Tuesday, November 26, 2013

TCEQ Hearing on Edwards Aquifer Rules Coming Up Next Week

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) will conduct hearings to receive comments from the public on actions the commission should take to protect the Edwards Aquifer from pollution, as required under Texas Water Code, §26.046. This requirement assists the commission in its shared responsibility with local governments such as cities and groundwater conservation districts to protect the water quality of the aquifer.  Annual hearings are held on the Edwards Aquifer Protection Program and the TCEQ rules, 30 Texas Administrative Code (TAC) Chapter 213, which regulate development over the delineated contributing, recharge, and transition zones of the Edwards Aquifer.
The hearings will be held at the following times and locations:
·         Tuesday, December 3, 2013 at 6:30 p.m. at the TCEQ Park 35 Office Complex, 12100 Park 35 Circle, Building E, Room 201S, Austin;
·         Wednesday, December 4, 2013 at 9:30 a.m. at the Tesoro Building, Alamo Area Council of Governments, Al J. Notzon III Board Room, 8700 Tesoro Drive, Suite 100, San Antonio.
These hearings will be structured for the receipt of oral or written comments by interested persons. Individuals may present oral statements when called upon. There will be no open discussion during the hearing; however, agency staff members will be available to answer questions 30 minutes prior to and 30 minutes after the conclusion of the hearing. Registration will begin 30 minutes prior to the hearing.
I will be at the Wednesday hearing in San Antonio and our Austin groups will be representing GEAA at the Tuesday hearing.  We invite you to join us and to go on the record in support of better rules to protect the Aquifer.
GEAA has been submitting the same comments since 2005 (read these comments here and, we will be submitting these comments again this year as we are not aware of any significant action or reforms from TCEQ.
Written comments should reference the Edwards Aquifer Protection Program and may be sent to Beth Banks, Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Field Operation Support Division, MC 174, P.O. Box 13087, Austin, Texas 78711-3087, faxed to (512) 239-2249, or e-mailed to beth.banks@tceq.texas.gov. Comments must be received by 5:00 p.m., January 10, 2014. For further information or questions concerning these hearings, please contact Ms. Banks at (512) 239-3241, or visit http://www.tceq.texas.gov/compliance/field_ops/eapp/history.html.
Communications to TCEQ in support of GEAA’s recommendations are most welcome.  You can send us a copy for our records (and edification!) to annalisa@aquiferalliance.org.
To all, a happy Thanksgiving.  I know that I am very thankful to each and every one of you for your support!

Annalisa Peace
Executive Director

Thursday, November 21, 2013

RM 12 Parkway - Open House Invitation

TxDOT co-hosts a public forum Dec. 5 on  

widening of RR 12 south of Wimberley

This is an important meeting on a project significant to Wimberley and western Hays County. CARD encourages all citizens to attend the meeting to be better informed about the project, and share in the process. Please read the announcement below for more detail about the project and the forum.

CARD Steering Committee
Louis Parks, Chairman
From RM 32 to SH 80 / Wonder World Drive
Hays County, Texas

On December 5, 2013, Hays County in cooperation with the Texas Department of Transportation (TxDOT) and the Federal Highway Administration (FHWA) will host an Open House for the Ranch-to-Market Road (RM) 12 Parkway Project between RM 32 and State Highway (SH) 80/Wonder World Drive. The purpose of the Open House is to present proposed design modifications to the original RM 12 Project, which was approved by FHWA on October 5, 2007, with a Finding of No Significant Impact.
The original project design included widening RM 12 from two lanes to four lanes (undivided roadway) with paved shoulders, turn lanes and improvements to the intersection of RM 12 and RM 32. As a result of additional coordination with citizens and local officials in the Wimberley and San Marcos area, a series of modifications to the original design have been proposed. The proposed design modifications would change the four-lane undivided roadway to a four-lane median-divided roadway (in sections). A 10-foot-wide shared-use path for pedestrians and cyclists has also been added to the design. The design modifications would require approximately 37 acres of additional right-of-way; there would be no displacements.
RM12 Parkway Project 
While the parkway construction would not begin for several years, we are taking the critical steps needed to preserve the corridor now.
The Open House will be held:
Thursday, December 5, 2013
5-8 p.m.
Wimberley Community Center
14068 Ranch Road 12
Wimberley, TX 78676

Verbal and written comments will be accepted at the Open House. A court reporter/transcriber will be available to accept verbal comments. Written comments not submitted at the Open House may be mailed to TxDOT Austin District Environmental Coordinator, Texas Department of Transportation, P.O. Drawer 15426, Austin, Texas, 78761-5426 or faxed to (512) 832-7157. Mailed or faxed comments must be received by Monday, December 16, 2013 to be included in the official record of the Open House.
The meeting will use a come-and-go format that will allow agency representatives and members of the public to review the materials at their convenience and speak individually to Hays County, TxDOT and consultant staff. No official presentation will be given.
 All interested citizens are encouraged to attend the Open House and provide input on the project, including the proposed design modifications. Persons who plan to attend the Open House and have special communica­tion or accommodation needs are encouraged to call Elizabeth Story at (512) 691-2252 at least five business days prior to the event to request assistance. Because the meeting will be conducted in English, any requests for language interpreters should also be made at least five days prior to the event. Hays County will make every reasonable effort to accommodate these needs.

A Sustainable Water Plan for Texas

A Sustainable Water Plan for Texas

Wednesday, November 20, 2013

Financing a Sustainable Water Plan for Texas

In a series of three guest blogs over the next several days, Sharlene Leurig, Water Program Director for CERES, examines the details of Proposition 6, the water project financing measure approved by Texas voters on November 5th.  Proposition 6 amends the Texas constitution to appropriate $2 billion from the state’s Rainy Day Fund to seed a new water infrastructure loan fund directed to water supply projects included in the State Water Plan. 

 Sharlene’s three posts examine how this new fund will work (in concert with House Bill 4, passed in the recent session of the Texas legislature) and what it could achieve—or fail to achieve—in terms of Texas’ water security.  Today’s post focuses on the mechanics of the fund and what choices the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) is likely to face in ensuring that the $ 2 billion appropriation is used for maximum public benefit.  The second post looks at how administration of the fund will be affected by the new project prioritization process authorized by House Bill 4, the companion legislation passed earlier this year.  The third post explores whether and how the fund can be used to support water conservation projects. 

 Installment 1: Proposition 6 and the Mechanics of

Funding State Water Plan Projects

This post examines how the new infrastructure loan fund will operate and the choices that will need to be made to ensure that the funds are allocated for maximum public benefit.  It explores the tensions between using the new fund for “state participation” in longer-term, big-ticket projects, such as reservoirs and pipelines, versus distributing funds more widely to smaller, near-term projects across the state.  (Note: the following discussion draws on an excellent analysis of the mechanics of Prop 6 and differences with existing financing mechanisms by the Energy Center at the University of Texas School of Law.)

The 2012 State Water Plan estimates that the cumulative capital cost of all recommended water management strategies through 2060 would be $53.1 billion, only $26 billion of which the Regional Planning Groups reported could be financed through local capacity.  As part of the 2012 Plan, TWDB recommended that the Legislature “develop a long-term, affordable, and sustainable method to provide financing assistance for the implementation of the state water plan.”

 This recommendation was taken up by the Legislature in the 2013 session in three pieces of legislation: House Bill 4, House Bill 1025 and Senate Joint Resolution 1. Collectively, these bills:  restructured the Texas Water Development Board (see TCPS’s post on the restructuring here), established the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT); and sent voters a ballot proposition to approve the transfer of $2 billion from the Economic Stabilization Fund (“Rainy Day Fund”) to SWIFT. With Proposition 6 approval, the $2 billion will be permanently transferred from the State Treasury to a trust held by the state on behalf of the Texas Water Development Board, to be used exclusively for the financing of recommended water management strategies in the State Water Plan. More...


Tuesday, November 19, 2013

Texans Look Beneath the Surface for Water | The Texas Tribune ... Part 1. of 5.

Texans Look Beneath the Surface for Water
 By Neena Satija         November 19, 2013

 This is the first in a five-part series examining Texans' thirst for underground water.

 photo by: Jason Janik             Lorenzo, TX, on Mar. 8, 2012
 From farmers to the oil and gas industry to gubernatorial candidate and Attorney General Greg Abbott, Texans are looking beneath their land to make up the state’s growing water deficit.

Unlike surface water, which is owned and allocated by the state, groundwater belongs to the landowner and is regulated by nearly 100 different conservation districts across Texas, all of which set their own rules. The recent drought, along with major court decisions, has led to what some say is the most uncertain time in state history for those who depend on and manage groundwater in Texas.

Property rights advocates have lauded recent court rulings affirming Texans’ ownership of water under their land after some water districts attempted to limit pumping in hopes of conserving precious remaining groundwater. But managers of water conservation districts fear that if courts continue to restrict their ability to regulate groundwater use, there may soon be no water left to pump. 
“You just kind of have to wonder what’s behind the next door,” said Jason Coleman, general manager of the Lubbock-based High Plains Underground Water District, the oldest groundwater regulatory agency in the state.
Coleman’s job is fraught with political tension. He manages the water district that lies over the Ogallala Aquifer. It's one of the largest groundwater resources in the country, stretching across eight Western states, supplying drinking water for millions and supporting an estimated 25 percent of the nation's agricultural production.
In the past 60 years, according to the U.S. Geological Survey, the aquifer has been pumped so heavily that water that has built up over 10,000 years is quickly depleting. Unlike most aquifers in Texas, the Ogallala gets very little water from “recharge” the process by which rain percolates through the ground and replaces lost groundwater. 
Yet when the High Plains district suggested setting pumping limits on the Ogallala for the first time in 2011, the board faced a public outcry. Farmers attended meetings in droves, calling district leaders “socialists” and “tyrannical.” Under the new rules, pumping would be limited to about 570,000 gallons per acre per year in 2012, and restrictions would get more severe in the following years. The district’s board quickly backed down, saying no one would be penalized for violating the rules for at least a year.Read More

Friday, November 15, 2013

Citizens Oppose SAWS-Val Verde Water Supply Project

San Antonio Water System (SAWS) is currently considering three proposals to import 50,000 acre feet of water per year (AFY) for use in San Antonio.  In the very near future, the SAWS Board will consider a recommendation from SAWS staff to approve one of these three projects.

Among these projects is V.V. Water Company, LLC’s proposal to export ground water from Val Verde and Kinney counties via a pipeline to be built by SAWS for that purpose.  On October 22, 2013, twenty-two organizations and individuals sent a letter to SAWS citing concerns about severe limitations on the availability of groundwater in Val Verde and Kinney counties.  These concerns were based on an analysis, Investigating Water Resources of the Western Edwards-Trinity Aquifer, conducted by Southwest Research Institute on behalf of Sutton County Underground Water Conservation District.  The report calculates annual sustainable yield of groundwater at between 18,000 and 22,600 AFY, well below the amount proposed for export to San Antonio.
“Exporting this amount of groundwater could decrease or eliminate spring flows at San Felipe and Las Moras springs and could adversely affect groundwater supplies needed for current and future domestic, municipal and agricultural uses within the region.” said John Yeakle of the Southwest Water Alliance, a coalition of civic, and business groups from Val Verde, Kinney and Uvalde counties.
Representatives of organizations from San Antonio, Del Rio, Uvalde, Kinney County and Val Verde counties will voice their concerns during “Citizens to be Heard”, requesting that the SAWS Board drop from consideration V. V. Water Company LLC’s proposal to supply 50,000 acre/feet per year from Val Verde and Kinney counties.
It is wonderful and powerful that GEAA members from San Antonio, Del Rio, Uvalde, and Bracketville can come together to advocate a regional consensus in opposition to a project that could dry up two of the remaining great springs of the Edwards Aquifer.  Stay tuned for more in this issue, and look for an article to be published this Sunday in the San Antonio Express News.

Thursday, November 14, 2013

Sierra Club Releases Updated Report on Desalination

Lone Star Chapter

For More Information:
Tyson Broad 325-248-3137 (cell)
Ken Kramer 512-626-4204 (cell)

For Immediate Release (Thursday, November 14, 2013):

Sierra Club Releases Updated Report on Desalination

(Austin)-The Sierra Club’s Lone Star Chapter today released an updated version of its popular report on desalination of seawater and brackish groundwater and surface water. Desalination: Is It Worth Its Salt?  is a basic primer on desalination written for the general public. The report explores the environmental, energy, and economic issues surrounding desalination and provides an overview of desalination activities in Texas. First released in 2008, the report has been updated to reflect the technological advancements and additional research in desalination over the last five years.

“Desalination is often viewed as a solution to many water supply problems and is often hailed as a ‘drought resistant’ supply, said author Tyson Broad, Research Associate with the Lone Star Chapter. “Certainly, the decreased cost of desalination technologies has made the process more economically attractive. Fully assessing the actual cost and benefits of desalination, however, requires that energy and environmental concerns be thoroughly addressed.”

The Sierra Club report identifies the disposal of brine resulting from the desalination process, entrainment of aquatic species in the desalination facility intakes, and the increased energy requirements of the desalination process as the biggest environmental concerns.

The report also examines the economic risks associated with desalination. “During the most recent drought in Australia, the country constructed five large-scale desalination facilities to meet demands,” said Broad.  “Today, however, four of these facilities are operating in stand-by mode and generating no revenue because the drought ended and less expensive surface supply sources again became available.”

“Desalination offers the potential for taking pressure off freshwater resources that are of vital importance to the environment,” said Ken Kramer, Lone Star Chapter Water Resources Chair. “However, the high costs associated with desalination emphasize the need to implement much less expensive water conservation and drought response strategies prior to investing heavily in desalination.  The Australian example is an important ‘cautionary tale’ about excessive reliance on expensive infrastructure to meet water needs which may be better and more cheaply addressed through management of water demands.”

A copy of the report is available for download at http://texas.sierraclub.org/press/Desalination.pdf.