Thursday, December 20, 2012

Behind the scary water headlines


Behind the scary water headlines photo
Mary Kelly, former Environmental Defense Fund lawyer who heads the environmental consulting firm Parula, LLC.
By Mary E. Kelly 

It’s hard to look at any media in Texas today without being confronted by a dire outlook on the state’s water future. The jarring effects of a deep drought and the steep price tag attached to the state’s water plan definitely make for attention-grabbing copy. But for those who care about sustainable management of our limited water resources, property rights and fiscal discipline in the state budget, it’s worth a look behind those headlines.

There is little disagreement that it is time for action. However, instead of throwing money at unnecessary, expensive reservoir projects that would inundate productive private lands, state funding should come with a clear set of priorities that focus on water efficiency, land stewardship and developing the science and technology that we need for a sustainable future.

Layered upon the eye-opening stories of drought are predictions that Texas population may grow by more than 80 percent by 2060. Based on that projection — which may itself be overstated — the state water plan proposes at least $53 billion in new water supply projects, including over 20 proposed new reservoirs, with half of that cost to be picked up by state taxpayers. The staggering price tag is based on a projected increase in annual statewide water use, from about 14 million acre-feet today to over 22 million acre-feet by 2060 (at current rates of use, an acre-foot is roughly enough water for three Austin households for a year).

Appropriating billions of dollars to “fund the water plan” won’t bring the rain our land, lakes, rivers and aquifers need to recover from drought. Instead, we have to recognize the stark, if unpleasant, reality: a growing Texas is faced with the challenge of learning to live within our water limits.
Nevertheless, there is an important role for state funding in moving Texas towards a more sustainable water future. Here is a proposed four-point approach:

First: Get realistic about projected water demand. The Legislature should not take the inflated projections of the water plan as our inevitable fate.

The municipal sector accounts for the bulk of the increased use projected by the state plan. Adding up the forecasts made by regional water planning groups results in a projected 2060 municipal use of 8.4 million acre-feet per year, more than double the 2010 use of 4.1 million acre-feet per year reported by the Texas Water Development Board.

One region of the state (centered on the Dallas Fort Worth Metroplex) accounts for almost a third of the projected municipal water demand increase by 2060. Many cities in the Dallas-Fort Worth area project that each customer will still be using about the same amount of water in 2060 as a customer does today (well over 200 gallons per capita per day). Regional planners then added a 25 percent “contingency factor” to bump up projected demand even further. This contrasts with 2060 per capita projections in El Paso, San Antonio, Houston and other cities of less than 150 gallons per capita per day. Not coincidentally, the DFW region is proposing big-ticket reservoirs and pipelines as necessary to meet demand by 2060.

The legislature should not encourage these and other overinflated demand projections by allocating state funds now for condemning productive private lands for reservoirs that may never be necessary. Instead, the state should be willing to allocate taxpayer funds only to those projects that meet demonstrable, near-term water needs in a cost-effective manner and where local funding is insufficient to pay the project cost. Furthermore, the Legislature should require the Texas Water Development Board to review per capita projections made by the various regions to determine whether or not they are reasonable.

Second: Focus on efficiency. The clear trend over the last couple of decades shows that improved efficiency can help Texas live within its water limits, and efficiency strategies are almost always much cheaper than big new infrastructure projects. If there is going to be state money allocated, a sound fiscal approach means that it should first go to the literally hundreds of conservation strategies identified in the state water plan. We can serve many more people with the same amount of water.

Third: Support private land stewardship that benefits water resources. The farms and ranches at the heart of our state’s natural and cultural heritage give rise to the water flowing in our rivers and filling reservoirs and aquifers. These lands have suffered mightily during the recent extreme drought. The legislature should enact cost-effective, market-based incentives to help private landowners manage their properties in ways that build resilience to drought and enhance overall water supply for all Texans.

Fourth: Invest in the science, technology and institutions we need to sustainably manage water resources now and in the future. State agencies are struggling to maintain basic river flow monitoring and water rights administration; budgets for groundwater science have been cut; and many local groundwater districts lack sufficient resources to do their job well. Investing a reasonable amount of state funds in science and vital state and regional agencies to improve management of water is not frivolous spending, it’s essential to solid 21st century water management.

In addition, the state could spur private sector development of new technology. As innovations in El Paso and other areas have shown, both brackish groundwater desalination and water reuse can greatly ease pressure on limited freshwater resources and help drought-proof communities. Giving a modest boost to research and development in these areas would not only assist in meeting genuine water needs, it would likely create good-paying jobs and help Texas companies lead the way to better water management across the country.

As the 2013 Legislature tackles the state’s many pressing needs, water certainly should be on the agenda. The goal, however, must be a fiscally responsible package that promotes sustainable water management.

Mary Kelly, founder of environmental consulting firm Parula, LLC, is a water lawyer who provides environmental analysis and advocacy services to non-profits, foundations and other organizations. She previously held various positions with the Environmental Defense Fund.

Water for Texas 2012: You and the State Water Plan Part One-Drought Highlights State Water Plan

Part One-Drought Highlights State Water Plan

Milan J. Michalec

With the effects of last year’s drought still lingering throughout much of Texas, water is the issue that would be expected to dominate the 2013 Legislature. But will it?

In the meantime, by increasing our water awareness we can make better choices about the ways we use water as lawmakers consider water needs amongst other competing legislative priorities.

This first of a four-part series begins with the state of our present and future water needs as they are spelled out in the state water plan. In part two, learn what it will cost to implement the plan.
Part three concentrates on the need for Texas as a whole to conserve water in the future while the conclusion to the series presents what you specifically can do to conserve this resource to meet your needs today.

No matter what happens next year in Austin, the cost of investment in water is expected to be significant—huge and the time required to develop “new” water will generally be long—many years. In the near term, there are options to make better use of the water that is available now.
Tipping that scale in your favor, through your action, can lead to your water independence.

Part One-Drought Highlights State Water Plan

The unexpected recent severe drought may have led to an increase of public awareness today, but when considering the years ahead of us, we all must recognize that water will become an even more scarce resource as population swells.
If you think this drought is over, think again. In the most recent climate assessment by the Texas State Climatologist, Dr. John Neilsen-Gammon states: “What was the worst one-year drought on record for Texas has lasted for two years so far.”

Should this drought persist, the newest version of Texas’s State Water Plan, published by the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB), clearly states the seriousness of what the future may hold.
The primary message of the 2012 State Water Plan is a simple one: “In serious drought conditions, Texas does not and will not have enough water to meet the needs of its people, its businesses, and its agricultural enterprises."

This is because Texas water planning requires applying a “worst case scenario”—the effect of a drought of record on existing water supplies—water that is both legally and physically available.
By definition, the Texas drought of record is generally considered to have occurred from about 1950 to 1957. However, far worse droughts throughout several thousand years of history have been documented in recent tree ring studies.

Fortunately, a number of Texas leaders have realized our lives and livelihood—our economic future, is directly linked to how well we meet our water needs both today and tomorrow. Particularly noteworthy is a repeated call for a “Manhattan-project type water program.”

According to the U.S. Congressional Research Service, the cost to develop a wartime nuclear weapon capability—The Manhattan Project, over five fiscal years, adjusted to 2008 dollars, was $22 billion. To put this in perspective, consider that the estimated capital cost to implement the recommended water management strategies in the 2012 State Water Plan is $53 billion. This represents the cost of the infrastructure that would, or could, treat and move water to an end user.
It is only part of the $231 billion that would be needed to pay for all water related requirements such as the replacement of aging water systems infrastructure, wastewater treatment, and flood control for the next 50 years.

Indeed, it could be said Texas has already initiated its own version of The Manhattan Project.
Of the $53 billion, water providers estimate that $27 billion will be needed in government financial assistance. Of this figure, approximately $16 billion is essentially needed now—from the years 2010-2020.
This leaves roughly $26 billion to be funded from sources elsewhere. That logically would leave either the rate payers or the water industry itself to foot the bill. The alternative is legislative action and something few want to hear—new taxes or new fees to pay for water.

The plan identified 562 "potentially feasible" water management strategies. The completion of each of these strategies is subject to political will and many may never actually be completed.
If you’re wondering about how to track the progress on these strategies, the TWDB currently lacks a formal mechanism to do so. Beginning with the 2016 Regional Water Plans, progress reports will be required and will be included in the 2017 State Water Plan.

Obviously we are not talking about funding for projects to counter the threat of an armed enemy, but we are contemplating investment that could be considered a threat and certainly an enemy—debt.
How much are we willing to pay for the water of tomorrow? The answer clearly impacts our future economic viability and the 2012 State Water Plan illustrates what it will cost should we try to continue to build ourselves out of our water problems.

Michalec is a Director on the Cow Creek Groundwater Conservation District.
Author’s note: Everyone will have a share in Texas’s water bill. Part two of this series will begin to explain how big it really is.

Tuesday, December 11, 2012

Fiscal Cliff Spending Cuts Threaten Rivers and Clean Water

2012-12-03-McKenzieRiverORAndorus.jpgThis holiday season, instead of visions of sugar plums dancing in my head, like many people in Washington and around the nation, I’m having nightmares about plunging over a cliff, the fiscal cliff.  Unless President Obama and Congress reach a deal before the end of the year to avert taking the nation over the fiscal cliff, automatic spending cuts, known as sequestration, will go into effect.  These across-the-board cuts to federal programs could have devastating impacts on rivers and clean water.

Sequestration would result in cuts of millions of dollars to programs administered by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) to restore fisheries like salmon and steelhead.  These programs have been responsible for highly successful river restoration efforts across the nation, where obsolete and unsafe dams are being removed to restore free-flowing rivers for fish, wildlife, and cities and towns that benefit, environmentally and economically, from the clean water and outdoor recreation opportunities provided by restored rivers.  On Washington’s Olympic Peninsula, two 100-year-old dams on the Elwha River have been removed, restoring 70 miles of habitat for salmon and steelhead, and in the process restoring a fishery on which the Lower Elwha Klallam Tribe has depended for centuries.

This holiday season, instead of visions of sugar plums dancing in my head, like many people in Washington and around the nation, I’m having nightmares about plunging over a cliff, the fiscal cliff.  Unless President Obama and Congress reach a deal before the end of the year to avert taking the nation over the fiscal cliff, automatic spending cuts, known as sequestration, will go into effect.  These across-the-board cuts to federal programs could have devastating impacts on rivers and clean water. read more

Friday, November 30, 2012

Wastewater Meeting Wednesday, December 5th

 Wastewater Meeting

Wimberley residents are invited to attend an informational meeting on Wednesday, December 5, to discuss the future possible of highly treated effluent from the City of Wimberleys wastewater treatment plant being discharged into Deer Creek in times of extreme rainfall.  The public meeting, which will be hosted by the city, will begin at 6 p.m. at the Wimberley Community Center at 14068 Ranch Road 12.

The discharge of effluent, which would occur only as a last resort, is part of a proposal to upgrade and expand the capacity of the citys wastewater treatment plant to provide wastewater service to central Wimberley.  Plans call for the expanded plant to use a tertiary treatment process that will produce effluent that will be reused to spray irrigate soccer fields and other recreation areas at the Blue Hole Regional Park where the plant is located.  In extremely wet times, when irrigation cannot occur and on-site effluent storage capacity does not exist, the highly treated effluent would be discharged into Deer Creek which empties into the Blanco River.

City staff, along with project consultants, will be present at the meeting to provide information on the discharge issue and answer questions from those in the audience.
Residents are encouraged to attend this meeting to learn more about what is being considered and to provide input.  If you are unable to attend and would like more information on this matter, please feel free to contact City Administrator Don Ferguson at 847-0025 or via email at

Tuesday, November 27, 2012

Paramount Theatre and The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation present LAST CALL AT THE OASIS

Wednesday, November 28th
Doors & Pre-Show Event @ 6:30pm | Show @ 7:30pm
The Paramount Theatre
Purchase Tickets OnlineOr (512) 474-1221 to purchase tickets by phone.
*Post film panel with Robert Glennon, Professor and author of Unquenchable, Andy Sansom
from the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, Laura Huffman from
The Nature Conservancy of Texas, and Scott Tong from Marketplace.
This film event is the first of four shows in our newly launched Beautiful World Series. 
The Paramount is proud to partner with The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation on this series.
We look forward to sharing these events, covering current and important topics about celebrating,
preserving and protecting our planet.  The pre-show lobby event includes a wine tasting, local farmer
booth, Texas Rainwater Catchment Association and Austin Eco Network information & more.
Firmly establishing the urgency of the global water crisis as the central issue facing our world this century, Last Call at the Oasis illuminates the vital role water plays in our lives, exposes the defects in the current system and shows
communities already struggling with its ill-effects. Featuring activist Erin Brockovich, respected water
experts including Peter Gleick, Jay Famiglietti and Robert Glennon and social entrepreneurs championing
 revolutionary solutions, the film posits that we can manage this problem if we are willing to act now.
Following the film, a panel and Q&A session featuring Robert Glennon, Andy Sansom and
 Laura Huffman will be moderated by a representative from The Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation.
Last Call at the Oasis Panelists
Robert Glennon
Internationally Renowned Water Resource Expert, Robert Glennon is Regents’ Professor and Morris K. Udall Professor of Law and Public Policy in the Rogers College of Law at the University of Arizona. Glennon is the author of the highly-acclaimed Water Follies: Groundwater Pumping and the Fate of America’s Fresh Waters (Island Press, 2002).  His latest book, Unquenchable: America’s Water Crisis and What To Do About It, was published in April 2009.  Glennon has been a guest on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart, Talk of the Nation with Neal Conan, The Diane Rehm Show, C-SPAN2’s Book TV, and numerous National Public Radio shows.  He is featured in the new documentary, Last Call at the Oasis.
Andrew Sansom
Andrew Sansom is one of Texas’ leading conservationists.  He is a former executive director of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department, executive director of the Texas Nature Conservancy, and founder of The Parks and Wildlife Foundation of Texas.  For his commitment to the management and protection of natural resources, Mr. Sansom also is a past recipient of the Chevron Conservation Award, The Chuck Yeager Award from the National Fish and Wildlife Foundation, The Pugsley Medal from the National Park Foundation, and the Seton Award from the International Association of Fish and Wildlife Agencies.  He is a Distinguished Alumnus of Texas Tech University and Austin College.
Laura Huffman
As state director for The Nature Conservancy of Texas, Huffman heads a team of more than 80 scientists, conservation experts and support staff whose work affects every corner of the Lone Star State, from the Davis Mountains in West Texas, the borderlands of the Rio Grande, the East Texas Piney Woods and the coastal marshes of the Gulf of Mexico. During her tenure at the Conservancy, the organization has expanded its Barton Creek Habitat Preserve and purchased more than 38,000 acres in and around the Edward’s Aquifer, ensuring the protection of Barton Springs Pool, Austin’s favorite watering hole. Huffman’s leadership has helped secure valuable habitat for the endangered golden-cheeked warbler, safeguarded water quality at the Hill Country’s iconic Hamilton Pool and extended publicly accessible lands on the banks of the Pedernales River, just west of the city. She is one of the Conservancy's most trusted national voices and speaks regularly on an array of topics, including freshwater protection, the Gulf of Mexico, conservation easements and current pressing environmental issues.
Scott TongScott Tong is a correspondent for Marketplace’s sustainability desk, with a focus on energy, environment, resources, climate, supply chain and the global economy. He services the complete portfolio of Marketplace programming and has reported on several special series including long-term U.S. job creation, U.N. climate talks in Cancun, Mexico, the Japan earthquake and tsunami, the BP oil spill one-year anniversary, and famine in the Horn of Africa. He has reported from more than a dozen countries. Tong joined Marketplace in 2004, serving most recently as the China bureau chief in Shanghai from January 2007 to July 2010. While there, he reported on a special series on the economics of one-child and the 30th anniversary of the one-child policy in China, the Beijing Olympics, the food safety scares in 2007, labor strikes, slave labor, child lead poisoning and baby-selling in China’s international adoption program. Prior to joining Marketplace, Tong worked as a producer and off-air reporter at PBS Newshour with Jim Lehrer for seven years, where he produced a special series from Iraq in 2003..

Event Parking Information

Secure covered parking will be available for event patrons at the One American Center parking garage, conveniently located one block from the Paramount at 600 Congress. Your $6.00 parking pass may be purchased at the garage entrance from the parking attendant (cash only). The garage will open two hours prior to performance and will close one hour after the performance. For additional parking information, please visit our directions & parking page.

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Blue Hole Regional Park continues to win awards!

The Texas Municipal League ("TML") has presented the City of Wimberley with the 2012 Municipal Excellence Award for Public Works for cities of less than 25,000 population. The award recognizes the City for the unique design and development of the Blue Hole Regional Park.
Peter Way, Director and President of Friends of Blue Hole, said that he could not be more pleased with the honor, noting that “support from the community was a key ingredient in this private-public partnership that resulted in saving a peerless natural resource from private development and exploitation.”
Blue Hole Regional Park participates in an international project (SITES)
to evaluate new systems for sustainable landscapes.
Wimberley Mayor Bob Flocke said, "We are honored to receive this award. The Blue Hole Regional Park clearly sets a new standard for municipal park planning in the State of Texas and it’s exciting for the City to be recognized for doing so."
In 2005, the City of Wimberley embarked on a mission to save "Blue Hole" - a well known, spring-fed swimming hole - from the threat of private development and environmental degradation.  After an unprecedented public and private fund raising effort, the "Blue Hole" and approximately 126 acres of land surrounding it were purchased and developed into a regional park.  The Blue Hole Regional Park is now one of the largest pieces of natural, public land in Hays County that has been preserved and converted into a park. Blue Hole Regional Park is composed of recreational facilities that include covered pavilions, nature trails, a playground and,  of course, the iconic swimming hole. 
"The Park protects sacred Hill Country flora and fauna, water quality, and land forms through sustainable programming and design, native landscape restoration and habitat protection," said Mayor Flocke. "It's a true Texas treasure."
Mayor Flocke and other members of the Blue Hole project team accepted the prestigious TML award this week at the Texas Municipal League Annual Conference in Grapevine, Texas. TML is a voluntary association of more than 1,120 Texas cities. Its primary objective is to serve the needs and advocate the interests of Texas cities and it is the largest organization of its kind in the United States. The City of Wimberley is a TML member.
* * * *
Please make a tax deductible donation so that Friends of Blue Hole can continue work in Phase Two. Donations will be used to pay for ongoing park development, including tennis courts and other sporting venues. See Park Details for a complete list.
Three easy ways to donate:

1. Send a check to Friends of Blue Hole, PO Box 1601 Wimberley, TX 78676
2. Go to Friends of Blue Hole web site and donate by credit card.
3. Stop by The Old Mill Store and drop off a donation with Steve Klepfer, Executive Director of Friends of Blue Hole.
4. You can also help by putting your family name in the park forever. Benches start at $2,500. See LEGACY NAMING OPPORTUNITIES.
Director and President Peter Way
Executive Director Stephen Klepfer • Directors: Jim Braniff • Curt Busk • Bob Dussler
Tevis Grinstead • Suzanne McCord • Andy Sansom • Shelton Smith • Marilee Wood
Advisory Directors: Valarie Bristol • Mayor Pro Tem Stephen Thurber

Saturday, October 27, 2012

Concerned Citizens Suit against Golf Course Permit Nov. 13th 9:00am

A hearing has been reset for December 3rd at 9:00am in the Hays County Justice Center in San Marcos on pending Motions for Summary Judgment in a suit filed by Concerned Citizens and the Wimberley Valley Watershed Association (WVWA) against the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District (HTGCD).   

Concerned Citizens and the WVWA have appealed to the District Court to require the HTGCD to hold a contested case hearing on the application of Wimberley Springs Partners to pump millions of gallons of groundwater from the Trinity Aquifer in the vicinity of Jacob’s Well.   

The District and Wimberley Springs Partners  have asked the court to deny the appeal by summary judgment.  Judge Bill Henry is scheduled to hear the pending motions which could determine the outcome of the case.  The economic and environmental health of the Wimberley Valley are at stake. Citizens who are interested in protecting the flow of Jacob’s Well, Blue Hole and Cypress Creek may attend the court to show their support and hear the presentations. 

Motions for Summary Judgment are set to be heard by Judge Steel at 9 a.m. Monday December 3rd.  The matter will be heard in Courtroom 10, 3d Floor of the new Government Center for which directions from the web site are the following:  

Those who wish to attend should arrive at the the Hays County District Clerk offices have moved to the new Government Center at 712 South Stagecoach Trail, San Marcos, TX 78666.

GPS locators/maps do not have the correct location of our new building and may show you a similar, private address that is not close to the Government Center.

To find the Government Center: take the Wonder World Drive exit off of IH-35 and head west, or head east on Wonder World Drive from Hunter Road. At the bottom of the Wonder World Drive railroad overpass, turn North on South Stagecoach Trail. The Government Center is a large, stand-alone building at the end of the cul-de-sac.

Thursday, October 25, 2012

October 2012 News

Get the latest news in the October 2012 Newsletter.

Wednesday, October 24, 2012

Rainwater Revival Offers Down-to-Earth Ways to Save Water Resources, Money

Rain! or Shine, October 27 in Boerne

Saving money on your water bill and saving precious water resources go hand-in-hand when you collect free water from the sky for your indoor or outdoor water use. The October 27 Rainwater Revival is set to help you learn from experts how to use rain catchment at your urban cottage, suburban homestead or home on the range.

“Water catchment makes sense no matter how big or small your house or property is,” said Sky Jones-Lewey, Resource Protection and Education Director for the Nueces River Authority and President of the Hill Country Alliance (HCA) Board of Directors. “It surprises people when they find out how easy and inexpensive a system can be.” HCA sponsors the annual Rainwater Revival, which brings together knowledgeable speakers for all levels of interest in saving earth’s resources while saving money.
In addition to speakers on two stages throughout the day, fest-goers will have the opportunity to bid on professionally decorated rain barrels at a silent auction. Hill Country area artists spend weeks designing and painting 55-gallon rain barrels, turning them into stunning works of functional art for your porch or yard. 

“This is a one-stop place to learn about water catchment from a variety of professionals and homeowners – some live entirely on rainwater, some use rain catchment only for outside irrigation,” said Karen Ford, Chair of the Rainwater Revival and owner of a Hill Country public affairs company. “All are passionate about lessening their carbon footprints and saving water as well as money. In addition to demonstrations and usable information, there will be equipment vendors, and of course, music, food and fun. Children will especially enjoy the Rain Drop Spot for arts and crafts.” 

The Rainwater Revival is under way from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, October 27, at the Boerne Convention & Community Center, 820 Adler Road. Admission is free. For information about the event, the speaker lineup or to view the art barrels, visit

Monday, September 10, 2012

WVWA Fall Membership Picnic Oct. 20th 4-7pm

Saturday, October 20th, 4pm- 7pm
Dancing Waters Retreat 
1405 Mt Sharp Rd Wimberley 
RSVP online to be entered in the Drawing to Win 
a Weekend Retreat in Junction, TX at 
Cool River Cabin donated by Native American Seed

Go to to RSVP by contributing your $35 family membership fee.  Your online membership renewal supports WVWA's programs to keep Jacob's Well, Cypress Creek and the Blanco River clean, clear and flowing and includes entry to the membership picnic, a T-shirt, monthly news updates, and a chance to win the Weekend Retreat in Junction 
(RSVP must be completed by the October 13th deadline to be eligible for the retreat weekend).
Wimberley Valley Watershed Association
PO BOX 2534
Wimberley, Texas 78676

Monday, August 20, 2012

August 2012 Newsletter

Get the latest news in the August 2012 Newsletter.

    Sunday, August 19, 2012

    Edwards Aquifer Habitat Conservation Plan Video

    San Marcos Daily Record 
    August 16, 2012

    New EAA video details the link between aquifer, species, rivers

    San Marcos —    With the exception of the graceful strands of Texas Wild Rice that wave in the cool, clear water of the San Marcos River, the endangered species that call the river and the Edwards Aquifer home don’t call much attention to themselves.

    The San Marcos Salamander, after all, is a tiny critter, as is the riffle beetle, the fountain darter and, if it still exists, the San Marcos gambusia. The Texas Blind Salamander doesn’t even poke its head out of the aquifer unless it gets too near a spring and is shot out into Spring Lake.

    But without the species, and the protection the Endangered Species Act affords them, it’s doubtful either the San Marcos or Comal rivers would exist as we now know and enjoy them, river experts say.

    Getting the public to fully understand that concept just got easier.

    Last week, a new website went live, dedicated to the Edwards Aquifer Habitat Conservation Plan (EAHCP), which is a portion of the Legislature-mandated Edwards Aquifer Recovery Implementation Plan (EARIP).

    The plan both protects the species and complies with federal law, Robert Gulley, EARIP program director, explains in a video on the site, “Right now, a federal judge or the state legislature could come in and take over operation” of the aquifer without the EARIP, he argues. That will all change if the plan is approved by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) which is now reviewing it.

    “They are a link to the ecological system that ties us all together. We are obligated under law to do all we can to ensure their survival,” Roland Ruiz, interim director of the Edwards Aquifer Authority (EAA), says of the endangered species. By following the plan, “We can use the aquifer, we can share the aquifer, and the species can continue to survive.”

    “Endangered plants and animals let us know we are reaching a tipping point where resources might not be available in the future,” San Marcos River Foundation Program Director Dianne Wassenich contributes. “When an endangered species is in trouble, like wild rice, it’s an indicator.”

    Before the EARIP began its work, estimates were that pumpage from the Edwards would have to be cut by 85 percent to ensure the endangered species’ survival, Weir Labatt of the Texas Water Development Board adds. “That wasn’t possible. Everyone started looking for alternate solutions.”

    Those solutions take a number of forms. One, an initiative of the San Antonio Water System (SAWS), consists of storing Edwards water in the Carrizo Aquifer during times of rain, to be used in times of drought. “It’s essentially a savings account,” explains Robert Puentes of SAWS.

    Another is a program that would pay farmers not to irrigate during times of drought. That would be triggered by Aquifer levels, Gulley said.

    Other provisions would restrict human activity in some area, including near the Texas Wild Rice stands just downstream of the University Street Bridge.

    None of it is cheap. The EAA says the effort to “bring resolution to the decades-long conflict between the federal mandate to protect threatened and endangered species associated with the Edwards Aquifer and the region’s dependence on the same aquifer as its primary water resource” will cost $18 million a year, “excluding inflation, over the next 15 years.”

    If USFWS approves the EARIP, which could happen by the end of the year, “it will result in the issuance of an incidental take permit that will protect Edwards groundwater users from liability in the event incidental harm due to aquifer use comes to the threatened or endangered species protected by the Endangered Species Act,” the EAA says.

    Partners in the EAHCP and applicants for incidental take permits include the EAA, the cities of San Marcos and New Braunfels, SAWS and Teas State University.

    Monday, August 6, 2012

    Hearing on the Motions for Summary Judgment in WVWA vs. HTGCD Cancelled

    The August 13, 2012 hearing on the Motions for Summary Judgment in WVWA et al vs. HTGCD has been CANCELLED. No new hearing date is anticipated until later in the fall.WSP Golf Course

    The Wimberley Valley Watershed Association and a group of concerned landowners filed suit in 2011 to confirm that they are entitled to a contested case hearing to challenge a permit for Wimberley Springs Partners to pump 163,000,000 gallons of water from the aquifer in the vicinity of Jacob’s Well.  (More details on the well locations) Hydrologic data indicates that such an amount of groundwater pumping above Jacob’s Well will cause aquifer levels to drop and cause the spring to stop flowing in the future.  The permit was allowed to go through without performing an aquifer test on the wells being considered for use.  

    The HTGCD Board failed to require the developer to perform the aquifer test that is mandatory under district rules. HTGCD Rule 11 states that “Each applicant for a new well operating permit shall perform an aquifer test and submit a report as part of the operating permit application.” An aquifer test was never performed and the permit was approved by a split 3-2 board vote and in spite of broad public opposition. Numerous citizens protested the golf course and the permit conditions as written by the developer.  The permit allows for the transfer of  80,000,000 gallons of irrigation water to municipal use with no further consideration on the impact to current water supply wells or the spring flow to Jacob’s Well, Cypress Creek and the Blue Hole swimming area downstream. 

    In this case, the public was not provided notice of a February 21, 2011 deadline for a hearing request until after the newly imposed deadline date had passed.  WVWA and the other Plaintiffs intend to show that their requests for a contested case hearing were timely under the Rules as interpreted by the District at the time the requests were submitted. Plaintiffs further contend that the denial of a contested case hearing violated Plaintiffs due process rights, was arbitrary and capricious, and constituted a violation of the District’s own rules.  Moreover, the Plaintiffs seek to show the Court that the Board’s 3-2 vote decision to reverse its deadline interpretation after-the-fact meets the very definition of that which is arbitrary and capricious, violating the due process and due-course-of-law clauses of the U.S. and Texas Constitutions, and amounts to a gross abuse of discretion. It is anticipated that a new hearing date will be set in the fall of 2012.

    Officials approve plan to manage Wimberley swimming hole

    Hays County Commissioners approved the management plan for Jacob's Well near Wimberley this week, one which will blend conservation, education and recreation at the park.

    Read the full article from YNN here.

    Water Is Life

    As stewards, we must protect our freshwater: We can’t build our way out of this predicament

    Texas Co-op Power recently published an article by Andrew Sansom, executive director of the River Systems Institute at Texas State University in San Marcos, discussing the urgent need to protect our fresh water resources.

    Read the full article here.

    Friday, July 27, 2012

    Jacob's Well Natural Area Master Plan

    The Jacob's Well Natural Area Master Plan will be presented to the  Hays County    Commissioners Court at the regular meeting on Tuesday, July 31, 2012.  Commissioners Court begins at 9:00am, and citizens are encouraged to attend if you are available.  Minor editing and other changes per Commissioners Court review and input is most likely to occur prior to release of the final document. 

    A court appointed stakeholders committee gave input on the plan and developed the concept plan for the long term preservation of the counties 80 acre preserve.  Once approved the implementation of the elements will begin as funding becomes available and opening the area for more varied recreational/educational experiences for Hays County residents as well as visitors to our County.   

    Jacob's Well is truly a natural treasure and major asset that many citizens and visitors to Hays County will enjoy well into the future.  For more information please contact Jeff Hauf, Hays County Grants Administrator at   

    To view the final master plan click here  JWNA Master Plan  

    That Sinking Feeling About Groundwater in Texas

    The recent Texas drought was indeed severe. Lubbock’s rainfall for 2011 amounted to a meager 5.86 inches compared to its long-term annual average of 18 inches.

    Besides setting the stage for a record-breaking fire season, the drought forced farmers to pump more groundwater to make up for the rainfall deficit.  Without the extra pumping, the drought would have decimated their crops.

    Farmers in the District draw from the Ogallala Aquifer, a vast underground water reserve that supplies portions of eight states and waters 27 percent of the nation’s irrigated cropland.  Since much of the aquifer gets little recharge from rainfall today, rising rates of pumping have led to steady depletion.  According to the U.S. Geological Survey, a volume of groundwater equivalent to two-thirds of the water held in Lake Erie has been depleted from the Ogallala since 1940.

    Thursday, July 12, 2012

    CALL TO ACTION - Hearing Rescheduled for August 13th

    The Summary Judgment Hearing on the Golf Course Groundwater Permit above Jacob's Well has been postponed until Monday August 13th at 9:00am at the Hays County Justice Center (712 South Stagecoach Trail, San Marcos Texas)

    The Wimberley Valley Watershed Association and a group of concerned landowners are asking the 207th Judicial Court to confirm that the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District denied concerned citizens due process by rejecting their request for a hearing to contest a golf course and municipal groundwater permit for up to 163,000,000 gallons of water.  Hydrologic data indicates that this additional amount of groundwater pumping above Jacob’s Well will cause aquifer levels to drop and cause the spring to stop flowing in the future.  It is difficult to assess the full impact of the additional drawdown without performing an aquifer test on the wells being considered for use. The HTGCD issued the permit on Feb. 21st 2011 without publishing the district’s recommendations or deadlines. 
    Additionally, the district failed to require the developer to perform the mandatory aquifer test that is required under current district rules. The HTGCD rule 11 states that “Each applicant for a new well operating permit shall perform an aquifer test and submit a report as part of the operating permit application.” An aquifer test was never performed and the permit was approved via a split 3-2 board vote and in spite of broad public opposition. Numerous citizens protested the golf course and the permit conditions as written by the developer.  The permit allows for the transfer of  80,000,000 gallons of irrigation water to residential use with no further consideration on the impact to current water supply wells or the spring flow to Jacob’s Well, Cypress Creek and the Blue Hole swimming area downstream. 

    In this case, the public was not provided notice of a February 21 meeting deadline to submit a hearing request.  Such a failure violated the local residents due process rights, was arbitrary and capricious, and constituted a violation of the District’s own rules.  Moreover, the Board’s 3-2 vote decision to reverse its deadline interpretation after-the-fact meets the very definition of that which is arbitrary and capricious, violating the due process and due-course-of-law clauses of the U.S. and Texas Constitutions, and amounts to a gross abuse of discretion.

    Please consider attending the hearing on Monday August 13th to show support for your local water rights and the fair and balanced allocation of water.  Our future water supply and livelihood depends on responsible management of our limited water resources.  To view the full Motion for Summary Judgment Response please click here.

    Friday, July 6, 2012

    Well, that's interesting: Man takes trip down water memory lane

    by  Andrea Ball for the Austin American Statesman 

    Robert Mace is always on the hunt for postcards.
    The Austin man isn't into the typical fodder, though — no landscapes, historical landmarks or retro pinups for him. Mace, 45, collects postcards of artesian wells.

    He's got about 100 of them, mostly featuring old photographs of Texas wells from the 1800s and early 1900s. He posts them on his personal website, He also shares photos of wells from other countries, including France, Egypt and Australia.

    An obscure passion? Definitely. But for Mace — the Texas Water Development Board's deputy executive administrator of water science and conservation — the hobby makes perfect sense. He likes water. He likes historical stuff. Artesian wells fit the bill for both.

    "There's no artesian well association, but I can start one and be the president," he joked.
    At a time in which Central Texans are constantly worried about drought and water supplies — some people are actually digging private wells to ensure their grass stays green — a foray into the world of artesian wells is an interesting trip.

    Artesian wells are pumpless wells in which water gushes to the surface because of underground pressure. The wells are named after the former province of Artois in France, where monks first drilled them in the 1100s. Their golden age was around 1900, when communities were not only discovering such resources, but promoting them heavily to show their sustainability as a community.
    "People would use that to recruit people to move to their towns," Mace said.

    Texas had thousands of these wells and benefited greatly, he said. Waco advertised itself as "the Geyser City," with artesian wells supplying the water for Dr Pepper Bottling Co., farms and other businesses. Then, with the development of photography, artesian well postcards emerged.
    Seven or eight years ago, Mace was looking for a picture of a well drilled in Paris in the 1800s when he discovered a postcard of it online.

    Mace has been collecting the postcards since then, mainly purchasing them from eBay for $5 to $10.
    "I'm generally interested in history, so I got bit," said Mace, who also collects old electric fans and calls himself a "borderline hoarder."

    In 2010, Mace started his postcard website to share his finds. One shows a well-dressed man sipping from a teacup beside a gushing water pipe. Another shows palm trees near a fountain. Others depict bathhouses, parks and man-made waterfalls.

    There are still artesian wells in Texas, Mace said, but most of them are now gone. Some towns just let the wells run free until they stopping running altogether.
    "They just played out," Mace said. "It's actually a really good lesson in conservation."

    Contact Andrea Ball at aball@; 512-912-2506

    Saturday, June 16, 2012

    TWDB Staff Report on DFC Petition to GMA-12

    The Texas Water Development Board staff report on the appeal of the desired future conditions of Groundwater Management Area 12 recommends that the Board find in favor of the Districts.  The TWDB staff, in their report to the Board dated June 13, 2012, dismissed Environmental Stewardship's evidence on the impacts of the desired future conditions on property rights as "outside the scope of consideration in this proceeding".  The staff likewise dismissed the evidence on the impacts of the groundwater-surface water interaction as "out of context." The report claims that, "there are no explicit requirement in the statutes .. to consider impacts on spring flow and other interactions between groundwater and surface water," though their own administrative rules established such a criterion.  Furthermore, Districts are required to consider such impacts before granting or denying a permit, and the 82nd Legislature established this as a requirement in deciding desired future conditions in the next round of the process.  It appears that Environmental Stewardship was ahead of the game.

    The staff recommendation on the impact on property rights essentially confirms that it is the State's view that it is not unreasonable to take water from a surface water right by pumping the water out of the ground before it reaches the stream - thereby damaging the surface water right - even though the water has historically flowed to the stream, as it did when the State granted the surface water right.    In our view, the TWDB is setting groundwater conservation districts up for takings claims.

    In abdicating its responsibilities, the staff complains, "but the Legislature did not define 'reasonable,' nor did it provide any guidelines for the TWDB to use in determining whether a DFC is reasonable." They go on to say, "notwithstanding any findings by the TWDB that a DFC is unreasonable, the final determination of a DFC remains the responsibility of the districts in the GMA".

    Environmental Stewardship is considering its options and will make its case before the full Board on June 21, 2012. Click here to comment to the Board (put "ES GMA-12 DFC Appeal" in the subject line. 

    The TWDB received statements from 265 individuals expressing support for Environmental Stewardship's petition;  thank you!
      Check out our new website

    Steve Box
    Executive Director
    Environmental Stewardship    
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    Water Board staff report favors groundwater districts
    GMA-12PetitonAppeal of GMA-12 Desired Future Conditions
    GMA-12 Counties
    Environmental Stewardship petitioned to appeal the desired future conditions of GMA-12.  A hearing on the appeal was held on March 7, 2012.  There are two important dates coming up:

    June 14, 2012 - The TWDB staff issued a report to the Board favoring groundwater conservation districts.    

    Click here for a copy of the TWDB staff report.  The report is the staff's recommendations to the Board.   

    Click here to comment to the Board.   
    Put "ES GMA-12 DFC Appeal" in the subject line.  

    Click here for ES paper on impacts of groundwater-surface water interactions on property rights and State Water Plan projections    

    June 21, 2012 - The Texas Water Development Board will take action to accept, reject, or modify the staff recommendations.   

    A notice will be sent to you on each of the items above along with and ACTION ALERT if there is any action we need for you to take on the petition.   

    BCCourtBastrop County Judge & Commissioner's Court - Groundwater District Oversight
    Bastrop CourthouseEnvironmental Stewardship has requested that the Bastrop County Judge and Commissioner's Court exercise their oversight authority over the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District to ensure that current rule-making include safeguards to protect the aquifers.  These safeguards are currently lacking from the rules being proposed.  

    The recent Texas Supreme Court opinion in the Edwards Aquifer Authority v. Day and McDaniel provided guidance on the governance of groundwater regulation and stewardship that places oversight of groundwater conservation districts with the local electorate ... the County Judge and Commissioner's Court. 

    For more information visit our website by clicking on this link.
    Spring rains benefit Matagorda Bay

    The rain we got down on the coast in April was a blessing.  It was too late for the oysters for this season but if the water temperature was high enough in the bays, it should have helped the oyster spawn.

    It definitely helped the shrimp in the estuaries; we now have a crop that looks better than in maybe the last ten years.  Of course this still remains to be seen, the gulf season doesn't open until July 15, but still what's been caught in the bays has looked very encouraging.  A steady flow of fresh water year round is what the bays have needed for quite a while.

    Buddy Treybig, Commercial Fisherman, Matagorda Texas

    Click here to comment

    websiteblog New Website and Blog
    WebsiteHeaderLaGrangeWe are excited to announce that we have a new website and blog.  The site contains the same information that was on our old site, but now includes the ability to BLOG.  This means the site is MUCH MORE INTERACTIVE by allowing you, the reader, to make comments on specific pages and information posted.  We look forward to having a conversation with you about your interests and concerns. 

    To visit our new website and blog click on this link.

    Click here to link to our RSS Feed

    Friday, May 18, 2012

    Wimberley City Wide Clean Up - Saturday May 19th

    Summer has arrived and so has the time for a city-wide cleanup day in Wimberley. Residents are invited to get a jump start on their fall cleaning by taking part in the event on Saturday, May 19th.

    “This is a great opportunity for Wimberley residents to drop off those unwanted bulky items that normally would not get picked up at the curb by the City’s garbage contractor,” said Wimberley Mayor Bob Flocke. “This free solid waste collection event is being provided for ONLY those who 
    receive City garbage service.” (Please note!)
    The upcoming collection event is one in a series of bulky waste collection events that the City of Wimberley and Texas Disposal Systems (TDS) sponsors within the year that provides residents with the opportunity to get rid of unwanted bulky items. From 9:00 a.m. to 1:00 p.m., crews, a dumpster and garbage truck will be stationed at the Lions Field Parking Lot in the 700 block of FM 2325 to collect items.
    To take part in this event, you must be a resident of the City of Wimberley and a current customer of TDS. Participants must bring a copy of their most recent TDS bill along with a picture ID as proof of residency to obtain free access to the disposal site.
    “Residents are asked to cover loads with a tarp when transporting items to the collection site in pick-up trucks and trailers,” said Flocke. “This is a great opportunity for residents to do their part to help keep Wimberley beautiful.”

    Couches, mattresses, appliances, and other bulky items, including limited quantities of brush will be accepted at the collection site.
    Household batteries, chemicals, empty drums, fluorescent light bulbs, paints, pesticides, thermostats, solvents/gasoline and other hazardous wastes and tires will not be accepted. All refrigerants must be removed from refrigerators and air conditioning units and must have attached certificates of evacuation before those appliances will be accepted at the collection site. 

    For more information on the collection, call the City of Wimberley at 512.847.0025 or visit the City’s web site at