in Iowa and Nebraska, areas also affected by water quality issues. In Nebraska the program is focusing on groundwater recharge and irrigation efficiency, Ficenec said, whereas in Iowa it is focused on cropping practices associated with nutrient runoff.

The Sand County Foundation plans to continue expanding Water As A Crop, helping landowners throughout the country and collecting data to inform management practices.
“Water As A Crop still envisions, as a long-term objective, that those end users of water, be they industrial or residential, though a water district or so forth, would actually see enough value in the contributions that private lands could make, providing an ecological service of clean and quality water that leaves their lands and to see that as something worth investing in,” Ficenec said.
Posted: December 12, 2014 11:03   Go to blog
Conservation News and Info from TLTCDecember 04, 2014 10:52
 
You've heard of Black Friday....and Cyber Monday....and Giving Tuesday....

Welcome to TLTC Thursday!! 

The Texas Land Trust Council is comprised of 30 land and water conservation organizations operating across Texas to conserve farms, ranches, wildlife habitat, water resources, and natural areas. Our coalition has permanently protected over 1.5 million acres through our collective conservation mission...
 

You've heard of Black Friday....and Cyber Monday....and Giving Tuesday....

Welcome to TLTC Thursday!! 

The Texas Land Trust Council is comprised of 30 land and water conservation organizations operating across Texas to conserve farms, ranches, wildlife habitat, water resources, and natural areas. Our coalition has permanently protected over 1.5 million acres through our collective conservation mission. We share a vision for the future of Texas that preserves the integrity of our natural systems, protects our wildlife and our water resources, conserves our agricultural heritage, and sustains our quality of life. We do this work for the collective benefit of all Texans and for the future generations who will inherit our great state. Join us.

Become a supporter by making a year-end gift to the Texas Land Trust Council.  
 Click here to make an online gift TODAY.
Or send your donation by check to: TLTC, PO Box 29232, Austin, TX 78755. Gifts of stock are also accepted. Call 512-994-8582 for more info.
To our many friends
Happy Holidays and Best Wishes for 2015!  




Conference Registration Early Bird Rate Ends Soon! Register NOW & Save
Detailed Agenda Now Online !

On March 4th-6th, 2015 hundreds of conservation professionals, land trust board members,attorneys, consultants, landowners, open space planners, and public agency staff working on land and water conservation issues in Texas will travel to Austin to take part in the Texas Land Conservation Conference.

Registration is now open and our Detailed Agenda outlining all conference session topics is now posted on our conference website. Please visit the conference website to view planned session topics and keynote speakers, register, find out about sponsorship or exhibitor opportunities, and for general information about the event.   www.texaslandconservationconference.org
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USDA releases new guide on federal programs centered around agriculture, forestry and conservation http://t.co/1FOnUO7hWb
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Conservation Partners Release New Land and Water Conservation Vision for Gulf of Mexico Region http://t.co/HK3yXJSMWq
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Posted: December 04, 2014 10:52   Go to blog
Texas: Local Control at RiskDecember 03, 2014 11:45
Texas legislature: put your money where your mouth isTell Phil King that if he tries to overturn the Denton fracking ban,
he IS big government

Dear David,Texas Representative Phil King was elected promising to fight big government and protect local control.“We should always trust people over big government. Local control and limited government must be the first resort, not the last.” -- philking.com/aboutHe is well on his way to breaking his promise, and becoming the biggest hypocrite in Texas in the process...
Texas legislature: put your money where your mouth is

Dear David,
Texas Representative Phil King was elected promising to fight big government and protect local control.
“We should always trust people over big government. Local control and limited government must be the first resort, not the last.” -- philking.com/about
He is well on his way to breaking his promise, and becoming the biggest hypocrite in Texas in the process.
Because, now that Denton’s voters have banned fracking by ballot initiative, Rep. King wants to prevent other cities from doing the same, and maybe overturn Denton’s ban in the process.
Denton’s ban vote was a landslide. The people who know fracking best – there are over 270 fracked wells in Denton, some only 200 feet from homes – said no.
And the voters who did so were majority Republican, and elected Republicans in the same election. Before Denton’s ban, King was for small government. Now he says citizens shouldn’t be able to decide how, when, where, or even if fracking happens in their cities.
Thank you,

Sharon Wilson, Texas Organizer
Posted: December 03, 2014 11:45   Go to blog
TRIB+Water Volume: 2 Issue: 24December 03, 2014 11:39


Welcome to Trib+Water, a water news wrap-up and analysis prepared every other week by The Texas Tribune and the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University. We bring you the latest news and events concerning the river systems of Texas and important water issues on a state and regional level.
 Vol: 2 Issue: 24:...


Welcome to Trib+Water, a water news wrap-up and analysis prepared every other week by The Texas Tribune and the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University. We bring you the latest news and events concerning the river systems of Texas and important water issues on a state and regional level.

 Vol: 2 Issue: 24:
Texas leaders weren't always so skeptical about climate change. But the state's rightward shift, coupled with a booming oil and gas economy, have changed the tenor of the debate. This story was produced in collaboration with The World.
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Texas leaders weren't always so skeptical about climate change. But the state's rightward shift, coupled with a booming oil and gas economy, have changed the tenor of the debate. This story was produced in collaboration with The World.

Climate scientists project that Texas will be hotter and drier in the coming decades, which means less rainwater will make it into lakes and reservoirs, and more will evaporate. That could spell trouble for the state's fast-growing cities and industry.
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Climate scientists project that Texas will be hotter and drier in the coming decades, which means less rainwater will make it into lakes and reservoirs, and more will evaporate. That could spell trouble for the state's fast-growing cities and industry.

The booming activity in the Houston Ship Channel may be the best evidence of Texas' economic success. But it also demonstrates the state's vulnerability to climate change. This story was produced in collaboration with The World.
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The booming activity in the Houston Ship Channel may be the best evidence of Texas' economic success. But it also demonstrates the state's vulnerability to climate change. This story was produced in collaboration with The World.

In which we review the latest from Colin's excellent Rio Grande adventure. Check out the dispatches and photos!
by Colin McDonald and Jessi Loerch
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In which we review the latest from Colin's excellent Rio Grande adventure. Check out the dispatches and photos!

In this week’s Q&A, we interview Walt Sears, executive director of the Northeast Texas Municipal Water District.
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In this week’s Q&A, we interview Walt Sears, executive director of the Northeast Texas Municipal Water District.

The Hill Country Water Summit, happening on Friday, will focus on Hill Country hydrology, current and future water demands, the upcoming legislative session and other topics.
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The Hill Country Water Summit, happening on Friday, will focus on Hill Country hydrology, current and future water demands, the upcoming legislative session and other topics.

The Texas Riparian & Stream Workshop focuses on stream and riparian zones in the Pedernales River Watershed and the Hill Country.
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The Texas Riparian & Stream Workshop focuses on stream and riparian zones in the Pedernales River Watershed and the Hill Country.

A recent analysis of groundwater rights and the
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A recent analysis of groundwater rights and the "rule of capture" in Texas suggests the state could learn from California, which amended its groundwater rules, making them less tied to oil and gas policy.

A water market fostering water exchanges between states could help ease water shortages in the west, according to the authors of a new report from the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution.
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water market fostering water exchanges between states could help ease water shortages in the west, according to the authors of a new report from the Hamilton Project at the Brookings Institution.

The Arizona State Parks Foundation and the Verde River Institute are testing the strategy of organizing river tours to raise funds to boost the state park system and help save one of the state's last free-flowing rivers.
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The Arizona State Parks Foundation and the Verde River Institute are testing the strategy of organizing river tours to raise funds to boost the state park system and help save one of the state's last free-flowing rivers.

Using data from the Texas Water Development Board's reservoir status tracker, our auto-updating map visualizes the current state of Texas reservoirs.
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Using data from the Texas Water Development Board's reservoir status tracker, our auto-updating map visualizes the current state of Texas reservoirs.
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Texas A&M's statewide rainwater harvesting projects play a critical role in helping conserve Texas’ water resources. Learn More.
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Posted: December 03, 2014 11:39   Go to blog
Bracken Cave: an international treasure in San Antonio’s backyardDecember 03, 2014 10:41

Laura Bush, For the Express-News : November 22, 2014 : Updated: November 22, 2014 1:37pm Photo By ROGELIO SOLIS / ROGELIO SOLIS / AP
Former first lady Laura Bush founded Taking Care of Texas, a conservation initiative, in 2011. The group has joined with others to purchaseland to help save the Bracken Cave bats.Photo By The Nature Conservancy

A recent deal still needs an estimated $5 million to save
 the Bracken Cave bats. here, bats take off in large numbers 
from the cave where millions reside each year...

Laura Bush, For the Express-News : November 22, 2014 : Updated: November 22, 2014 1:37pm
Photo By ROGELIO SOLIS / ROGELIO SOLIS / AP
Former first lady Laura Bush
 founded Taking Care of Texas, 
a conservation initiative, in 2011. T
he group has joined with others to purchase
land to help save the Bracken Cave bats.
Photo By The Nature Conservancy

A recent deal still needs an estimated $5 million to save
 the Bracken Cave bats. here, bats take off in large numbers 
from the cave where millions reside each year.


On summer nights in Texas, 15 million Mexican free-tailed bats emerge from a cave in the Texas Hill Country. Like a plume of smoke billowing from a chimney, the bats spiral into the night sky and eventually spread out over hundreds of miles in search of food. These bats make up the largest concentration of mammals in the world, and they’re right here in San Antonio’s backyard at Bracken Cave.

In June, I had the pleasure of visiting Bracken Cave with Taking Care of Texas, the conservation initiative I founded in 2011, along with our friends from Bat Conservation International. Sitting quietly near the mouth of the cave and watching the ascent of these bats into the clear night sky was a breathtaking experience. I am proud that this internationally renowned site is in our home state. Even bats choose Texas.

Bracken Cave is ranked by Bat Conservation International, the global authority on bats and their conservation, as one of the most important sites for bats in the world. In summer, the colony at Bracken Cave may range from 10 million to 20 million bats.

By comparison, Austin’s famous Congress Avenue Bridge is home to 1.5 million bats, one-tenth the size of the Bracken Cave colony. Bracken Cave’s colony is maternal, meaning the cave is where pregnant females give birth and rear their young.

The bats from Bracken Cave have many important ecological benefits to the Hill Country agriculture and its ecosystem. They consume more than 100 tons of insects nightly.

This unique factor makes Bracken Cave critical to the future of Mexican free-tailed bats and the many plants and animals that depend on their presence in Texas.

Two years ago, more than 1,500 acres adjacent to Bracken Cave were slated for development into a high-density suburban neighborhood with up to four homes per acre. Located in close proximity to the cave and directly under the bats’ nightly flight path, the proposed neighborhood threatened the bat colony’s existence.

That’s why Bat Conservation International launched a campaign last year to purchase the property and leave it intact and protected forever. Taking Care of Texas signed on as an early partner, supporting BCI’s efforts by connecting funding and leadership resources to the campaign and elevating awareness about Bracken Cave.

The Bat Conservation International and the Nature Conservancy announced recently that the property has been officially purchased and put under permanent protection. The city of San Antonio, Bexar County, Edwards Aquifer Authority, Camp Bullis, and many individuals and foundations made this possible. The announcement of this conservation easement is thrilling news.

But the story isn’t over yet. To fully conserve the land around Bracken Cave, Bat Conservation International and The Nature Conservancy must raise the $5 million remaining to pay for the property and its future maintenance.

I invite all Central Texas residents to join BCI and TNC in taking care of the bats at Bracken Cave. By working together to conserve this treasure in Texas, we can protect the land that we leave for our children and generations to come.

To support Bracken Cave, visit www.savethecave.us.
For more information on the cave, visit www.batcon.org/bracken
Posted: December 03, 2014 10:41   Go to blog
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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Participate as a Sponsor or Exhibitor and gain exclusive access to the nearly 300 conservation professionals and key community decision makers in attendance.
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X-mTrak-mID: 504184b1-544a-490f-ace4-d7e125e1d45b
X-mTrak-cID: 6a339b10-3a22-4f82-87d7-8890e235e568
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

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