News

Texas Sees Significant Decline in Rural Land | The Texas Tribune October 17, 2014 10:33

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

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

Texas Sees Significant Decline in Rural Land



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


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

 Change in Market Value

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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



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

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

Hill Country News




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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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




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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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


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

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


 Registration is Now Open!Register Early and Save! Early Bird discounts will be gone before you know it.Early Bird Deadline: December 13th, 2014

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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

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





Posted: October 08, 2014 14:00   Go to blog
Friends of Blue Hole Lecture about "Water in Texas" on Sunday, October 12 at 4 pmOctober 08, 2014 10:34


Friends of Blue Hole
For Immediate ReleaseOctober 3, 2014
Friends To Host Lecture by Andy Sansom, Texas Conservation Leader

The Friends of Blue Hole will host a lecture about "Water in Texas" on Sunday, October 12 at 4 pm in the Wood/Grinstead Amphitheater at Blue Hole Regional Park.  Please bring a lawn chair as there is limited seating available.
Sansom BiographyAndrew Sansom is one of the leading conservationists in Texas...



For Immediate Release
October 3, 2014

Friends To Host Lecture by Andy Sansom, Texas Conservation Leader


The Friends of Blue Hole will host a lecture about "Water in Texas" on Sunday, October 12 at 4 pm in the Wood/Grinstead Amphitheater at Blue Hole Regional Park.  Please bring a lawn chair as there is limited seating available.

Sansom Biography
Andrew Sansom is one of the leading conservationists in Texas. As executive director of The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, formerly the River Systems Institute, he leads Texas State’s broad and comprehensive efforts to ensure sustainable water resources.

Before coming to Texas State, Sansom was executive director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, where in 1997 he was one of the state leaders instrumental in the passage of Senate Bill 1, landmark legislation affecting the development and management of water resources in Texas. He also created the Parks and Wildlife Foundation of Texas, which funds a number of department programs through private donations, and new urban fish and wildlife programs designed to promote conservation awareness in urban areas.

Early in his career, Sansom worked for the National Recreation and Park Association in Washington, D.C. He has served as environmental coordinator for the White House Conference on Youth; special assistant to Interior Secretary Rogers C.B. Morton; director of conservation education at the Federal Energy Administration; and deputy director of the Energy Institute at the University of Houston.

Sansom has also served as executive director of the Texas Nature Conservancy, and on the board of trustees of the Texas Historical Foundation, Bat Conservation International, KLRU Public Television in Austin, and the National Audubon Society. He has written for numerous publications and is the author of six books.



Director and President Bob Dussler | Founding Director Peter Way| Executive Director Laura Linhart-Kistner Advisory Director Mayor Steve Thurber | Jim Braniff | David Berman | Tevis Grinstead |  Mel Hildebrandt
 Stephen Klepfer | Suzanne McCord | Andy Sansom | Marilee Wood

PO Box 1601 •  Wimberley TX 78676 • 210.867.3939 • www.friendsofbluehole.org • Federal ID# 20-3415046

 
Posted: October 08, 2014 10:34   Go to blog
Neighbor to Neighbor News...Pass it on... Hill Country News.October 6, 2014October 07, 2014 10:51

Vista Ridge water deal hearing this Wednesday evening in San Antonio
City Council will hold a public hearing Wednesday, Oct. 8 on the proposed 30-year, $3.4 billion contract between SAWS and the Vista Ridge Consortium to deliver 50,000 acre-feet of water from Burleson County to San Antonio every year for 30 years starting in 2019 or 2020. Read more from the Rivard Report. Community members including HCA are asking for more time to learn...

Vista Ridge water deal hearing this Wednesday evening in San Antonio
City Council will hold a public hearing Wednesday, Oct. 8 on the proposed 30-year, $3.4 billion contract between SAWS and the Vista Ridge Consortium to deliver 50,000 acre-feet of water from Burleson County to San Antonio every year for 30 years starting in 2019 or 2020. Read more from the Rivard Report. Community members including HCA are asking for more time to learn.
The Vista Ridge pipeline project raises a lot of questions
The Vista Ridge pipeline isn’t just about San Antonio, it will affect our regional landscape and economy. “Underlying any discussion about a water purchase and transfer process is the need to demonstrate that the water is needed and, if so, when is it needed and for what uses.” Read “Vista Ridge creates more questions than answers,” from Texas Water Solutions.  San Antonio is one step closer to buying some of the most expensive water ever sold in Texas, just as the deal is drawing more critics. Read more from Texas Tribune. And to help us all read and stay informed, the Alamo Area Sierra Club has created this clearing house of information related to the Visa Ridge pipeline deal.

Have You Thought about the Hill Country Soundscape?

“..the effects of human endeavors all around the planet can be gauged by listening to the sounds of different habitats. Wild, urban, rural — they all can be interpreted.” Read more from Bernie Krause in “Call of the Wild,” featured in Sun Magazine. Find out what neighbors are doing through the Noise Pollution Clearning House.

Texas A&M reports loss of farms, ranches and forests
“Through Texas Land Trends, we have been able to raise awareness that ‘Yes, we have a lot of land in Texas,’ but we are losing it at a faster rate than most other states in the country, and that loss is having profound impacts on our agricultural base, our water resources and our native wildlife habitat.”  Read More about Land Trends.

The Oak Hill “Y” – A gateway to the Hill Country
A community workshop to be held October 9th from 6–8 pm as part of a “Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) process,” a planning approach that invites the surrounding communities and neighborhoods to influence the design, so that it reflects their cultural and historic values and aesthetic preferences. Learn more about the event hosted by the CTRMA and TxDot. Explore www.Fix290.org for more information.

Be a citizen scientist for Wildlife Field Research
at Cibolo Nature Center & Farm on Oct. 6-11 Volunteers interested in learning about Hill Country wildlife and contributing to its scientific study are encouraged to become citizen scientists during the Wildlife Field Research “bio-blitz” taking place Oct. 6-11 at the Cibolo Nature Center & Farm. Wildlife Field Research is open to participants of all ages and skill levels. Learn more
"Can the Guadalupe Bass save our Hill Country Rivers?" October 15th in Junction
Come hear about a TPWD initiative to help landowners work together on a watershed scale to protect water quality, quantity and riparian health in the Hill Country. Presentations from Texas Tech, TPWD and the South Llano Watershed Alliance. Learn more

HCA's 2015 Calendar is Available for Sale!
HCA has released their 9th Texas Hill Country Calendar. Once again, this calendar delivers stunning photography while remaining an informative resource on Hill Country conservation. The stunning photographs featured throughout the 2015 calendar were chosen from nearly 400 submissions to HCA’s 2014 Photo Contest.

Upcoming Events

October

October 7 in Canyon Lake - Public Forum on Trinity Aquifer, presented by The League of Women Voters Comal Area - Details
October 8 in San Antonio - City Hearing on SAWS-Vista Ridge Water Deal - Details
October 8 in San Antonio - Water Forum V: A Regional Forum on our Future - Details
October 15 in Junction - SLWA Guadalupe Bass Workshop - Details
October 16 in San Antonio - Teaming with Wildlife: The State of Nature in Texas, presented by Compassionate San Antonio - Details
October 16 in Boerne - Hill Country Agri-land workshop - Details
October 17-19 in Alpine - Society for Ecological Restoration Annual Conference: Ecological Restoration in the Southwest - Details

October 24 in Utopia - Stars over Utopia - Learn how to protect our night skies and do some stargazing - Details

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

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

October 30 in Austin - Balcones Canyonland Preserve Infrastructure Workshop - Details
Pass it on:
Posted: October 07, 2014 10:51   Go to blog
We got a hearing! And you are invited!October 06, 2014 12:35

Dear GEAA members and friends,
The Vista Ridge pipeline is being sold as a regional water supply project to serve growth in the IH 35 corridor.  We predict that this will result in an explosion of growth in the areas where we least want it – over our Edwards and Trinity watersheds.  For a great description of the project, read what SOS Alliance has to say here...

Dear GEAA members and friends,
The Vista Ridge pipeline is being sold as a regional water supply project to serve growth in the IH 35 corridor.  We predict that this will result in an explosion of growth in the areas where we least want it – over our Edwards and Trinity watersheds.  For a great description of the project, read what SOS Alliance has to say here
At a briefing of the SAWS water rates advisory board that I attended, it was mentioned that SAWS intends to sell short term water contracts from the Vista Ridge pipeline to supply water in Wimberley. San Marcos, Dripping Springs, Spring Branch, and Blanco.  The cities of Austin and San Marcos have already announced that they do not want this water. I don’t know of any entities other than MUD’s that would pay the $2,200/arce foot for a five to ten year contract.  This project is a developer’s dream.
At the San Antonio City Council meeting last night, several groups, including GEAA, presented our concerns.  Former Texas Water Development Board Attorney, Michelle McFadden presented an excellent analysis of the risks of this project.  We are grateful to the League of Independent Voters of Texas for commissioning Ms. McFaddin to take a close look at the Vista Ridge contract  (something, it seems, that few here in San Antonio have done).
It appears that the SAWS Director of Public Relations, upon receiving GEAA’s press release announcing that we would be at City Council to speak on the Vista Ridge Project, spent the afternoon drafting comments for representatives of the various Chambers of Commerce to present, as well.  We were astonished to hear for the first time - from a Chamber of Commerce representative - that the City is planning on having a public hearing at their next weekly Council meeting.  
So, please mark your calendars to attend a public hearing on the Vista Ridge Water Supply project. 
When: Wednesday, October 8th at 6:00 pm
Where: San Antonio City Hall Complex, City Council Chambers, 114 W. Commerce, San Antonio, Texas
What: A Public Hearing to allow citizens and other interested parties the opportunity to provide comments to the City Council on the proposed Vista Ridge Water Supply Agreement.  For information on signing up to speak on line, click here.  You may park at the Frost Bank garage across Commerce Street.
If you are a SAWS ratepayer, we urge you to come down and express your concerns.  If you can't make it, please contact your Council Representative and let them know what you think. This project is estimated to boost your water rates by at least 16% over the next three years.  You are essentially being asked to subsidize an explosion of growth over the Edwards and Trinity aquifer watersheds via a financially risky project.
We welcome citizens from throughout the Hill Country to attend the hearing, and/or write to Mayor Taylor and the San Antonio City Council to express your concerns. 
Looking forward to seeing you next Wednesday!
Sincerely,
Annalisa Peace
You can always keep up with interesting water news on GEAA's Face Book page
and, you can mail contributions to support GEAA to PO Box 15618, San Antonio, Texas 78212
Posted: October 06, 2014 12:35   Go to blog
HCA Press Release - HCA releases 9th Hill Country Calendar October 06, 2014 12:32



education  conservation cooperation
  


For Immediate Release Contact: Christy Muse, Executive Director Hill Country Alliance christy@hillcountryalliance.org 512.560.3135
2015 Texas Hill Country Calendar Available for SaleCalendar captures the beauty of the Texas Hill Country and the importance of protecting it for future generations
(October 2, 2014) The Hill Country Alliance (HCA) recently released their 9th Texas Hill Country Calendar...



education  
conservation
cooperation

  


For Immediate Release
Contact:
Christy Muse, Executive Director
Hill Country Alliance
christy@hillcountryalliance.org
512.560.3135

2015 Texas Hill Country Calendar Available for Sale
Calendar captures the beauty of the Texas Hill Country and the importance of protecting it for future generations

(October 2, 2014) The Hill Country Alliance (HCA) recently released their 9th Texas Hill Country Calendar.  Once again, this calendar delivers stunning photography while remaining an informative resource on Hill Country conservation – addressing such issues as groundwater resource protection, native habitat conservation, land stewardship, night sky protection and more. HCA hopes their calendar will inspire people to learn more and become involved in the issues important to keeping the natural resources of this beautiful and fragile region intact.

The photographs featured throughout the 2015 calendar were chosen from nearly 400 submissions to HCA’s 2014 Photo Contest. The annual photo contest calls for photographs that capture the unique qualities of the Texas Hill Country that need preserving as well as examples of good land stewardship being put into practice. This year, HCA also called for photos that reflect a struggling region amidst drought and sometimes misunderstood land stewardship practices. 

The cover of the 2015 calendar features grand prize winner, Mark Holly’s photo, “No Bluebonnets this Year,” taken in early spring along the Willow City Loop, a spot normally famous its lush spring landscape of bluebonnets and other native wildflowers. “We felt especially compelled to use this image on the calendar cover because of the story it tells — of stress and hope and resiliency,” said Christy Muse, executive director of HCA.

The calendar is available for sale through the HCA website, www.hillcountryalliance.org. Wholesale prices for Hill Country retailers and special bulk order prices for businesses and organizations are available.

The Hill Country Alliance is a non-profit organization whose purpose is to raise public awareness and build community support around the need to preserve the natural resources and heritage of the Central Texas Hill Country.
###
Posted: October 06, 2014 12:32   Go to blog
San Antonio a Step Closer to Controversial Pipeline | The Texas TribuneOctober 01, 2014 11:49
San Antonio is one step closer to buying some of the most expensive water ever sold in Texas, just as the deal is drawing more critics.
The San Antonio Water System board on Monday unanimously approved a $3.4 billion contract to pipe in 50,000 acre-feet, or 16 billion gallons, of water a year from underneath Central Texas' Burleson County starting in 2019. The contract is with two companies, Austin-based BlueWater and the Spanish company Abengoa, whose joint venture is called the Vista Ridge pipeline...
San Antonio is one step closer to buying some of the most expensive water ever sold in Texas, just as the deal is drawing more critics.
The San Antonio Water System board on Monday unanimously approved a $3.4 billion contract to pipe in 50,000 acre-feet, or 16 billion gallons, of water a year from underneath Central Texas' Burleson County starting in 2019. The contract is with two companies, Austin-based BlueWater and the Spanish company Abengoa, whose joint venture is called the Vista Ridge pipeline.
“The time for courage is now,” Berto Guerra, chairman of the SAWS board, said in a statement urging the San Antonio City Council to approve the contract as well. “Further delays will only serve to create uncertainty in our water future and risk increased project costs.”
The proposal could come before the City Council as early as next month.
With the encouragement of groups like the San Antonio Chamber of Commerce, SAWS says the historic deal is the best way for the growing region to wean itself off the Edwards Aquifer, whose supply is uncertain in the wake of drought and concerns over endangered species. The Vista Ridge pipeline would serve 162,000 new families, according to the utility.

But critics say the plan is financially risky and premature, because the city will have to pay for the full amount of water the pipeline can deliver every year — even though it may be decades before San Antonio actually needs all of it. Sixteen billion gallons of water is 20 percent of the city's current annual water demand today. 

“People are starting to wake up ... [and ask], ‘Does this smell as bad to you as it does to me?’” said Amy Hardberger, an assistant professor of law at St. Mary’s University who teaches water law and land use. “I think that the next month is going to get pretty hairy.”

At $3.4 billion for a 30-year supply contract, the cost of the water, including treatment and delivery, will be about $2,300 per acre-foot — as much as seven times the rate that San Antonio pays for water from the Edwards Aquifer. By 2050, increasing electrical and maintenance costs could put that number closer to $2,700, SAWS spokesman Greg Flores said. The utility estimates that residents will see a water rate hike of about 16 percent to pay for the pipeline.

Other rate increases are expected in the next few years to help pay for upgraded water delivery and sewer infrastructure, and to bring in other new supplies like desalinated water. Combining those increases with what is needed to pay for the new pipeline means that San Antonio residents could pay 41 percent more for water and wastewater in 2019 than they are paying today. Such a hike would push the average household water bill, at $53 per month today, up to $88. Of that bill, $12 would pay for the Vista Ridge pipeline. (Many of these numbers could be slightly lower if SAWS secures a lower interest rate on the deal.)

The City Council will be deciding on a project that just a few months ago had even drawn objections from Guerra and SAWS President Robert Puente because of its high cost. 

“I don’t think we’ve ever, in one fell swoop, committed to a $3.4 billion project before,” said Ron Nirenberg, a San Antonio city councilman. “This is one and a half times the city budget,” which is $2.4 billion, he said.

San Antonio isn’t the only city where water rates are climbing; this summer, drought-stricken Wichita Falls boosted its water rates by 53 percent. Industry experts say Americans have been underpaying for water for decades. The cost of the raw water for the Vista Ridge project will be fixed over 30 years, prompting SAWS board members to declare the utility is buying “tomorrow’s water at today’s price.”


Not everyone is so sure of that, however. “If we really cared about the cost, we would be going after a project that could be financed with SWIFT money,” Hardberger said. She was referring to $2 billion that voters approved to be taken out of Texas’ Rainy Day Fund last November, to be given out by the state as low-cost loans for water projects.

The Vista Ridge pipeline is ineligible for those funds because it is privately financed. Abengoa, a private company, will build the pipeline, not SAWS, a public utility that could have gotten the cheaper loans from the state.

Puente had made the same point several months ago, suggesting that the city should instead expand its desalination plant because that public project would be eligible for more low-cost state loans. (The plant is being financed in part by such funds, which SAWS can still pursue for other water projects.) 

But Puente and Guerra now say the Vista Ridge deal is better than it was several months ago. For instance, the contract now ensures that SAWS will only pay for the water that the companies can physically deliver. If only 40,000 acre-feet is available one year because groundwater managers in Burleson County force cutbacks, SAWS will only pay for that amount of water, and Vista Ridge will have to bear the loss. The companies also scrapped their initial demand of a $5 million annual “reservation” fee for the water and capped the interest rate at 6.04 percent. SAWS could still negotiate a lower interest rate before the deal closes, which the utility hopes would happen within the next 18 months.

But critics say that’s not a justification for such an expensive deal, and the interest rate is twice as much as what state loans on public projects could offer. “That tells me it’s very risky,” said Michelle McFaddin, a water lawyer who has reviewed the 581-page contract between SAWS and Vista Ridge.
McFaddin, who was the lead attorney for infrastructure loan programs at the Texas Water Development Board for six years, now works for the League of Independent Voters. The Central Texas activist group, which is vocal on water issues, opposes the SAWS deal.
“This is an example of public-private partnerships gone awry,” said McFaddin, adding that the company Abengoa carries its own risks because its “credit rating is two levels below investment grade.” Moody’s rated the company at B2 in August, which suggests a higher level of risk for potential investors.

Flores, the SAWS spokesman, argued that “regardless of their credit rating, if they’re able to secure the financing and the interest rate is capped, then our ratepayers are protected.” He added that the ability to sell bonds for the pipeline will depend not on Abengoa's credit rating but on San Antonio's ability to pay for the project.

Nirenberg, the San Antonio city councilman, said he supports the efforts to expand the city’s water supply beyond the Edwards. But he worried that by the time the city actually needs the full 16 billion gallons of water per year, it may not even be available. Many other water provider hopefuls are placing their straws in the Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer, where the Vista Ridge project will draw from, and some hydrologists are concerned there isn’t enough to go around.

“What happens to that water, knowing that that aquifer is going to be sold to other parties as well?” Nirenberg asked. “If the water’s not there in 30 years, what are we doing? We’re just building a pipeline to nowhere.”

Disclosure: The San Antonio Water System is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.
Posted: October 01, 2014 11:49   Go to blog
WVWA Fall Membership Event this Saturday, September 27thSeptember 25, 2014 15:33
Wimberley Valley Watershed Association
Fall Membership Picnic at Jacob's Well
Join us Saturday September 27th at the Retreat at Jacob's Well to connect with the Wimberley Valley community and celebrate nearly two decades of conservation and stewardship of our land and water. Enjoy a casual picnic dinner with music by Dave Moretz and meet the Friends of Jacob's Well Volunteers, Science Dive Teams and water lovers from across the Hill Country. Come early for a dip into Jacob's Well!


...
Wimberley Valley Watershed Association
Fall Membership Picnic at Jacob's Well

Join us Saturday September 27th at the Retreat at Jacob's Well to connect with the Wimberley Valley community and celebrate nearly two decades of conservation and stewardship of our land and water. Enjoy a casual picnic dinner with music by Dave Moretz and meet the Friends of Jacob's Well Volunteers, Science Dive Teams and water lovers from across the Hill Country. Come early for a dip into Jacob's Well!



PO BOX 2534
Wimberley, Texas 78676
Posted: September 25, 2014 15:33   Go to blog
Hill Country Alliance News 09.23.14September 25, 2014 15:26

Water Crisis: Time to Get Serious!September 23, 2014

Last week’s “Water Crisis” event hosted by The Hays County Citizens Alliance for Responsible Development (CARD) drew a huge crowd and continues to create meaningful conversations about how rural lands west of I-35 will be developed. CARD advocates that responsible, sustainable development within western Hays County be concentrated along established growth corridors, ie: I-35, Hwy 130, FM 46, US 290 and US 281. They also recommend that the interior of Hays and northern Comal Counties remain at rural densities...

Water Crisis: Time to Get Serious!

September 23, 2014

Last week’s “Water Crisis” event hosted by The Hays County Citizens Alliance for Responsible Development (CARD) drew a huge crowd and continues to create meaningful conversations about how rural lands west of I-35 will be developed. CARD advocates that responsible, sustainable development within western Hays County be concentrated along established growth corridors, ie: I-35, Hwy 130, FM 46, US 290 and US 281. They also recommend that the interior of Hays and northern Comal Counties remain at rural densities. 

CARD’s intention was to bring people together for a serious and respectful conversation about serious water issues that will determine the future of Hill Country development.
The backdrop consists of simmering controversies such as the over-pumping of the Trinity Aquifer, the legal separation between groundwater and surface water, the importation of water from the east to fuel development along the I-35 corridor, and the failure of the TCEQ to create adequate aquifer protection in this highly stressed area. 

These controversies coupled with Central Texas’ spiraling growth and the inability of Texas counties to contribute to significant land planning are the driving forces that led CARD to call this “Water Crisis” Summit and to lay the groundwork for future dialog and action. 

CARD invited a panel of speakers to present their vision of the state of water to the public in Wimberley, Texas. The panel included Andy Sansom of the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, Hays County Commissioner Ray Wisenant, Peter Newell, of HDR Engineering (planning consultant for the San Antonio and Blanco River Basins - Region L), and SAWS’ (San Antonio Water Supply) COO, Steve Clouse. 

Presentations relied on the suppositions that the I-35 growth corridor will continue to grow at an exponential rate without limitation westward into the Hill Country, and without regard to advanced conservation strategies and low impact development strategies that can and should be part of the equation. The proposal that SAWS and the Hays County Commissioner’s Court are presenting is to import at least 141,000 Acre-Feet (about 46 Billion gallons) per year, every year, from our neighboring counties to the east over the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer. Landowners to the east strongly object to this volume of water moving out of their area. 

HCA views water transfers as something to take seriously and avoid without full comprehension and assurance that the sending basin isn’t compromised simply to benefit another basin’s unbridled growth. 

HCA also recognizes and struggles with the fact that here in the Hill Country (and all of Texas) we do not have the ability to practice land development/land-use planning outside of our municipalities or on a large landscape scale. The result is that infrastructure proposals such as these actually become the region's land-use plan by default. Every pipeline that stretches outside of a city, leads sprawling development further away from existing urban infrastructure. Who exactly will this new supply serve, at what cost, and at whose expense? 

A prosperous Hill Country economy is achievable with careful planning and sustainable supply solutions. We need to embrace the idea that our growth needs must be met without over-drafting our resources - and that means financial resources as well as natural resources. Just as Hill Country ranchers have known for generations, this landscape has a carrying capacity that must be calculated and honored. 

CARD’s leadership continues to provide the Hill Country with well-reasoned planning input and thoughtful forums in which the community has the ability to participate and make a difference. Their website is a valuable resource, and contains an event summary with links to each of presentations from the Summit.

As a counterpoint, or perhaps an expanded point, Linda Curtis from Independent Texans had this to say:

WELL MEANING PEOPLE CAN STILL POISON YOUR WELL
Thursday night, I attended a forum in Hays County put on by the Citizens Alliance for Responsible Development (CARD). I have good friends in CARD and I know they mean well. I also believe they had no intention of letting this happen. Nevertheless, I want to tell you what I think – me, Linda Curtis. The League of Independent Voters will have its own response to my report soon. 

What went down is that local Hays County Commissioners, Will Conley and Ray Whisenant, together with San Antonio Water Systems (SAWS) Senior VP CEO Steven Clouse, stole the show peddling their respective plans to drain the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer and its deep Simsboro formation in rural counties just east of Austin where I happen to live. 

The confusing blather of the Hays County Commissioners – which might explain why so many people just up and left before the end – had many scratching their heads. But it was the scientists on the panel who really got to me. They began with a conclusion. The conclusion is that our growth rate in central Texas will continue for decades, ignoring the basic truism we all learn in Biology 101, expressed in the graph below. We put this together for our friends in Austin who are choking on out-of-control growth and its intimate partner – unaffordability.
In other words, dear Hays County friends, we Central Texans are on an unsustainable path. But you already know this. So why was this perspective not represented at the CARD event? I really don’t know. But I think Hays Countians need to hear another viewpoint and some basic facts. 

It is important that you understand that the projects being sold to you on Thursday night represent a virtual siege by water marketers and some municipalities on the aquifer east of Austin – the Simsboro formation of the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer under Burleson, Milam, Lee and Bastrop counties. It is a fact that you cannot effectively evaluate the effect of one project on the aquifer without acknowledging the total projected pumping on the same aquifer. 

It surprised me that no one from Hays County took on their Commissioners for using taxpayer dollars for a “reservation agreement” with Forestar Real Estate Group for 45,000- acre-feet per year, after the Lost Pines District granted Forestar a more reasonable 12,000 acre-feet permit based on a desire not to mine (and harm) the Simsboro. That’s almost 14 billion gallons per year compared to a little less than 4 billion gallons --- however, 4 billion gallons is estimated to serve up to 35,000 homes.

Hays County has no way to deliver, much less need for, water for 125,000 homes until maybe 2060! What’s more, ask the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District that represents you if they would ever agree to the amount of drawdown on your aquifer being forced on us out here east of Austin. (Yours is approximately 30 feet, ours is 200+ feet drawdown “average”, which means much higher drawdowns near the mega-well fields themselves.) I think the answer is likely not just no, but hell no! 

Forestar is suing not only the Lost Pines GCD, but each of our volunteer board members individually, no doubt using Hays County dollars for their litigation kitty. Are these the kind of people Hays County citizens want their tax dollars supporting? I doubt it. But no one peeped a word.
There’s also water marketer, End Op, LP, owned by former Williamson County Commissioner, Frankie Limmer, a notorious good ole boy. End Op is trying to secure a permit from Lost Pines GCD for 46,000 acre-feet from the same aquifer

The most imminent contract for Simsboro water is the Vista Ridge Project for 50,000 acre-feet brokered between SAWS and a consortium of the Spanish-based Abengoa Water USA and Austin-based Blue Water Systems. Post Oak Savannah Groundwater Conservation District (Milam and Burleson counties), just to the north and east of the Lost Pines District, has already approved a permit for Blue Water totaling 71,000 acre-feet that will be used for the SAWS project as well as for the SR 130 corridor, much to the chagrin of Milam and Burleson County landowners, businesses and newly arrived board members of Post Oak GCD who are just realizing that they’ve been had. That’s right. It’s the same aquifer that Lost Pines is getting sued out the ying-yang for trying to protect. 

The SAWS Vista Ridge deal may well be inked on September 22, but it must be approved by the San Antonio City Council. This was really why I attended the Hays County meeting. I went there to ask for help from our Hays County friends to appeal to the San Antonio officials to put a stop to this. 

If we, together, can bust the SAWS Vista Ridge deal, this will be a signal to the Hays County Commissioners Court and municipalities along the IH-35 corridor to take their foot off the growth pedal by continuing to enable real estate developers building in areas without adequate local water supply. If we unite as a region, we can do powerful things. If we don’t, the SAWS deal is likely to be the beginning of the end of groundwater sustainability for us all.
Posted: September 25, 2014 15:26   Go to blog
It Will Take an Insane Amount of Rain Before the Highland Lakes Recover | StateImpact TexasSeptember 25, 2014 15:24
Photo courtesy of the LCRA......Lake Travis is heading towards  its lowest levels in history if we have a dry fall.September 19, 2014 | 11:32 AM By Terrence HenryCentral Texas is having a pretty decent year, rain-wise. We’re sitting just below normal. And it’s been a good week, too: early Thursday, one part of Austin got over seven inches of rain.

So much rain fell over downtown Austin that the statue of Stevie Ray Vaughan along Lady Bird Lake looked like he was walking on water...
Photo courtesy of the LCRA......Lake Travis is heading 
towards  its lowest levels in history if we have a dry fall.
By
Central Texas is having a pretty decent year, rain-wise. We’re sitting just below normal. And it’s been a good week, too: early Thursday, one part of Austin got over seven inches of rain.

So much rain fell over downtown Austin that the statue of Stevie Ray Vaughan along Lady Bird Lake looked like he was walking on water. It brought back memories of the Halloween floods last fall — back then Stevie was standing in water waist-deep. But these big rain events all have something in common: They really haven’t fallen where we need them most.

“The watershed that helps our water supplies isn’t here in Austin; it’s way up into the counties to the north of us. It’s the drainage that goes into Lakes Buchanan and Travis,” says John Hofmann, Executive Vice President of Water for the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA).

Hofmann says while the areas around the lakes got some decent rain earlier this summer, other than that it’s been pretty dry up there. So while Lake Austin is getting doused, the creekbeds that go into the Highland Lakes can stay relatively dry. Lake Travis has risen over a foot this week, and could go up another foot today. But it’s still nearly 40 feet below where it should be, and lower than it was a month ago.

And it’s not just where the water is falling that’s preventing the lakes from recovering. It’s the condition of the ground that it’s falling on.


If the ground is dry, it can soak that rain right up.

“You know, the water falls from rain. Some of it runs off into the reservoir, some of it recharges the groundwater. But a lot of it stays right near the surface. And it’s taken up by the plants. Or it just evaporates,” says Michael Young, an Associate Director at UT’s Bureau of Economic Geology.
“Even though 2014 so far has been near-normal precipitation or maybe a couple of inches behind,” Young says, “we’re getting no response from the reservoirs, and it’s because most of the water is soaking into the soil.”

Young is part of a team working on tools to better track soil moisture levels. He estimates that water lost from the soil could account for anywhere from 20 to 80 percent of the water losses during 2011, the driest year in Texas history.

“Outside of precipitation, [soil moisture] is one of the most important components of the water balance in this state,” Young says. “And we don’t know what that component is. It’s a complete black box across the state.”

Those water losses to dry soil continue today. “The first inch or two of rainfall in most of these events that we’ve had scattered around the summer are immediately soaked up by the soil,” says Hofmann with the LCRA. The rain this week has basically bought Central Texas a few weeks of water supply, he says.

All of this adds up to a struggling reservoir system for Central Texas. If you look at the water levels of Lake Travis over the years and graph them out, it’s almost like a heartbeat monitor. And starting in the mid-2000s, the lake looks likes it could use some life support.

If we have a dry fall, the Highland Lakes could reach their lowest levels by the end of December, and that would mean that from a reservoir standpoint, this drought is worse than the drought of record in the fifties.

So what would it take to bring the lakes back?

“A series of rain events that would result somewhere in the neighborhood of 15 to 20 inches of rainfall, widespread throughout that area, before we could see real meaningful improvement in our supplies,” says Hofmann with the LCRA.

There is a silver lining, however. Even though the lakes aren’t recovering yet, rainfall over the city still helps reduce the demands on them. It cools things down, reducing evaporation; it increases soil moisture, setting the stage for better runoffs next time it rains; and hopefully it keeps you from watering your lawn.

“We’re all optimistically watching the skies right now,” Hofmann says.
Mose Buchele contributed reporting.
 
Posted: September 25, 2014 15:24   Go to blog
Gov. Jerry Brown signs historic groundwater management legislation in CaliforniaSeptember 25, 2014 14:54

Steve Arthur's crew works drilling a well for farmer Juan Carrera that will provide water for his orange grove in Terra Bella, Calif. (Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)
 By Melanie Mason contact the reporter Laws and LegislationJerry BrownRoger DickinsonGov. Jerry Brown on signing the state's first plan to manage groundwater: 'This is a big deal'Many agriculture interests remain staunchly opposed to the groundwater regulation lawsGov...

Steve Arthur's crew works drilling a well for farmer Juan Carrera that will provide water for his orange grove in Terra Bella, Calif. (Bob Chamberlin / Los Angeles Times)


 

Laws and LegislationJerry BrownRoger Dickinson
Gov. Jerry Brown on signing the state's first plan to manage groundwater: 'This is a big deal'
Many agriculture interests remain staunchly opposed to the groundwater regulation laws
Gov. Jerry Brown signed a trio of bills Tuesday establishing a framework for statewide regulation of California's underground water sources, marking the first time in the state's history that groundwater will be managed on a large scale.

"This is a big deal," Brown said at a signing ceremony in the Capitol. "It's been known about for decades that underground water has to be managed and regulated in some way."
Since the state's founding, water has been considered a property right; landowners have been able to pump as much water from the ground as they want. But increasing reliance on underground water, particularly during droughts, has led to more pumping from some basins than what is naturally being replaced.

Some areas already have begun managing their groundwater sources, but other key basins remain unregulated.

Even with the management structure in place, experts say it could be decades before the state's most depleted basins recover.

The regulatory plan signed by Brown is broken up into three bills: SB 1168 by Sen. Fran Pavley (D-Agoura Hills) instructs local agencies to create management plans. A measure by Assemblyman Roger Dickinson (D-Sacramento), AB 1739, establishes when the state government can intervene if the local groups don't sufficiently do their job.

A third measure, SB 1319, also by Pavley, seeks to allay some concerns of farmers by postponing the state's action in certain places where surface water has been affected by groundwater pumping.
Brown touted the plan's emphasis on local agencies, which he described as "pushing the responsibility to where people really are."

He insisted his administration and lawmakers did not "shove aside those who were not totally comfortable" while crafting the legislation.

"We've made some concessions, we've taken into account concerns that farmers throughout California have," he said, adding "we've gone as far as we thought was appropriate" to address those concerns.

But many agriculture interests remain staunchly opposed to the bill. Paul Wenger, president of the California Farm Bureau Federation, said the bills "may come to be seen as 'historic' for all the wrong reasons" by drastically harming food production.

Assemblyman Jim Patterson (R-Fresno) said the legislation did not go far enough in protecting local interests because the state can step in to enforce regulation.

"Waiting in the wings is the all-powerful reach of state government," Patterson said in an interview. "That should scare anybody.

"There's really going to be a wrestling match over who’s going to get the water," Patterson said, predicting the regulation plans will bring a rash of lawsuits.

Groundwater will likely remain on the agenda for the Legislature next year. In a signing statement, Brown indicated he would also propose legislative tweaks next session to streamline the process in which courts determine groundwater rights.

Follow @melmason for more on California government and politics.
Copyright © 2014, Los Angeles Times
Posted: September 25, 2014 14:54   Go to blog
Trend Of Land Fragmentation, Rural Loss Continues In TexasSeptember 25, 2014 14:48
Livestock Weekly
September 18, 2014Trend Of Land Fragmentation, Rural Loss Continues In TexasBy John Bradshaw            LUBBOCK — Land fragmentation has been a growing problem for Texas, and by all appearances it isn’t going to slow any time soon. The state’s population continues to grow rapidly, and those residents have an insatiable appetite for land.            Todd Snelgrove brought some facts and figures on fragmentation trends to a recent landowner forum presented by Texas Agricultural Land Trust. Snelgrove, who is with the Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources, began by talking about the state’s continued population growth...
Livestock Weekly

September 18, 2014
Trend Of Land Fragmentation, Rural Loss Continues In Texas
By John Bradshaw
            LUBBOCK — Land fragmentation has been a growing problem for Texas, and by all appearances it isn’t going to slow any time soon. The state’s population continues to grow rapidly, and those residents have an insatiable appetite for land.
            Todd Snelgrove brought some facts and figures on fragmentation trends to a recent landowner forum presented by Texas Agricultural Land Trust. Snelgrove, who is with the Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources, began by talking about the state’s continued population growth.
            In 1997 there were 19 million Texas residents. Today that number has climbed to 26 million.
            “That’s a 36 percent increase, or about 500,000 new Texans every year,” Snelgrove said.
            Of that increase, 63 percent moved to 10 counties, which are all around Dallas-Fort Worth, Houston, Austin, and San Antonio.
            “There has been massive population growth over the last 15 years in those areas,” he said.
            Looking at the top 25 most-populated counties, in 1997 there were 13 million residents. Now there are 19 million.
            “We’re seeing the sprawl,” Snelgrove said.
            It thundered outside just as he said this, and Snelgrove remarked that it was a sign of impending doom.
            Those top 25 counties represent only 10 percent of the total acreage in Texas but hold three-fourths of the state’s population.
            In 1997 the highest-value land was concentrated in the close vicinity of the large cities, but since then the market value of land surrounding those cities for some distance has increased dramatically.
            “It is expanding out into traditional rural counties,” Snelgrove said.
            In the last 15 years one million acres of what is considered open space were lost to fragmentation. Much of that occurred during a nationwide economic boom.
            However, from 2007-2012 the trend slowed considerably due to the economic recession.
            “We’re still losing open space land, but not quite as quickly as we did in the previous decade,” he said.
            There has been a significant increase in the number of farms of fewer than 500 acres over the last 15 years surrounding Dallas and Houston.
            “That is a massive indication of ownership fragmentation,” Snelgrove said.
            Those small farms are coming from the fragmentation of tracts in the 500-2000 acre class.
            However, in areas where profitability from land ownership has been high over the last 15 years, where someone can make a living from their land, there has been some consolidation of smaller tracts into larger holdings.
            Areas around Lubbock have been consolidating, as are some areas in South Texas. It’s too early to tell, but Snelgrove said his gut is saying that as landowners continue to receive financial benefits from oil and gas production there will be an increase in consolidation in those areas.
            “I think in this next generation of land trends, looking from 2012 to 2017, we’ll see an increase in consolidation in those areas that have reaped the benefits, like the Eagle Ford Shale and the Permian Basin,” he said.
            The upturn in oil and gas will cause more fragmentation near the cities, though, as more companies and people move to Texas.
            “If you’re living near any of the major transportation corridors through the middle part of the state, those rural lands are going to be under extreme pressure.”
            Although there has been consolidation in a few select areas around the state, the majority has continued to be broken up. Areas where it is particularly evident are along the Gulf Coast and through the Edwards Plateau, Rolling Plains and into East Texas.
            Looking at the future, the increasing population coupled with the economic rise should trigger an acceleration of open space decline, Snelgrove predicted. It is projected that by 2040 the population of Texas will reach 36 million.
Posted: September 25, 2014 14:48   Go to blog
Neighbor to Neighbor News Pass it on...Hill Country NewsSeptember 17, 2014 16:37



Aquifer is No Quick Fix for Central Texas Thirst
Water marketers who want to sell to cities say there’s plenty of groundwater, however landowners and conservationists warn that this precious resource could drain in a few decades. What’s the long-term impact on the Colorado River as the groundwater table declines? Who exactly is this water for and what are they willing to pay? Neena Satija, Texas Tribune...



Aquifer is No Quick Fix for Central Texas Thirst
Water marketers who want to sell to cities say there’s plenty of groundwater, however landowners and conservationists warn that this precious resource could drain in a few decades. What’s the long-term impact on the Colorado River as the groundwater table declines? Who exactly is this water for and what are they willing to pay? Neena Satija, Texas Tribune.

Where is the Hill Country?
ACC Professor Don Jonsson takes an interesting look at various degrees of consensus about what geography is included in the “Hill Country.” His data shows Luckenbach as generally the mean center of the region and the Pedernales River Basin 100% Texas Hill Country.  View his project findings, map and summary. HCA has a plethora of helpful Hill Country map resources available online and as well as an interactive map viewer.

Wild Pigs!
Landowner groups and Wildlife Coops – Here’s something worth passing along to your member lists. Wild Pigs are an issue throughout the Hill Country region. Here’s an opportunity to learn from the comfort of your own ranch/home computer. Dial in September 18th to from noon to 1:00. Find out how to access this webinar made possible by the Texas Wildlife Association.
No Land. No Water.
As the current drought reminds us, water continues to impact the sustainability and growth of Texas' economy. Unfortunately, land is disappearing faster than in any other state, threatening the water resources on which our economy depends. Land conservation is a cost-effective water resource protection strategy. Join TALT October 1st in Austin.

"I’m a NIMBY and proud"
“The effects of population growth on traffic are easy to understand. More people equal more cars on the road. More cars on the road equal more congestion. Duh! The real culprit is the rate at which new people are moving here.” Read one bold Austinite's views (who happens to also be a Real Estate Developer) about the real issue facing Austin (and the Hill Country) population. Ed Wendler, Special to the Austin American Statesman.
Fall Camping Workshops Announced for Outdoor Families
With cool weather around the corner, the Texas Outdoor Family program has scheduled outdoor recreational workshops statewide though the beginning of December. The workshops offer a low-cost weekend trip where families can un-plug, reconnect with nature, and learn the basics of camping. Read more from Texas Parks and Wildlife.

Interested in getting more actively involved in HCA?
Join HCA leaders and volunteers as well as invited elected officials, GCD board members, landowners and conservationists for a day dedicated to vibrant towns, healthy landscapes, protected natural water systems and people making a difference in our Hill Country.  HCA Leadership Summit, September 25th at the Admiral Nimitz Museum in Fredericksburg. Space is limited Register today.

Upcoming Events

September

September 17 in Lakeway - Water Matters by Central Texas Water Coalition - Details

September 18 in Austin - The Barstow Speakers Series: Wat're the possibilities? Strategies to Reduce the Strain on the Colorado River - Details
September 20 in Fredericksburg - Fredericksburg Shines 2nd Annual Sustainability Green Homes Tour - Details

September 22 in Kerrville - Monthly meeting of the Texas Master Naturalists - Topic: Hill Country Land Trusts, Speaker: Bill Lindemann, Vice President of Hill Country Land Trust - Details
September 25 in Fredericksburg - Hill Country Alliance Leadership Summit - Details
September 26 in Kerrville - 2014 New Landowner Series: Back to Basics, Home Gardening, Chickens, Natural vs. Organic - Presented by the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service - Details
September 26-28 in Belton - Renewable Energy Roundup - Details

September 27-28 in Boerne - Texas Hydro-Geo Workshop - Details
September 28 in Austin - 7th Annual Celebration of Children in Nature - Hosted by The Children in Nature Collaborative of Austin and the Westcave Outdoor Discovery Center - Details
October

October 1 in Austin - No Land, No Water: Tools & Strategies for Conserving Land to Protect Water Resources - Presented by Texas Agricultural Land Trust - Details
October 8 in San Antonio - Water Forum V: A regional forum on our future - Details
October 16 in Boerne - Hill Country Agri-land workshop - Details

October 17-19 in Alpine - Society for Ecological Restoration Annual Conference: Ecological Restoration in the Southwest - Details

October 24 in Utopia - Stars over Utopia - Learn how to protect our night skies and do some stargazing - Details

October 25 in Dripping Springs - HCA's 5th Annual Rainwater Revival! - Details
Posted: September 17, 2014 16:37   Go to blog
Aquifer is No Quick Fix for Central Texas Thirst by Neena SatijaSeptember 17, 2014 14:42

Sept. 12, 2014
Enlargephoto by: Callie Richmond
Darwyn Hanna grows pecans and runs cattle on some of the land he owns in Bastrop County...


As drought continues to grip Central Texas, those looking to provide water to the region’s fast-growing cities and suburbs see a solution in a relatively untapped aquifer.

Water marketers, who bundle groundwater rights and sell the water to cities, say the region’s Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer holds hundreds of trillions of gallons of water. They say that is enough water to sustain growth for centuries in areas around Austin, whose reservoirs are only 34 percent full, and San Antonio, whose own aquifer is at such low levels that federally protected species are at risk.

But those who live above the Carrizo-Wilcox in rural Central Texas counties tell a different story, along with some environmental advocacy groups. They say bids from three prospective water providers to pump a combined 50 billion gallons of water a year from the aquifer will accommodate urban growth at the rural counties’ expense and drain a precious resource within just a few decades.
Scientists say determining who is right depends on the answers to a few key questions: Who is the water for? How much is the user willing to pay to get it? And how much will that user compensate others who may no longer be able to access the water as a result?

“It’s not a matter of availability,” said James Beach, a hydrologist for the firm LBG-Guyton who studies the Carrizo-Wilcox for a groundwater management district, the Central Texas water provider Aqua and San Antonio’s water utility. “The volume of water is there. It’s more a question of impact,” and how to measure and deal with those impacts, he added.

For example, shallow farm wells could run dry because of other pumping unless their pumps are lowered — which could cost thousands of dollars. Most hydrologists say those wells would have to be deepened if proposals to remove large amounts of water from Burleson, Bastrop and Lee counties proceed.

But they also say that water companies can compensate landowners, pointing out that many — including mining companies and water utilities — have done so in recent decades across Texas and in other portions of the aquifer. The water marketer End Op, which hopes to pump about 15 billion gallons a year from underneath Bastrop County, has agreed to pay millions of dollars into a fund to help landowners who may have to lower their pumps.

Not everyone is satisfied by that response. “I think that’s just saying, ‘We’re going to throw money at this so that we can bankrupt the system and overpump it,” said Darwyn Hanna, whose family has owned land in Bastrop County for five generations. Hanna grows pecans and runs cattle on some of his 250 acres, and while he does not pump groundwater, he is contesting End Op’s permit because he believes it will devalue his land.

Even the water marketers themselves could run into trouble as the region continues to grow. Drilling in the deepest portions of the Carrizo-Wilcox should help minimize the impact on rural landowners with shallower wells, and water marketers argue that they only need to remove a small percentage of the total water believed to be stored in the aquifer.

But sustained groundwater removal from even the deepest portions will cause water levels there to decline, and lowering pumps will not always do the trick. Eventually, the user will have to drill more wells to continue removing water at the same rate, said Robert Mace, deputy executive administrator at the Texas Water Development Board, the state’s water planning agency.
“If you wanted to set out and drain 5 percent of the storage of the Carrizo, I think you could do it” and leave most of the aquifer intact, said Mace. “But would it be economical to do that?” Adding extra, deeper wells can be a significant expense, he said.

Aqua Water Supply Corporation, which sells Carrizo-Wilcox water to thousands of Central Texans, has already protested attempts by other marketers to pump from the aquifer, saying that they would impact its ability to provide water to its customers.

James Bene, a hydrologist who consults for BlueWater Systems, which hopes to pump 16 billion gallons a year from the Carrizo-Wilcox in Burleson County to sell to San Antonio said pumping by nearby users “a substantial risk for the financial backers of projects like this.”

“They’re trying to figure out what a good payback on a 30-year loan will be,” Bene said. “Well, that’s easier said than done when you’re not sure whether you’ll be pumping water from 100 feet below ground level or 300 feet below ground level. So nobody is really sure.” But, he added, “I can tell you that any reasonable designer of a well field builds in some safety margin.”

Another related concern for environmental advocates is the relationship between the Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer and the Colorado River, whose flow has been at its lowest in decades. Studies show that the aquifer contributes some water supply to the river each year.

Modeling by George Rice, a former Edwards Aquifer Authority hydrologist, suggests that pumping by companies like End Op and BlueWater Systems could cause Carrizo-Wilcox to begin pulling water out of the river instead of putting water into it. That could cause further damage downstream to fishermen, who depend on the river’s freshwater flows for a steady supply of oysters and shrimp in Matagorda Bay. But no one has ever firmly established the relationship between the river and the aquifer.

“Give us a million dollars and give us a 20-year time to study it, and we’d come to an inconclusive result,” said Alan Dutton, a professor of hydrogeology at the University of Texas at San Antonio who has worked on state models of the aquifer. “The margin of error is much greater than the effects we’re trying to distinguish.”

There is also less funding for such research, and technical staff for groundwater modeling at the state water planning agency has been reduced by half.

But no matter how much more data is collected, basic questions will still remain over how to allocate a limited resource — especially one that is considered private property under Texas law.
“That’s going to be a political and socioeconomic issue in 30 years,” Bene said.
“Is the economic growth along the I-35 corridor worth a little bit extra drawdown for ranchers or farmers or landowners to the east? I can’t answer that,” Bene said. “But again, I can speak to the inevitability. We have no other source of water, really. We have to look to our major aquifers.”

Disclosure: The University of Texas at San Antonio is a corporate sponsor of The Texas Tribune. A complete list of Texas Tribune donors and sponsors can be viewed here.
Posted: September 17, 2014 14:42   Go to blog
Houston Environmental News Update September 16, 2014 September 17, 2014 9:56
In This Issue CEC NotesWelcome new subscribersDowntown Fall FestCOALITION NOTESThe Future of Transportation in The WoodlandsSierra Club Evening Benefit EventA Story of Memorial Park: People in NatureHouston Green Film Series: Come Hell or High WaterClean Waters Initiative: Water Rights and Water ReusePublic Interest Design Institute at RiceHouston Speaks: My Houston 2040Native Plants at Home and Garden ShowGalveston Bay Foundation Rain Barrel ProgramXtreme Hummingbird ExtravaganzaFifth Ward/Buffalo Bayou/East End WorkshopsCall for Livable Center Study and Special Districts Study PartnersScenic Galveston's 28th Event: GLO Adopt-A-Beach-EstuaryTree & Wetland Plant Nursery Open HouseKPFT 90...
In This Issue

Upcoming Events

For more info and updated listings, visit the CEC calendar at
www.cechouston.org.

Tue., 9/16/14
Wed., 9/17/2014 
Thu., 9/18/2014 
Fri., 9/19/2014 
Sat., 9/20/2014 
Greetings!

CEC recently received a lovely letter from Justus Baird, a former CEC board member. Justus is now the dean at the Auburn Theological Seminary in NYC, where he works to train leaders for faith-rooted social justice work, including environmental issues. He writes that the Seminary is participating in the People's Climate March in New York on Saturday. The school had a strong role in the creation of a 'Noah's Ark' that will make an appearance.

Sometimes it is hard to consider things that are happening in New York, when we have so many environmental opportunities here in Houston. Nevertheless, the People's Climate March does merit our attention. Organizers are expecting over 100,000 people in NYC alone, in what is expected to be the largest climate march in history.

World leaders are coming to New York City for a UN summit on the climate crisis. UN Secretary­ General Ban Ki-­moon is urging governments to support an ambitious global agreement to dramatically reduce global warming pollution. With our future on the line and the whole world watching, people will take to the streets to demand a world we know is within our reach: a world with an economy that works for people and the planet; a world safe from the ravages of climate change; a world with good jobs, clean air and water, and healthy communities.

As you might imagine, I am delighted that the greater Houston environmental community will have at least some representation at the event. Are you planning to attend?

If you aren't heading to New York, you might want to participate in a local support event (please use the links to RSVP). The event listing is provided by 350.org, which is one of over 1000 organizations who are part of the event.

CEC Notes

Welcome new subscribers
Please welcome our new subscribers: Jimmy, Paige, Morgan, Caroline, Samantha, Alma, Julia, and Yaw. We're glad you joined out community!


Downtown Fall Fest
CEC will be at the free 2014 Downtown Fall Fest this Thursday, September 18, 2014, from 11:00 am to 1:00 pm, at 611 Walker. Come visit!

Re-enroll with Kroger
Each year, Kroger Shoppers must re-enroll with the community rewards program for CEC--and other nonprofits--can receive donation based on your purchases. Visit www.krogercommunityrewards.com to re-enroll. CEC's organization number is 91019.

Coalition NotesCoalitionNotes


The Future of Transportation in The Woodlands: What's Next?
September's Going Green Sustainability Lecture, sponsored by The Woodlands G.R.E.E.N., will focus on The Woodlands area's transportation issues. The Woodlands is facing major transportation challenges with the growing traffic levels that are accompanying new development in and around The Woodlands. This added traffic impacts air quality, noise levels, storm runoff, and public safety. Mike Bass, Director on The Woodlands Township Board, will provide an update about these conditions and options considered in two major studies launched in 2013. The lecture will be held on September 16, 2014, at 7pm at the South Regional Library. More at www.thewoodlands.net.


Sierra Club Evening Benefit Event
Gather with like-minded folks, enjoy good company, as well as some great appetizers, and donate to both the local Houston Regional Group Sierra Club and the Lone Star Chapter Sierra Club. The benefit will be held on September 17, 2014, 6:30-8:30pm at teh Houston Arboretum & Nature Center. Hear from the new chapter Executive Director, Scheleen Walker, about past successes and upcoming challenges (including the next legislative session); as well Jennifer Walker, chapter Water Resources Coordinator about what we can't live without. Tickets are $30 for individuals and $50 for couples. Email art.browning@gmail.com for purchase and information.


A Story of Memorial Park: People in Nature
Please join the Memorial Park Conservancy on September 17, 2014, from 6pm to 8pm for a public update meeting about the current Memorial Park Master Planning process.  The evening will include a presentation by the master planning design team (Nelson Byrd Woltz - www.nbwla.com) and a Q & A session following the presentation.  Join the Memorial Park Conservancy, Houston Parks and Recreation Department, and Uptown-Houston who are jointly leading the Memorial Park Long-Range Master Planning effort to learn about Memorial Park's soils, ecology, cultural history and preliminary design ideas for the park.  For more information, visit http://www.memorialparkconservancy.org/visit-memorial-park/calendar.html.


Houston Green Film Series: Come Hell or High Water. Houston Green Film Series will begin again for the fall semester, commencing with the documentary Come Hell or High Water. Come Hell or High Water: The Battle for Turkey Creek follows the painful but inspiring journey of Derrick Evans, a Boston teacher who moves home to Mississippi when the graves of his ancestors are bulldozed to make way for the sprawling city of Gulfport. Over the course of a decade, Evans and his family and neighbors stand up to powerful corporate interests and politicians and face Hurricane Katrina and the BP oil disaster in their struggle for self-determination and environmental justice. Come out on September 17, 2014, at 6:30pm, to the Rice Media Center. A light dinner will be served, courtesy of Dr. Pat Speck and Dry Bones Cafe. The film is free to the public, though donations are suggested and kindly appreciated. Learn more and RSVP at the facebook event.


Clean Waters Initiative: Water Rights and Water Reuse
The next Clean Waters Initiative will be held on September 18, 2014, at 1:30pm in H-GAC Conference Room A, Second Floor. The topic will be Water Rights and Water Reuse. Subjects to be covered include Region H water supply, Environmental Flows, Rain Barrels, Desalination and Energy Production, and Water Conservation. You can register at http://events.r20.constantcontact.com. CWI offers workshops that help local governments, landowners, and citizens develop effective strategies to reduce pollution in our area waterways. For more information, contact Aubin Phillips at 832-681-2524.


Public Interest Design Institute at Rice School of Architecture
Through September 18, you can register at a reduced rate for the two-day Public Interest Design Institute at the Rice University School of Architecture. Nine national experts, pictured above, will present best practices and case studies in public interest design on October 4 and 5 in Room 117 in Anderson Hall. Navigate now to publicinterestdesign.com/houston to register!


Houston Speaks: My Houston 2040 Air Alliance Houston will present a cross-cultural, cross generational and cross-communal dialogue of issues voiced by eight Houston residents, with the aim of promoting "sameness" that exists throughout the Houston community. Networking begins at 5:30, with the show starting promptly at 6:00. Please rsvp to the Facebook Event Page for more information.

Native Plants at Home and Garden Show
Visit the Native Plant Society Display, booth 468, at the Texas Home and Garden Show in Houston on September 20-21 at the NRG Center (formerly Reliant Center).


Galveston Bay Foundation Rain Barrel Program
Rain barrels are an efficient, low-cost method for collecting rainwater. They are placed at downspouts in order to reduce runoff into storm drains, and can be used for watering a garden or houseplants, among many other uses. Come learn about rain barrels at Galveston Bay Foundation's Rain Barrel Workshop on September 20, 2014, from 2-4pm at the Brown Education Hall at the Houston Zoo. The cost is $30 per registration, which includes admission to the workshop, a 35-gallon recycled barrel, and a connector kit. All purchases are final and attendance at the workshop is required to receive a barrel and kit. Register at www.galvbay.org. There will be another workshop on October 4, 2014, 9:30-11:30am at the McGuire Dent Recreation Center in Galveston.


Xtreme Hummingbird Extravaganza. Autumn is hummingbird season in Texas, as thousands of these tiny creatures move through the state on their southward migration to Mexico and Central America. Join Gulf Coast Bird Observatory on September 20, 2014, to see hummingbirds being banded, adopt a hummingbird, browse the Nature Store, walk the nature trails, or buy a plant to attract hummingbirds and butterflies. More at http://gcbo.org.


Fifth Ward/Buffalo Bayou/East End Workshops
The Fifth Ward CRC, East End Management District, and Buffalo Bayou Partnership are launching a Livable Centers study that will create a plan to improve transportation and housing, create walkable and mixed-use places, and promote economic development.  We need your input so that the final plan reflects the vision of the community. The first half an hour will be for networking, and the discussion will start at 6:00pm. Come speak directly to members of the planning team to share your ideas and concerns for the neighborhood.
  • Fifth Ward workshop: Monday, Sept 22, 2014, 5:30-7:30 pm, The Silo, 4601 Clinton Drive 
  • East End workshop: Tuesday, Sept 23, 2014, 5:30-7:30 pm, HCC Felix Fraga Campus, 301 North Drennan St. 
  • Buffalo Bayou workshop: Saturday, Sept 27, 2014
    • 10:30 am -12:30 pm at Ripley House, 4410 Navigation Blvd.
    • 12:30 - 2:30 pm at Eastwood Park, 5020 Harrisburg Blvd.
For more information, visit the Facebook Page.  


Call for Livable Center Study and Special Districts Study Partners


The Houston-Galveston Area Council (H-GAC) is seeking proposals from local governments or other eligible project sponsors to conduct Livable Centers and Special Districts planning studies.The objective of the Livable Centers planning studies is to help create quality, walkable, mixed-use places, create multi-modal travel choices, improve environmental quality, and promote economic development and housing choice. Study recommendations will ideally lead to locally sponsored Livable Centers projects for possible inclusion in the Regional Transportation Plan (RTP) and future Transportation Improvement Programs (TIP). Note: this is not a request for funding proposals from consulting firms. Pre-submittal meeting: September 24, 2014. Deadline for notice of intent to apply: September 30, 2104. Learn more at www.h-gac.com.


Scenic Galveston's 28th Event: GLO Adopt-A-Beach-Estuary
SCENIC GALVESTON's wetlands partnership cleaning event with the General Land Office is fast approaching! It's time again for volunteers to step through and into the Tide to remove tons of debris, invasive plants, ugly objects from SG's estuarial habitat conservation preserves and shorelines. There will be on site registration between 8-9am. The cleanup will be held on September 27, 2014, 9am-noon. After, teams will return to the O'Quinn Pavillion for a custom lunch (required RSVP) with a lively report on latest habitat conservation work, team leader reports, and the day's bird count. Learn more at www.guidrynews.com.


Tree & Wetland Plant Nursery Open House
Trees for Houston and the Texas Coastal Watershed Program, in conjunction with the Clear Lake City Water Authority and the Exploration Green Conservancy, are holding a joint open house for the tree and wetland nurseries at Exploration Green, October 4, 2014, 9am-12pm. Tours will be offered and information provided about volunteer opportunities in the nurseries, which are growing trees and plants for the conservation and recreation area in Clear Lake City. The nurseries are accessible from the trail that heads northeast from the bridge on Neptune Lane, approximately 2 ½ blocks north of Bay Area Blvd. Learn more at www.explorationgreen.org.


KPFT 90.1 Tennis Fun Fest
Come out to the Homer Ford Tennis Center on October 11, 2014, for a fun day of tennis! This event will be hosted by KPFT 90.1. The day begins at 8:30am with a 45-minute clinic led by tennis star Lori McNeil (formerly ranked #9 in the world) and her coach and mentor, John Wilkerson. There will be 3 levels of play: Youth to age 16; Adult: Novice; Adult Intermediate/Advanced. The matches will be twenty minutes. This day will be fun for the whole family! Come out for music, food, playground, and auction. Spectators are welcome! Find out more at  http://kpft.org


Houston Canoe Club turns 50!!!
October 11, 2014, 2:00 pm to 10:00 pm, at the Bay Area Community Center, 5002 East NASA Parkway, Seabrook. The HCC 50th Anniversary Flotilla will paddle from the launch site to Horsepen Bayou and back, a distance of about 4 miles. Help getting your boat off and back on your vehicle and to the docks will be available. Any decorations including flags, which will be available for the first 50 or so boats on the scene, will make this HCC 50 Boat Flotilla an attractive and notable newsworthy event. The launch is set for 3pm, so, be sure to arrive around 2pm to allow enough time to prepare and launch your boat.


Save the Date! Friends of Woodland Park Trails at Twilight
For 100 years, Woodland Park has provided Houstonians a haven of natural beauty.  Help us preserve this precious resource for coming generations by joining in the celebration.  Our wish list includes: park benches, playground equipment, trail signage, foot bridges, game tables and much more.  There will be live music, a silent auction, bar and heavy hors d'oeuvres. October 17, 2014. www.friendsofwoodlandpark.org.


Southeast Houston Community Affected by Toxic Waste
Air Alliance Houston reports: "Last month, after almost four years of public outcry, the EPA finally agreed to begin cleaning up an abandoned industrial waste facility in southeast Houston. The waste was left there by CES Environmental Services Inc., which filed for bankruptcy in 2010 after being fined $1.5 million for countless safety violations." Read more.

school_bus.jpg
Houston Anti-Idling Ordinance Petition
Idling from diesel engines creates air pollution and health risks all over the city. From the scores of trucks lined up in neighborhoods around the ship channel to school buses waiting to bring our children home for the day, it is safe to say that all of us are adversely affected by this issue. Help Air Alliance Houston gain traction on an Anti-Idling Ordinance in Houston by signing the petition today! Lean more about anti-idling programs for our region from the H-GAC Engine Off Program

Additional Upcoming Events 

Community Notes

Natural History and Aesthetics - Why Should We Care About Nature?
Harry Greene, Ph.D., Cornell, Monday, September 22, 6:30 pm, Houston Museum of Natural Science, Public $18, CEC members* $13, Museum members $12. The diversity of life on Earth is under serious threats from multiple human-related causes, and science plays well-known roles in addressing management aspects of this problem. Dr. Harry W. Greene will describe how natural history also plays a vital role in enhancing our appreciation for organisms and environments, thereby influencing value judgments that ultimately underlie all conservation. I will first explain how an 18th  century philosopher's distinction between "beauty" and "sublime" can be used in the context of Darwin's notion of "descent with modification," then illustrate this approach with frogs, snakes, African megafauna, Longhorns, and California Condors. Dr. Harry Greene is professor of ecology and evolutionary biology at Cornell University. He is a popular author and will be signing copies of his latest book Tracks and Shadows: Field Biology as Art following the lecture. This lecture at the Houston Museum of Natural Science is co-sponsored by Rice University's Glasscock School of Continuing Studies. Register at hmns.org.  * For discount code, CEC members should contact news@cechouston.org or call 713-524-4232.

Double Bayou Riparian & Stream Ecosystem Workshop
The Texas A&M Institute of Renewable Natural Resources | Texas Water Resources Institute
and the Double Bayou Watershed Partnership invite you to attend the Texas Riparian & Stream Ecosystem Workshop on September 24, 2014 from 8am - 4pm at White's Park Community Building an Hankamer/Anahuac. Learn more about the riparian workshop, and register by Sept. 19, 2014.

2014-2015 Energy Symposium Series: Critical Issues in Energy
The second annual Energy Symposium Series will be held on September 30, 2014, 5:30-8pm at the University of Houston. The topic of this event is US Energy Independence: Good for the Nation? Guest speakers include Edward Chow, Center for Strategic and International Studies, Ed Hirs, Hillhouse Resources LLC and University of Houston, and Jane Kleeb, Bold Nebraska. The event will be moderated by Dave Fehling of Houston Public Media. This is a free event. Visit  www.eventbrite.com to register.

Coastal Resiliency Conference: Living on the Edge
Texas Medical Branch's Center in Environmental Toxicology, is organizing a three day conference on coastal resilience scheduled for October 8-10, 2014. This conference will provide a platform to discuss the challenges and strategies for building and preserving a resilient Gulf Coast. Attendees will explore the connections between the natural environment and the cultural heritage of coastal populations. The cost is $120, and $25 for students. Register at www.galvestonhistory.org.

Captain Planet Foundation Small Grant
The Captain Planet Foundation primarily makes grants to U.S.-based schools and organizations with an annual operating budget of less than $3 million. Grants are made for activities that conform to the mission of the Captain Planet Foundation and MUST have all three of the following to be considered for funding: be project based; projects must be performed by youth; and projects must have real environmental outcomes. Captain Planet Foundation will accept small grant requests for amounts between $500 - $2,500. Preferential consideration is given to requests who have secured at least 50% matching or in-kind funding for their projects. The application for spring and summer projects is September 30, 2014, and January 31, 2015, for fall and winter projects. Read more and apply at http://captainplanetfoundation.org.

Children's Environmental Health Institute's Scientific Symposium
Biennial Scientific Symposium. Register now for the Children's Environmental Health Institute's Eight Biennial Scientific Symposium: Prenatal Environmental Exposures as a Determinant of Early Childhood Disease. Hear global experts challenge us to elevate critical  thinking on ways to address the prevention of environmental health risks to children. Keynote speakers Jeanne Conry, MD, PhD, and Philippe Grandjean, MD, PhD, among other distinguished speakers will provide prevention-oriented research on how toxic chemicals in the environment harm our ability to reproduce, negatively affect pregnancies, and are associated with numerous health problems and chronic disease. The symposium will be held November 13-14, 2014, at McKinney Roughs Education Center, close to Austin Texas. Learn more and register at http://cehi.org

Save the Date: Texas Wildlife & Woodland Expo
Last year, over 5,000 families, scouts, and adults attended the daylong event. 150 educational booths, classes, hands-on clinic, exhibitors, and activities on the campus of Lone Star College-Montgomery. Free. Visit expo.tamu.edu for more information and booth information. March 28, 2015.

Additional Dates of Note

TV: Texas Parks & Wildlife
Broadcast on KUHT Channel 8 at 3:00 PM each Saturday and on municipal access cable channels in Baytown, Deer Park, Houston, Nassau Bay, Pasadena, Seabrook, Sugar Land, and on HCC TV. More info on the TPWD website (* indicates a segment about the Houston area). For a preview, visit TPWD's YouTube Page.

Air Quality Forecastair
http://www.tceq.texas.gov/airquality/monops/forecast_today.html. Houston Clean Air Network and Realtime Ozone Mapping: http://houstoncleanairnetwork.com.
  • September 16, 2014: Green--Good. Moderate winds, lower incoming background levels, and/or cloud cover should help to keep air quality in the "Good" range.
  • September 17, 2014: Green--Good. Moderate winds and lower incoming background levels, and/or cloud cover with precipitation should help to keep air quality in the "Good" range.
  • September 18, 2014: Green--Good. Moderate winds and lower incoming background levels, and/or cloud cover with precipitation should help to keep air quality in the "Good" range.
  • September 19, 2014: Green--Good. Moderate winds and lower incoming background levels, and/or cloud cover with precipitation should help to keep air quality in the "Good" range.

News HeadlinesEcoNotes

Cody Duty/Chronicle Staff
(Harvey Rice - Houston Chronicle, 9/7/2014) Galveston tax collector-assessor Cheryl Johnson has seen lawsuits by oil companies suck millions of dollars out of local government coffers in recent years. The Republican officeholder watched as Valero used a quirk in tax law to twice win lawsuits forcing the Texas City school district to refund taxes. Valero is still suing for even more tax refunds. When Marathon Petroleum Corp. recently used the same tax law to sue for a reduction in property taxes for one of the country's largest refineries, Johnson vowed to try to convince legislators to do something about a problem she estimates is costing local governments about $1 billion annually.  www.houstonchronicle.com

Houston getting $10 million for traffic tracking systems
(Houston Chronicle, 9/10/2014) An ongoing project to expand and upgrade traffic systems in the Houston area has received $10 million from a highly-competitive federal transportation program, officials confirmed. Though it won't build a new road or add another bus route, officials said the money will improve traffic by bolstering Houston's transportation monitoring system, which relays traffic information to drivers and helps city workers address congestion. The money gives Houston officials another $10 million to invest in work already going on around the area to upgrade or add traffic monitoring data, city of Houston public works spokesman Alvin Wright said.
http://blog.chron.com 


Houston offers sweet deal on park to Sugar Land
(Mike Morris - Houston Chronicle, 9/5/2014) In the 25 years since the city of Houston and the Houston Parks Board purchased Cullinan Park off Highway 6 near U.S. 90A, creating the city's fourth-largest park, the site has languished. Far outside Houston city limits next to Sugar Land Regional Airport, the park boasts just one entrance road, some picnic tables, and a few hiking trails to complement the wooden walkways overlooking White Lake, abuzz with dragonflies and coated with lily pads. "This is a great resource out here, but it has a long way to go before you can really call it a good all-purpose park," said Don Gallo, local resident and park regular. Houston is now considering transferring responsibility for the park to the city of Sugar Land.
www.houstonchronicle.com

James Nielsen / Houston Chronicle
Planning for future water use a conundrum for Houston
(Matthew Tresaugue - Houston Chronicle) Beneath Houston, miles of the city's aging water mains are leaking billions of gallons each year. The repairs will require years of work and millions of dollars. So what's a city to do? Houston is raising the possibility of a new rate structure as the city finalizes the first update to its conservation plan since enduring the worst one-year drought in its history in 2011.
www.houstonchronicle.com

More Headlines at Scoop.it
CEC has collected even more headlines at scoop.it

GreGreenJobsen Jobs


NEW! Nature Discovery Center seeks Executive Director
The Executive Director of the Nature Discovery Center (NDC) is responsible for managing all aspects of the Nature Discovery Center's operations through strong, creative, and strategic leadership. The ED builds consensus, stimulates staff development, and delivers results related to the organization's mission and goals. The ED is responsible for effective implementation of policies set by the Board of Directors as well as annual goals and objectives related to fiscal management, programming, and administration. For view the job description, visit www.cechouston.org. Learn more about the Nature Discovery Center at www.naturediscoverycenter.org.


NEW! Artist Boat seeks Accounting Manager
The Accounting Manager is primarily responsible for assisting the Executive Director and Treasurer with the financial management of the organization. The Accounting Manager is required to have a formal and strong foundation in accounting, best practices in financial management, grants management and grants reimbursements, and nonprofit accounting. The purpose of this position is to provide the financial management infrastructure to maintain and grow all programs, track and report on all finances regarding grants and accounts, assure educational program staff have the proper support for procurement of materials and equipment needed for programs, assist the Executive Director with financial management of all funds, and process payroll. The Accounting Manager reports to the Executive Director, participates in the board of directors' finance committee, and maintains a positive roll in communicating with all members of the board of directors and staff. If interested, submit resume, cover letter, and three professional references via United States Postal Service to Karla Klay, Executive Director, 2415 Avenue K, Galveston, Texas 77550. View the full job description at www.artistboat.org.


NEW! The Nature Discovery Center seeks Weekend Naturalist
The Nature Discovery Center is looking for an energetic and enthusiastic individual to join its education team: someone who loves science, nature, and children. This part-time position manages the weekend operations of the Center, with a focus on visitor services and education. Major responsibilities include: oversee the Center on Saturdays & Sundays, 9am-5:30pm (flexible); provide interactive, hands-on experiences in our science-based Discovery Rooms; update materials and curriculum in the Discovery Rooms as needed, with additional staff support; conduct birthday party programs with nature themed topics; conduct nature experiences such as nature walks and talks, as needed; manage weekend volunteers; manage animal care; and be a crucial member of the team, attending staff planning meetings as available. To apply for the Weekend Naturalist position, please provide a short cover letter and resume to Anne Eisner, Program Coordinator, at aeisner@naturediscoverycenter.org. Learn more about the Center at naturediscoverycenter.org.


NEW! Cypresswood Water Conservation Garden seeks Part-time Webmaster
This part-time position would be the webmaster for the Water District andCypresswood Water Conservation Garden. Requirements include being acreative individual who is willing to think outside the box when it comes to web design and educating John Q. Must have interest in water conservation/healthy soil nexus, and a background in environmental awareness, biology, water conservation, soil conservation critical. 3+ years professional experience in web development/management is preferred. Applicants must provide a portfolio with examples of past work on multiple sites, advanced working knowledge of multiple web CMS software systems (special consideration given to candidates who are adept in WordPress). Applicants must also have expert experience with HTML, CSS, and JavaScript/jQuery and SQL, as well as a basic understanding/familiarity with XML, HTML5, CSS3, ASP.NET, PHP (for WordPress) or other programming technologies. Experience with Adobe Photoshop and Adobe Illustrator a plus. Send resumes and questions to Gary Toll at gtoll@wcid132.com or Jim Dow at jdow@wcid132.com. Learn more about the Cypresswood Water Conservation Garden at www.cwcgtx.com.

NEW! Southern Alliance for Clean Energy seeks Solar Power Program Manager & Energy Policy Staff (Tennessee)
The successful candidate will have several years of experience working on policy, development or procurement of solar power in the electric power sector. The applicant must demonstrate solid skills in most of the following areas: writing, public speaking, analytic and computer applications. Experience with state agencies, decision-makers, media, or non-profit advocacy necessary. More info at cleanenergy.org.


The Galveston Bay Foundation (GBF) seeks a full-time Grants Billing Specialist to fulfill reimbursement billing duties related to GBF's government grants, accounts payable, and accounts receivable as a member of the Administrative Team. Qualifications include a bachelor's degree in Accounting (received or in progress), ability to pass an intermediate level accounting test, and experience with QuickBooks financial software (preferred, not required). For a full job description, including duties and qualifications, please visit the GBF website. To apply, please e-mail resume by September 19 to jtownsend@galvbay.org.


BikeHouston seeks three new staff members: Development Director, Director of Government and Community Affairs, and Marketing/Communication Associate
Development: This person will lead the development effort and build a multi-faceted approach to raising income to support our programs and advocacy work. They will have an entrepreneurial style and build a dynamic development program to diversify and expand BikeHouston's revenue. The primary responsibilities will be to secure new foundation grants and corporate sponsorship, and increase the number of individual donors and members. Additional responsibilities will include growing our membership as well as convert members into donors. The new staffer will bring structure, systems, creativity, positive energy and a track record of fundraising to the job.

Government & Community Affairs:
The position is responsible for identifying, monitoring and shaping policy initiatives within the city and county governments, management districts and super neighborhoods which relate to the BikeHouston mission. S/he helps communicate and advance the mission and goals to governmental programs through direct engagement with the Mayor's office, City Council Members, COH Health Department, Parks & Recreation Department, the Planning Department, and Houston Police Department, as well as related regional governmental and non-governmental organizations.The position is also responsible for identifying and securing public funding and monitoring policy initiatives within the city, state and federal levels of government, with the support of the Director of Development.

Marketing/Communications Associate
:The position begins as soon as possible and ends after 4 months, when an evaluation of eligibility for a renewal may be considered. You'll be expected to ask a lot of questions, but also to think independently. There's not a lot of room for passivism. You'll need to be proactive and pretty on top of your day-to-day to succeed here. The benefit of this is that this position can be as big or small of an experience as you let it. The position begins as soon as possible and ends after 4 months, when an evaluation of eligibility for a renewal may be considered. You'll be expected to ask a lot of questions, but also to think independently. You'll need to be proactive and pretty on top of your day-to-day to succeed here. The benefit of this is that this position can be as big or small of an experience as you let it.

The positions will remain open until filled. The positions may be full or part-time.  Substantial flexibility around working hours and vacation may be offered for outstanding candidates.  The positions do require some work on weekends and during the evenings given the stakeholders we serve. Complete job descriptions are available at www.bikehouston.org/jobs/.


Texas A&M Agrilife Extension Nature Tourism Program seeks Associate
Associate will act as on site manager and Assistant to the Director. In this capacity the Extension Associate will provide day to day management of the Long Acres Ranch Nature Center property and programs. All programs and development of new programs and facilities will be guided by an existing plan of action developed as part of the service contract with the foundation that owns Long Acres Ranch and is supporting this project. This person will be responsible for implementing the existing action plan, leading tours and education programs, recruiting and managing volunteers and potentially future paid staff as hiring becomes feasible. This person will be responsible for budgets and community relations, on going data collection, visitor evaluations and regular activity reports. This person will work closely with the Fort Bend County Extension office staff to support 4H Youth Natural Resource program, Adult volunteer programs and natural resource educational programs. Please fill out the online form to apply.


Memorial Park Conservancy seeks Administrative Assistant
The Administrative Assistant position for Memorial Park Conservancy (MPC) provides administrative support to the office, with a focus on supporting the Executive Director. This position manages and maintains the Executive Director's schedule, and supports all office and administrative functions and programs. The Administrative Assistant provides support to the Board of Directors and committees as determined by the Executive Director. Essential job functions include: creating and modifying meeting notifications, and sending and responding to invitations; attending Board and select committee meetings, taking minutes, and preparing final summaries; answering and returning phone calls and emails; greeting visitors and providing general information about the organization; routing, managing, and preparing responses to public inquiries and requests; and more. If interested, submit resume, two writing samples, and one letter of reference to info@memorialparkconservancy.org. Full job description: MPC Administrative Assistant.


Houston Audubon seeks Development Administrative Assistant
The mission of Houston Audubon is to advance the conservation of birds and positively impact their supporting environments. Our vision is the creation of a healthier, natural environment and more beautiful place to live by leading and nurturing a community which values and supports birds. The Development Administrative Assistant (the Admin) provides critical office support to the Development Department. Advance the mission of Houston Audubon by executing a high level of donor and member related services by providing essential administrative support including data entry and external correspondence. The Admin is responsible for data entry as it pertains to gifts processing, providing all donors and members with formal receipts, gift acknowledgements, welcome packets, written correspondences, general service calls and performing other administrative tasks as needed. This position reports to the Development Director and will remain open until filled. Essential duties include: carrying out all aspects of development administrative work including data entry, basic record keeping, research, reporting, mailing/emailing correspondence and from time to time calling constituents; assisting with annual gala and other events as deemed appropriate by the Development Director; recommending member and annual fund prospects to the Fund Development Officer and major gift prospects to the Development Director; and working cooperatively and collaboratively with all Houston Audubon staff, board, and volunteers in the spirit of teamwork and mutual respect that complies with all Houston Audubon policies. Full job description: Development Admin Asst Aug 2014.


Travis Audubon (Austin, TX) seeks Executive Director
Travis Audubon (Austin, Texas) is seeking a dynamic Executive Director to lead the organization through a time of growth and change. Founded in 1952, Travis Audubon promotes the enjoyment, understanding, and conservation of native birds and their habitats. The organization is an independent chapter of National Audubon and serves over 1,200 members within a four-county region consisting of Travis, Hays, Williamson, and Milam counties.  Travis Audubon owns and manages three nature preserves - Baker (690 acres), Chaetura Canyon (10 acres), and Blair Woods (10 acres).  With an annual budget of approximately $300,000, 3 full-time and 3 contract staff, and scores of skilled volunteers, Travis Audubon conducts both formal and informal programs in schools, public venues, at events, and at its sanctuaries. Last year, the organization's vital land conservation work, environmental education programs, and community outreach influenced over 432,000 people. Executive Director duties include, but are not limited to administration and management, policy development, fund raising, strategic planning, public relations, membership growth, financial health, and cultivating new and existing funding and program opportunities. For more information about the position: http://travisaudubon.org/job-opportunities. To apply, please submit a resume and cover letter, including salary requirements, to ed@travisaudubon.org. Both documents are required and must be submitted in .doc or .pdf format. Applications will be accepted until 5:00 p.m. September 12, 2014.


Hermann Park Conservancy seeks Horticulturist, Gardener, Irrigation Technician, Maintenance Coordinator, and Maintenance Staff.
The McGovern Centennial Gardens (MCG) in Hermann Park will be a unique display garden and destination, free to the public, open daily, and available for special events on occasion. It is a place of beauty designed to stimulate learning and a love of gardens in an urban setting. Join a dedicated staff responsible for the daily operation of the garden, to ensure the highest standards of landscape displays, and to implement environmentally responsible maintenance practices. Interested applicants should submit the following via e-mail to jcurtis@hermannpark.org: (a) cover letter explaining interest in the position, (b) current resume, and (c) two references including contact information. No phone calls, please. Full job descriptions:  http://www.hermannpark.org/employment-opportunities/.


Air Alliance Houston seeks Texas Coal Organizer
Air Alliance Houston (AAH) and Public Citizen are members of the Clean Gulf Commerce Coalition (CGCC), which works to reduce greenhouse gas emissions and impacts to local communities and environments through a reduction of coal exports in multiple U.S. Gulf Coast states. The organizer will be based in Houston and will be an employee of Air Alliance Houston. They will help build the grassroots movement within Texas, and coordinate with the overall efforts of the Clean Gulf Commerce Coalition. Responsibilities include: building grassroots support against coal terminal expansions and against coal exports; working with activists and elected officials to win state and local support calling for a stop to coal terminal expansions, transportation restrictions, and closure of existing facilities; organizing trainings and convening stakeholders to present the cast to stop coal terminal expansion and limit the transportation of coal in the state; and more. Applications will be considered until the position is filled. Interested applicants should send resume and cover letter to hiring@airalliancehouston.org. Find the full description at http://airalliancehouston.org or Texas Coal Organizer job description.


The Woods Project seeks Club Program Instructor
The Club Program extends The Woods Project mission (visit www.thewoodsproject.org for more information) into the classroom building leadership and life skills through hands-on projects and activities. Utilizing both individual and team-based skills and frameworks, Club Program breaks down outdoor, social, environmental, and scientific concepts into exciting and hands-on units such as Leave No Trace, camping/backpacking skills, local flora and fauna, conservation, governance, and environmental science. Students participating in the club program are highly encouraged and often required to attend weekend camping trips and a two-week Summer Trip to a wilderness site such as Yosemite National Park. The club program instructor will be responsible for representing TWP and the mission as mentors and teachers for approximately 20 low-income, high school students per club; building and maintaining yearlong mentor relationships with students; traveling to a school and conduct clubs for an hour, sometimes longer; working with TWP curriculum requirements and suggestions to adapt and deliver existing lesson plans; and more. To apply please send cover letter and resume to katie@thewoodsproject.org. View the full job description: 2014-15 Club Instructor Job Description.


Urban Harvest Seeks After-School Garden Educators
Are you passionate about growing healthy communities in urban areas? Have you ever wanted to improve your vegetable gardening skills but wasn't sure how? Do you have experience working with kids who might be just as excited as you are about eating fresh from the garden? Do you have a few hours a week to spend in a school garden with students? If you answered, "yes" to any of these questions, then you're the type of Garden Educator that our Youth Garden program likes to grow! This is a part time contract position. Starting dates in August and September. Training is included. Find the full job description at http://urbanharvest.org. Urban Harvest promotes healthy communities,  sound nutrition and respect for the environment by educating children and adults and facilitating harvest and habitat gardens. 


Galveston Bay Foundation seeks Land Stewardship Specialist
The Galveston Bay Foundation (GBF) seeks a full-time Land Stewardship Specialist to work within our Land and Habitat Conservation Program. The Land Stewardship Specialist will provide assistance with and develop land conservation transactions, update and implement habitat management and stewardship plans, seek out and apply for habitat conservation and management grants, monitor conservation easements and draft annual reports, and assist with habitat restoration and enhancement projects. Qualifications include a Bachelor's degree in a field of study such as environmental management, natural resources management, rangeland management, wildlife biology, environmental law, or another related field; a minimum of two years of professional experience; and a passion for land conservation and habitat management. To view the job description, including a full list of duties and qualifications, please visit galvbay.org.  To apply, please email resume to jobs@galvbay.org by August 31, 2014.


Buffalo Bayou Partnership seeks Buffalo Bayou Park Maintenance Technician
The Maintenance Technician performs many necessary functions. The skills to keep machines, mechanical/motorized equipment, tools/devices and structures in good repair and good working order by inspecting, testing, repairing. Diagnose, correct and/or identify problems, malfunctions or safety concerns. Read and interpret maintenance manuals, service bulletins, and other specifications/regulations to problem solve. Have the ability to determine the method of repairing or replacing malfunctioning items that may be damaged. Identify unsafe components. Ensure that all safety rules and regulations are followed involving all machinery and equipment as well as other safety requirements of regulatory agencies. Maintain a clean and orderly work area that pertains to maintenance responsibilities. To apply, submit resume and cover letter to Mr. Gregg Burks, Park Director / Buffalo Bayou Partnership / 1113 Vine St, Suite 215 or to gburks@buffalobayou.org. Maintenance Technician 2014 Job Description


Nature Discovery Center seeks part-time Bookkeeper
The Nature Discovery Center is a non-profit organization with a mission to ignite lifelong curiosity, understanding, and respect for nature through education. This part-time position manages the financial and administrative responsibilities of the Nature Discovery Center. For a more detailed description of specific responsibilities, please visit www.naturediscoverycenter.org. To apply for this position, please send a brief cover letter and resume to Sarah Flournoy, Executive Director, or bring it by the Center in person 7112 Newcastle, Bellaire, TX 77401.

ABOUT THIS PUBLICATION
This weekly update is brought to you by the Citizens' Environmental Coalition, established as a 501(c)3 in 1971. CEC is a coalition of over 100 environmental organizations dedicated to fostering dialogue, education, and collaboration on environmental issues in the Houston / Gulf Coast region. Visit the CEC online at www.cechouston.org.

Do you know of something great going on? News? Events? Accomplishments? Jobs? Let us know! Send submittals to news@cechouston.org. If possible, send information by Friday for inclusion the following Tuesday. We especially like short paragraphs, catchy titles, third person, and links to more information, but we will work with whatever you send us. Calendar items can be submitted up to two years in advance. We are always looking for volunteers to help keep our calendar up to date.

Sincerely,

Rachel Powers, Executive Director
Page Slocum, Newsletter Editor
Stephanie Hernandez, Communications Coordinator
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Posted: September 17, 2014 9:56   Go to blog
Neighbor to Neighbor News: We have something to celebrate!September 10, 2014 12:04
HCA Celebrates 10 years of great work!
September 4, 2014



Dear HCA Supporters:   Ten years ago today, a small group of Hill Country citizens gathered in my home to talk about development, water supply, and other threats to our beloved Hill Country. The inviting email to that meeting read: “We’ve all talked about the idea of getting the various interest groups out here together to form a coalition and unite our causes...
HCA Celebrates 10 years of great work!
September 4, 2014



Dear HCA Supporters:  
Ten years ago today, a small group of Hill Country citizens gathered in my home to talk about development, water supply, and other threats to our beloved Hill Country. The inviting email to that meeting read: “We’ve all talked about the idea of getting the various interest groups out here together to form a coalition and unite our causes. I think now is the time to take action.”

This occurred at a time when LCRA was proposing major waterlines into the unincorporated areas of Hays, Travis, Blanco and Burnet Counties—where rules were weak or non-existent regarding development density, water supply planning, land use compatibility, water quality protection, groundwater management, roadside billboards, and night sky lighting. The costs and consequences were alarming.

While the LCRA board ultimately approved the water line expansion plans, the foundation was laid for the need and mission of the Hill Country Alliance at that first meeting on September 4th, 2004. We moved forward to become recognized as official 501c3 non-profit on December 5th 2005 and we haven’t slowed down since.

Our purpose has always been to align people and organizations, to build relationships and support one another throughout the larger Hill Country region. Three core goals drive our purpose: (1) to protect water quality and supply; (2) to preserve open space; and (3) to promote responsible growth in the Hill Country.

People ask me all the time how things are going at HCA, and my answer is always, “Wonderful!” Not because we have won or succeeded in protecting water supply, heritage ranch lands and all the precious and unique features of the Hill Country, but “wonderful” because HCA has united the most amazing group of people who are dedicated to making a difference every day.

Together we are advancing good science, stewardship, innovation, policy, and community involvement. We understand that while the challenges we face are enormous, we have an opportunity to create change, and we have a responsibility to become involved in shaping the future of this great region.

Today, HCA is led by a dedicated group of 17 HCA board members and more than 130 advisors, team members, and volunteers, and five staff members. Nine thousand supporters receive our regular HCA news feeds. Diverse educational events regularly draw 100 or more attendees. Our reach extends throughout 17 counties from Austin to San Antonio and west to Junction covering more than 11 million acres. We have grown up over these past ten years, and our base of support is far and wide and diverse.

The people that have built this organization are passionate and generous, and while I can never thank them all here, I feel I must recognize and express gratitude to some.

Pam Reese was our first board president, followed by Karen Ford, Damian Priour, Nell Penridge, Ira Yates, Carolyn Chipman Evans and Sky Lewey. HCA is now led by Milan J. Michalec of Boerne, TX.

All of these leaders remain involved in HCA today, with the exception of our dear friend Damian Priour who has since passed away and will be forever loved and missed. We have lost two other significant inspirations, Kent Butler and Charles O’Dell. We will always honor and draw from the wisdom and spirit of these three amazing individuals.

Pam Reese and Bob Ayres were the first major donors to put their faith in the HCA mission, and we are beyond grateful as both continue to support and guide HCA today.

Ira Yates has individually supported HCA with his presence, commitment, support, and vision since day one—actually since before day one. Ira deserves much of the credit for who HCA has become, and he continues to push HCA to be stronger and more effective.

Karen Ford and Karen Huber, both current board members, have demonstrated that there comes a time when the clear path to change is to actually run for public office. Both of these leaders ran and won county commissioner races and have remained active in leading HCA on water issues.

David Baker, Ann Newman, Leo Tynan, Pepper Morris, Mary Sanger, Mike Reese, Bill Neiman, Ric Sternberg, David K. Langford, Mary Kelly, these are but a few of the many mentors, supporters and leaders who have nurtured this organization. More recently Sharlene Leurig, Garry Merritt and a new generation of leaders have emerged. Clearly HCA has a rock solid foundatio
n and is here to stay.

We almost never make an “ask” for donations via email, but today we calling for HCA Birthday Presents! Please show your support, help us celebrate and donate to HCA today. 
Thank you for an amazing ten year ride – and now, to the future!
Christy Muse
Executive Director
Hill Country Alliance

HCA’s 2014 Board of Directors: President Milan J. Michalec, Leo Tyan, Karen Huber, Paul Sumrall, David Baker, David Clear, Pete Dwyer, Carolyn Chipman Evans, Karen Ford, Chris Hale, Kathleen Krueger, Sharlene Leurig, Sky Lewey, Garry Merritt, Bill Neiman, Sarah Schlessinger and Ira Yates.

HCA Staff: Christy Muse, Katherine Romans, Charlie Flatten, Shannon Chambers and Sheila Holt.


The Mission of the Hill Country Alliance is to bring together an ever-expanding alliance of groups throughout a multi-county region of Central Texas with the long-term objective of preserving open spaces, water supply, water quality and the unique character of the Texas Hill Country.



Photo: Karen Bruett

Posted: September 10, 2014 12:04   Go to blog
Becoming Drought TolerantSeptember 10, 2014 12:03
Central Texas looks for ways to balance population growth with future water suppliesBy Lizzie Jespersen, Fri., Aug. 29, 2014Photo by John AndersonIn an August 1886 issue of the Kentucky newspaper Bourbon News, a journalist wrote, "The drought in Texas is so intense that potatoes are cooked in the ground, and all the people have to do is dig and eat them. The workmen carry salt in their pockets and don't have to go home to dinner."

Flash forward about 60 years...

Central Texas looks for ways to balance population growth with future water supplies

By Lizzie Jespersen, Fri., Aug. 29, 2014

Becoming Drought Tolerant
Photo by John Anderson
In an August 1886 issue of the Kentucky newspaper Bourbon News, a journalist wrote, "The drought in Texas is so intense that potatoes are cooked in the ground, and all the people have to do is dig and eat them. The workmen carry salt in their pockets and don't have to go home to dinner."

Flash forward about 60 years. In his narrative chronicle of the Fifties Texas drought of record, The Time It Never Rained, author Elmer Kelton recalled, "Ranchers watched waterholes recede to brown puddles of mud that their livestock would not touch. They watched the rank weeds shrivel as the west wind relentlessly sought them out and smothered them with its hot breath. They watched the grass slowly lose its green, then curl and fire up like dying cornstalks."

Today, another 60 years later, drought continues to be a recurring theme in Texas. But in booming Austin and the surrounding areas of Central Texas, the ongoing drought is not one of classic Western imagery that is simultaneously wretched and romantic.
The portrait of our drought reveals a city whose population influx could threaten to overtake its water supply; it shows lakeside residents and businesses closing their doors to the beached buoys and docks that used to beckon customers by boat; and it tells the story of homes and lives ravaged by wildfire.

Race Against Time

Texas is no stranger to drought – its history is a saga of drought and recovery, a pattern that is indigenous to the state and would run its course even without a human footprint. And despite climate change, we are not certainly seeing a long-term spike in drought conditions. According to State Climatologist John Nielsen-Gammon, there are no clear indications in the trend of Texas' drought patterns that the severity and frequency of drought has increased – in fact, he said, there were more droughts prior to 1970. But there's one key difference between pre-Seventies Central Texas and today: us. With a rapidly expanding population and no signs of deceleration in sight, Austin's demand for water has become a race against time.
"Water supply contains a combo of [meteorological conditions] and population," Nielsen-Gammon said. "If this had taken place in 1990, we probably would have had much better water supply than we have now. ... In terms of per capita, with water availability we are basically back to where we were in the Sixties."

Central Texas' current drought has earned a ranking of one of the 10 worst droughts in the last 500 years, and based on the past four years has likely also claimed the title of the second-worst drought on record, said Nielsen-Gammon.

But what does the future look like, even if it is too early to affirm any overarching trend of an increase or decrease in drought conditions?

Brian Hunt of the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District measures spring flow just below Barton Springs Pool.
Brian Hunt of the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer 
Conservation District measures spring flow just below 
Barton Springs Pool.              Photo by Jana Birchum
Nielsen-Gammon said Central Texas' long-term precipitation has been positive, with increases of about 10% per century – though he is unsure whether this trend will continue. The area has also seen a spike in temperature, especially in recent dec­ades. "Historically, [precipitation and rising temperatures] are competing influences on drought," he said. "It seems very likely temperature will continue to rise, so that should lead to an increase in drought frequency and severity."

While residents play a part in the drought through a combination of greenhouse gas emissions that contribute to climate change, and through the added demands that plumbing, irrigation, and daily living place on the water supply, the biggest influence on Central Texas drought is beyond human control. Natural variations in climate temperature and behavior have existed cyclically since the beginning of time. Experts have analyzed our current drought through the lens of such climate patterns – according to Nielsen-Gammon, the overlap of two specific climate trends, called Pacific Decadal Oscil­lation and Atlantic Multi­dec­adal Oscillation, is largely responsible – but even those of us without a doctorate can see proof of a larger climate change cycle in the form of ice ages and, on a smaller level, Texas' unshakable tendency toward drought.

The Human Scale

The concept that the occurrence of drought is a natural and inextricable part of this world, and Texas in particular, is an important one. For the layman, however, an understanding of drought comes down to one thing: water availability. While temperature variations and precipitation may be largely at the hands of some greater climatic or even geological power, the human demand for water does affect the availability of what is not an infinitely available resource. A comprehension of where water comes from, and where it is going, is especially valuable on a regional and local level. Two different bodies largely supply Central Texas water: the Highland Lakes and Edwards Aquifer. The Highland Lakes – Buchanan, Inks, Lady Bird, Marble Falls, Travis, and Austin – were formed by a series of dams and are managed by the LCRA, which contracts 424,602 acre-feet of water from the lakes to 3,984 customers (as of May 1, 2014). Lake Travis provides the city of Austin with its water supply for utilities and construction, and has been the most visibly drained by recent drought conditions of all the Highland Lakes. Lake Travis currently holds 393,264 acre-feet of water – just 35% of its storage level when full.

Getting By and Making Do

John Hofmann, whose title at the Lower Colorado River Authority is executive vice president of water, said the agency is involved in many conservation projects for these lakes, with a full-time conservation staff that works on developing ways to address the issue. Over the years, LCRA has granted several hundred thousand dollars to conservation projects, and has held irrigation evaluation sessions and worked with stakeholders such as the Home Builders Assoc­i­a­tion and golf courses to coordinate conservation efforts. "We basically manage water for the drought," Hofmann said. "If you're not in drought, you're looking for the next one."

Still, critics of LCRA, from the grassroots level to the Legislature, fault the agency for not responding sooner, and for failing to conserve the region's water supply at the height of the drought in 2011, when it released enormous amounts of water downstream to rice farmers. Many of these downstream farmers have since been cut off from the Highland Lakes water supply.

The Edwards Aquifer is a groundwater resource that re-entered a Stage II Alarm Drought on Aug. 18, after a brief water conservation period that began June 27, according to the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District, which regulates groundwater pumping. The district, which manages both the Edwards and Trinity aquifers, has walked the line between drought and conservation periods for several years. BSEACD Education Coordinator Robin Havens Gary said these fluctuations are simply the nature of aquifers.

"Central Texas has a lot of what people call periods of drought interrupted by periodic floods, and that's what is reflected by water levels," Gary said. "It's not something that has just happened. Droughts have been occurring in our area for a long time. The drought declarations allow us to have a coordinated water conservation plan, so everyone can get on board and help conserve and preserve the water that we have until it starts raining again, and then the aquifer will get replenished."

Becoming Drought TolerantFor many aquifers, it takes hundreds or even thousands of years for rainwater to reach and recharge them. By comparison, water is able to make its way into Edwards Aquifer very quickly, making it a special case in Texas. Still, Edwards Aquifer and the BSEACD supply 60,000 people throughout Hays, Travis, and Caldwell counties, who rely on the aquifer as their sole source of water, according to Gary. Many of these peoples' wells have been dry for years.For the past two years, Artie Berne has had water delivered to his home in unincorporated Travis County, just outside of Lakeway, where he lives with his wife and two pets. Ever since his well's water table dried out and fell below the pump's intake level, a water truck has brought 2,000-gallon water deliveries to Berne's home every five to six weeks. Berne said going from free water to paid deliveries has made him conserve much more in his day-to-day life. "Now I'm hypersensitive about water," Berne said. "I go to the gym and I'm super sensitive, and these people are leaving the water on while they shave. I'm like, water!"

Berne and his wife have also proactively conserved water by ripping out their front lawn in favor of a xeriscape of plants and mulch. Still, even for other neighboring residents with similar lawn plans, making a water delivery last for six weeks is impossible. Some of Berne's neighbors who rely on water for families of four or more need the 2,000-gallon deliveries on a weekly basis – an expense that, at $85 a tank, quickly adds up. Families in the area who have run out of water (or funds) before the next scheduled delivery have had to go without showers and clean clothes, making do until their next refill. Others whose wells have yet to run dry have begun installing tanks, fearing that it won't be long until aquifer water will recede from their own wells as well. Many of these families rely on water from Edwards Aquifer, while some draw from nearby aquifers such as the Trinity.

Edwards Aquifer "is subject to a lot of water withdrawals," Gary said. "We certainly have more pumping than we would see in the Fifties, and that's our management challenge."

During the most recent "conservation period," the Aquifer District called for a 10% reduction in water use across the board, while mandatory water use restrictions were lifted. "We realize that this is one of the highest demand times for water," Gary had said during the conservation period. "And while the aquifer – the trigger points have been met [to declare it out of a groundwater drought] – we're not in a water-full situation, so this water conservation period allows us to keep that water conservation message front and center, because that's what everybody needs to be doing right now."

Now that the aquifer has officially receded back into drought, water use restrictions have been reinstated; all parties holding water use permits must reduce their pumpage by 20%.

Finding Strategies

Though recent rains briefly alleviated the severity of Central Texas' groundwater drought, Gary said one of the biggest challenges to further replenishment is that ground and surface waters are connected. "What rolls off at one point replenishes the aquifer at another, and what comes out of groundwater replenishes the surface water at another," Gary said. With groundwater and surface water – in this case, Edwards Aquifer and the Highland Lakes – so interdependent, it's hard to imagine any major restoration occurring within the aquifer while Austin's lakes are still enduring a drought rivaling that of the Fifties.

In hopes of removing some of the burden from the Highland Lakes, the Austin Water Resource Planning Task Force recently made several recommendations for alternative water sources and management approaches in its July 10 report. The short-term task force, which consisted of 11 members appointed by Mayor Lee Leffing­well, City Council members, and environmental-interest commissions, identified "recommended strategies for study ... that could potentially serve as sources of water within a long-term framework or could provide other benefits over both short and long periods," according to the memorandum. These strategies include applying a biodegradable powder to the lake surfaces to reduce evaporation, seasonally changing Lake Austin's levels to capture runoff rather than allowing it to spill downstream, contracting with new groundwater suppliers to obtain additional water sources, and desalination of brackish water zones of the Edwards Aquifer.

The ultimate effectiveness of these methods is uncertain. Contracting with new groundwater suppliers is perhaps the least onerous of the potential undertakings, though a question remains whether other prospective groundwater sources are healthy enough to withstand the added burden of Austin Water Utility customers. Desal­ination has become a topic of interest across Texas, and has had some success in El Paso, home to the largest desalination plant in the United States. However, Texas Water Foundation's Executive Director Car­ole Baker said desalination presents a solution, but also a problem. "People always default to desalination," she said. "We could always do that, but there are a couple of issues. The cost goes up, and the energy you need to clean up that process uses a lot of water."

Becoming Drought Tolerant
Photo by Jana Birchum

Fighting for conservation measures at the state level, voters in 2013 overwhelmingly passed a ballot measure to allocate $2 billion from Texas' so-called Rainy Day Fund to create a loan program for water-related projects – primarily pipelines and reservoirs – to help ensure Texas' water future; 20% of the water fund program is designated for conservation projects, while another 10% will be delegated to agricultural water conservation projects.

Changing the Mindset

In the midst of Central Texas' showdown between inevitable drought and population growth, and a desperate need for new solutions like the ones discussed by the Austin Water Resource Planning Task Force, one message has remained consistently in the forefront: conserve. Conserve now, and conserve often. Baker and the Texas Water Foundation are a part of the growing effort to emphasize conservation as one of the few drought-related measures that has few drawbacks and can be implemented directly, widely, and immediately.

"Of course the drought seems to just be ongoing and probably will be, is what we're sort of anticipating," Baker said. "I think one of the main things we are working on right now is trying to educate the public on this situation so they don't think every time we have rain, everything is back to normal. ... The key thing is to look at how water is so connected to so many things; to try to change the mindset, because that will change behavior. It's looking at how water is linked to the economy, to the environment, to communities."

Texas Water Foundation's particular brand of educating has been largely through multiday bus tours, during which they take legislators and decision makers from the Capitol on a tour of the state for a firsthand look at regional water challenges. The foundation has also held conferences over the past several years to bring conservation issues to the forefront – something that has been especially effective, Baker said. "We're actually in a pretty good place right now," she added. "Conservation and efficiency are really a large part of the conversation these days, and we've worked a long time to get it to that point where people are asking, 'What can we do?'"

Just because water conservation has entered the platform of statewide discussion doesn't mean activists and educators don't have their work cut out for them. Baker said that while many of their education and policy efforts have focused on legislators and water utility companies, their biggest battle now is with the general public. "If you talk about saving energy, people are great at that, but when it comes to talking about water, not so much," Baker said. "These issues are so different across the state, but all of them are focused on the fact that if we are fixin' to double our population over the next 10 years, at the end of the day, the best thing we can do is to learn how to conserve and use water efficiently."

The Next Generation

Some conservation activists have decided to focus on educating a different audience entirely. Austin-based nonprofit Colorado River Alliance holds field trips for young students on the land outside of LCRA headquarters in West Austin, where the students can peer from atop the overlook to see the Tom Miller Dam and the lakes that are a part of the water supply for much of Central Texas. Sarah Richards, Colorado River Alli­ance executive director, said when students discover exactly where their water comes from, and where it's going from there, it creates a greater conviction of personal responsibility for water usage and conservation.

"Knowledge is so critical – that they know how much we're using, and also that they know the source of their drinking water," she said. "When people can't point at it and say, 'That's where my drinking water is coming from,' it's hard for them to know to conserve."

Even parents and teachers have pulled Colorado River Alliance members aside during field trips to say that they had no idea about the water's uses or how much water a typical family uses. The alliance's biggest focus, however, has been on children. "It's important to see that our current leadership and decisionmakers are aware and have a strong knowledge of water resources, but it's just as important that our future leaders are aware," Richards said.

Some of the conservation tips are so simple, but can go a long way toward conservation: Turn off the tap while brushing your teeth and save three gallons of water. Shorten showers and save up to 150 gallons of water per month. Fix leaky faucets. Bathe pets in outdoor areas that need watering (while adhering to outdoor watering restrictions). Use rain barrels to harvest rainwater from gutters.

According to Baker, learning how to properly work residential irrigation systems is one of the biggest ways in which residents can contribute to conservation efforts. Not only does this ensure not overwatering lawns, but it also includes only cultivating native plants and grasses that can be irrigated through rainwater.

In searching for answers in how to match Central Texas' valuable water resources to its prodigious growth, one thing can be agreed upon: No matter how much of the drought is out of human hands, this is an issue that should – and will – remain at the forefront for all of Texas, whether it is in a home or during legislative meetings.

"I think the biggest [message we need to emphasize] is: Whether we're in a time of drought or not, this is a shared resource, whether it's shared across the community, or whether we're sharing it with the environment," Richards said. "That just becomes more important when there's less water available."

 

Posted: September 10, 2014 12:03   Go to blog
End Op BULLETIN: Appeal of Party Status LOCATION CHANGESeptember 10, 2014 12:03
ES, Landowners' appeal of party status to be DECIDED
 by Lost Pines GCD Board of Directors September 10, 2014, 7:00 p.m. NOTICE LOCATION CHANGEAmerican Legion York Post 2761502 US Hwy 77, Giddings, TX 78942 Lawyers for Environmental Stewardship and Landowners will made oral arguments before the Lost  Pines Groundwater Conservation District Board of Directors on August 13, 7:00 p.m. at the Bastrop Convention Center.  ES and Landowners are requesting that the decision by the ALJ to deny party status be reversed and remanded back to SOAH for contested case hearing. The Lost Pines Board continued the hearing until September 10, 2014...
ES, Landowners' appeal of party status to be DECIDED
 by Lost Pines GCD Board of Directors 
September 10, 2014, 7:00 p.m. 
NOTICE LOCATION CHANGE
American Legion York Post 276
1502 US Hwy 77, Giddings, TX 78942 
Lawyers for Environmental Stewardship and Landowners will made oral arguments before the Lost  Pines Groundwater Conservation District Board of Directors on August 13, 7:00 p.m. at the Bastrop Convention Center.  ES and Landowners are requesting that the decision by the ALJ to deny party status be reversed and remanded back to SOAH for contested case hearing. The Lost Pines Board continued the hearing until September 10, 2014.  

The public is encouraged to attend.  Though public comments will not be heard, the face of the people needs to be seen.   This is a very important hearing about your rights to defend your interests in the groundwater beneath your land. 


Since our filing on August 1st, End Op has filed a reply to our request to reverse the decision to deny ES and Landowners party status in the contested case hearing.  Counsel for the Landowners has also filed an amicus brief regarding the Landowner's request. 


*************** 
Environmental Stewardship (ES) and Landowners (Andrew Meyer, Bette Brown, and Darwyn Hanna) have filed an appeal of the decision by the Administrative Law Judge (ALJ) to deny party status in the End Op contested case hearing.  The request was filed with the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District Board of Directors on August 1, 2014 and will be heard at a special meeting on August 13, 2014 in Bastrop, TX. The time and location of the meeting has not yet been established. 

ES and Landowners (collectively "Requesters") have asked that the Board reverse the ALJ's decision that they are not affected persons, and remand End Op's application back to the State Office of Administrative Hearings (SOAH) for a contested case hearing including Requesters as parties. 

The ALJ denied Requesters' petition for party status on the basis that a requester must demonstrate an actual or intended use of groundwater owned before the person can assert an interest in the groundwater.  ES and Landowners argue that ownership of land, with the accompanying vested interest in groundwater, constitutes a legally protected interest within the framework of the Texas Water Code (36.002) and the Texas Supreme Court decision in the Edwards Aquifer Authority v. Day case. 

The Supreme Court held that a landowner is regarded as having absolute title to the water in place beneath his or her land, and that each owner of land owns separately, distinctly and exclusively all of the water beneath his or her land, subject to the rule of capture and state regulation.  The court went on to conclude that landowners have a constitutionally compensable interest in groundwater, and that "one purpose of groundwater regulation is to afford each owner of water in a common, subsurface reservoir a fair share." 

The Supreme Court further noted, in quoting the United States Supreme Court, "to deny standing to persons who are in fact injured simply because many others are also injured, would mean that the most injurious and widespread Government actions could be questioned by nobody ... where a harm is concrete, though widely shared, the Court has found injury in fact." 

IF the ALJ's reasoning is allowed to stand, then the District will create an incentive for every landowner to drill a well and pump groundwater in order to protect their interest in that groundwater.   Importantly, the ALJ's decision punishes landowners who may choose to conserve groundwater, since the ALJ has effectively held that a landowner who wishes to use or waste his or her groundwater has a protected interest, while a landowner who opts to limit his or her use of groundwater has no right to protect his or her groundwater interests.  The District should not adopt the ALJ's approach that rewards needless or wasteful pumping. 

Subsequent to the ALJ's decision on party status, AQUA announced a partial settlement with End Op that would establish a mitigation fund for Aqua of up to $15 million over 20 years. In exchange, AQUA agreed to limited arguments and limited cross-examination, including refraining from arguing on behalf of any landowner other than AQUA at the hearing. The settlement also resulted in a reduction of End Op's request for a permit to 46,000 AFY instead of 56,000 AFY, and a reduction of pumping in Bastrop County. The AQUA mitigation fund is controlled by AQUA and may be used at AQUA's sole discretion, with no showing of fault by End Op.  AQUA and End Op also agreed that End Op would set up a mitigation fund of up to $3.75 million to be held by a third-party trustee to pay claims of landowners who are not Aqua customers, as long as they have wells either in the Simsboro Aquifer or within one mile of an End Op well. No details of the landowner fund have been offered by either AQUA or End Op, including whether these landowners will have the burden of proving End Op caused damage to their wells. Click here for a link to AQUA's frequently asked questions.  The ALJ's decision recommended the landowner mitigation fund be included in any End Op permit --- clearly, End Op, AQUA and the ALJ have attempted to settle issues affecting private landowners and their property rights, while denying the landowners themselves their rights of due process and equal protection.   
  

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or, as an option, consider making a donation to the newly formed 
Lost Pines Water Defense Fund
P.O. Box 690, Elgin, TX 78621
 For more information call 512-657-2089
Steve Box
Executive Director
Environmental Stewardship
P.O. Box 1423
Bastrop, TX 78602   
512-300-6609    
                                                                            
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GROUNDWATER BULLETIN    
AUGUST 2014
Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District Hearings

DrawdownWATER BANKRUPTCY:  A Visual Perspective
PERMIT THIS NOT BANKRUPTCY
PRINT FLYER
What does "draw-down" and "water bankruptcy" resulting from groundwater pumping look like on a groundwater map?  As you may know, the Desired Future Conditions are established in terms of the draw-down, in feet, of aquifers in Bastrop and Lee counties and throughout the District. 

Recently, Environmental Stewardship obtained visual images based on the Groundwater Availability Model (GAM) used by the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District to evaluate the impact of proposed pumping from current permit applications on the Simsboro Aquifer.  Draw-down, measured in feet, is indicated on the contour lines of the maps below.  Click on Maps below to Enlarge

NOTICE:  Please keep in mind that the images below (except for Image 1) are for the PROPOSED permits ONLY (124,226 acre-feet/year) and DO NOT include EXISTING permits (45,365 acre-feet/year). 

GMA-DFC-Drawdown

Image 1.  PERMIT THIS - The draw-down, in feet, expected when the Adopted Desired Future Conditions (DFC) are met in Bastrop and Lee counties. The dark area in Burleson County is from Post Oak Savannah GCD pumping.  The Lost Pines GCD Board of Directors used the legal constraints of the adopted DFC to limit the Forestar permit.  Click on Map to Enlarge
AllPermits100%Drawdown
Image 2.  NOT WATER BANKRUPTCY - The draw-down map above, expressed in feet, demonstrates what is expected if ALL current applications are approved and pumped to the maximum requested. The Forestar permit has been reduced from 45,000 to 12,000 acre-feet per year.  However,  Forestar is expected to appeal to District Court in an attempt to overturn this Board decision.  Notice the red area in Lee county where draw-down is 1000 ft, and orange area in Bastrop County where draw-down is 750 ft.  Click on Map to Enlarge
Forestar100%
 Image 3.  WATER BANKRUPTCY - The majority of draw-down, in feet, in Lee County is from the proposed Forestar well field.  Fortunately, the Forestar permit has been reduced from 45,000 to 12,000 acre-feet per year.  However,  Forestar is expected to appeal to District Court in an attempt to overturn this Board decision. Click on Map to Enlarge

EndOp100%
Image 4.  WATER BANKRUPTCY - The majority of draw-down, in feet, in Bastrop County is from the proposed End Op well field, which is directly below Houston Toad habitat.  The End OP application has been contested by Aqua Water Supply Corporation and a hearing on the merits is being scheduled.  Click on Map to Enlarge
PERMIT THIS: 
If permitted at all, individual permits should first be reduced to levels actually supported by the application and then all permits reduced overall as necessary to an aggregate level that, including existing permits, protects the Adopted Desired Future Conditions.  In summary, if permitted at all, Forestar and End Op qualify for less than 5% of the water they are seeking.  In addition, the district needs to factor in the impact of existing permits before issuing any new permits. This has not been done. (See Image 1). 
Forestar25%
Image 5. Permit This!  This image depicts Forestar pumping reduced to 25% of requested pumping volume but DOES NOT include existing permits. The Board reduced Forestar's permit to 26% of the requested amount.  Click on Map to Enlarge
EndOp25%
Image 6.  Permit This! This image depicts End Op pumping reduced to 25% of requested pumping volume but DOES NOT include existing permits.  Click on Map to Enlarge

Lost Pines Groundwater Statistics
Region K
 
Below are some statistics about current applications, existing permits and facts from the Lost Pines Management Plan. 






Current Simsboro Aquifer Applications Pending:
-  45,000 acre-feet/yr          Forestar Group      Approved at 12,000 ac-ft/yr
-  10,000 acre-feet/yr          LCRA                    Approved at 5,000 ac-ft/yr
-  56,000 acre-feet/yr          End Op                 Contested
-    3,226 acre-feet/yr          Manville WSC        Approved
-    3,360 acre-feet/yr          Heart of Texas      Withdrawn
-    1,613 acre-feet/yr          City of Bastrop      Approved
119,199 acre-feet/yr     TOTAL APPLICATIONS FOR SIMSBORO WELLS

Currently Permits in the Simsboro Aquifer 
-  23,627 acre-feet/yr            Aqua WSC
-    6,653 acre-feet/yr            Manville WSC 
-  11,023 acre-feet/yr            Lee Co. WSC 
-       100 acre-feet/yr            Lee Co. FWSD 
-         67 acre-feet/yr            Hunters Crossing 
-    3,850 acre-feet/yr            Alcoa (currently pumping 6201 acre-feet/yr)
45,365 acre-feet/yr        TOTAL PERMITS FOR SIMSBORO WELLS


164,884 acre-feet/yr TOTAL SIMSBORO APPLICATIONS + PERMITS 
  4.4 times the Available Water (2060 MAG) for the Simsboro Aquifer
  5.6 times the Available Water (2010 MAG) for the Simsboro Aquifer
************************** 
A FEW FACTS From the Lost Pines Management Plan
-  Total Available Groundwater (MAG) in the District by 2060 is 58,888 acre-feet/yr.
-  Bastrop County projected water demand by 2060 is 65,266 acre-feet/yr.
-  Lee County projected water demand by 2060 is 6,603 acre-feet/yr.   
-  Current discharge to surface waters from all aquifers is 78,612 acre-feet/yr.  
-  Net recharge to all aquifers (recharge - discharge) is 7,249 acre-feet/yr.   
-  Current pumping for all aquifers in the District is 47,811 acre-feet/yr (website)
-  Current permits for all aquifers 73,000 acre-feet/yr (Austin-American Statesman) 

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Posted: September 10, 2014 12:03   Go to blog
What's on tap at Thursday's Water Crisis meeting? September 10, 2014 12:00

What's on tap at
Thursday's Water Crisis meeting? 

People say the darndest things.
The other day a few CARD members were handing out leaflets for theBlanco River in droughtupcoming community water meeting 6 p.m. Thursday at the Community Center. "Would you like information on the Water Crisis meeting?" we asked a few hundred people. Some folks said yes, some no, and many asked questions.
But one confidently smiling lady left us momentarily speechless...

What's on tap at
Thursday's Water Crisis meeting? 

People say the darndest things.

The other day a few CARD members were handing out leaflets for the
Blanco River
Blanco River in drought
upcoming community water meeting 6 p.m. Thursday at the Community Center. "Would you like information on the Water Crisis meeting?" we asked a few hundred people. Some folks said yes, some no, and many asked questions.

But one confidently smiling lady left us momentarily speechless.

"I don't need to worry about water," she said happily, "I'm on a well."

By the time we recovered, she was gone but, really, what would you say to that? Perhaps, "Uh, even well water has to come from someplace."

Maybe it shouldn't be so surprising. After all, how many city folks do you know who think water just comes from a faucet, and never wonder how it got there or where it came from?

With longer droughts, lower creek and spring flows, ever greater water demand and a forecast of very rapid growth, we central Texans - most of us anyway - have become increasingly aware of the threat water shortages hold for our area. What happens, we need to ask, when the well runs dry, as many have in Hays County in recent years? Where will we get plentiful, clear water, how will we get it here, and how much will it cost? What can we do now to protect the water we have, and lessen the problem down the road?

To foster more discussion and understanding of the threat to our water supply, Citizens Alliance for Responsible Development (CARD) hosts a free community meeting, Water Crisis: Time To Get Serious!, 6-9:30 p.m. Thursday (Sept. 11) in the Wimberley Community Center, 14068 RR 12 in the heart of Wimberley. CARD, a local non-partisan, volunteer organization, is the sole host.

"Our citizens are concerned about the continued availability of clean water, and also about the increasing cost impact as we look at historic population growth and drought," said CARD water committee chair David Glenn. "CARD is hosting this meeting to help us all learn more about the water issues and the risks facing our community today and in the near future."

The Chat with Experts session, at 6 p.m., is an hour-long information fair for individuals and families looking for smarter and more efficient ways to use water in their own lives and homes. This is the "hands-on" part of the Water Crisis meeting, set in the Community Center lobby and meeting rooms. There will be six tables - all non-commercial (no one selling anything!). Table topics include:
  • Household water conservation, with Brandon Leister from SAWS, the San Antonio Water System, nationally recognized for its progressive programs of water conservation.
  • Xeriscaping/landscaping, on how to create beautiful yards and gardens with native plants and features that use little water, with local Texas AgriLife Extension Agent Richard Parrish.
  • Lawns, with advice on what grasses grow well here naturally, and which have long erosion-resistant, soil-saving roots. With Del Hood of Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center.
  • Rainwater collection, with help on small systems for a little garden or full home rain catchment, with Sanjeev Kalaswad and Bridget Cameron from the Texas Water Development Board.
  • Saving energy saves water, presented by Blake Beavers, Joe Paramo and Diana Gonzales of Pedernales Electric Cooperative (P.E.C.)
Members of the Hays County Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalists will be assisting at each table.

There will also be a table on the Cypress Creek Project, which promotes the importance of maintaining healthy spring and stream flows, including flow from Jacob's Well, with CCP's Matt Heinemann.

At 7 p.m. the meeting moves into the Center's auditorium to hear speakers on different aspects of the current and future water situation in our area. These include:

  • Introduction to Texas and Hill Country Water: Andy Sansom, of the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, Texas State University. Sansom, a very familiar figure in this area, is also a former director the Texas Nature Conservancy and a former executive director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department.
  • Yesterday's Water: Ray Whisenant, Hays County Commissioner, Precinct 4, whose career in the water industry covered the better part of four decades.
  • Today's Water: Peter Newell, Austin-based Water Resources Engineer for HDR Engineering, where he works on water planning for Central Texas. Newell will discuss the situation with surface and aquifer water today, and plans for other sources in the future, as well as the role people play through their individual water-use decisions.
  • Tomorrow's Planning: Bech Bruun, of the Texas Water Development Board, and Texas Environmental Flows Advisory Group, discusses how water planning is changing and ways of approaching funding.
  • Innovative Water Solutions: Steve Clouse, COO of the San Antonio Water Systems, which has won praise for innovative approaches to water availability, discusses approaches such as conservation, brackish groundwater desalination and water re-use.

Members of the audience are invited to ask questions of the speakers, joined by Hays County Commissioner, Precinct 3, Will Conley, in the Speaker Panel session, from 9-9:30 p.m.

The free community meeting includes light refreshments - including water - and is open to all. For more information on CARD, check 
Posted: September 10, 2014 12:00   Go to blog

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Wimberley Valley Watershed Association   
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