News

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
Conservation News Feed
USDA releases new guide on federal programs centered around agriculture, forestry and conservation http://t.co/1FOnUO7hWb
Vanished rabbit reappears on central Californian ranchhttp://t.co/rh9qRkdCsp
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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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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Posted: November 19, 2014 10:12   Go to blog
TEXAS WATER SOLUTIONS 11/07/2014November 19, 2014 10:06
Next Steps for San Antonio’s Vista Ridge Project By Tyson Broad 

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Chihuahuan Rice

November 9, 2014
by Sharlene Leurig

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

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


 



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

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

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

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

 

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

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

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



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

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

 Texas Living Waters Project Blog

Next Steps for San Antonio’s Vista Ridge Project

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

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

Edwards Aquifer Protection

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

And what happens down the road?

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

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

Conservation and Land Use

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

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

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

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

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

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


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


Save Old Baldy 

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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

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

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

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


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


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

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

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


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


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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Dear GEAA Members and Friends,

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

Dear GEAA Members and Friends,

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


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

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

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


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

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

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

Annalisa Peace
Executive Director
Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance

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


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



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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

Texas Sees Significant Decline in Rural Land



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


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

 Change in Market Value

In Texas, where more than 95 percent of land is privately owned, there are unique challenges for the conservation of open space lands. As land gets more expensive, those who own open spaces will have more of an incentive to sell their acres to developers. And governments trying to conserve land by buying up open spaces will have to spend more money to do so. 
Disclosure: Texas A&M University is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.
 
Posted: October 17, 2014 10:33   Go to blog

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