Texas Water

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There is a longstanding feud between rural and urban interests over how to manage our groundwater -- the water underlying us in aquifers. Texas law, for better or for worse differentiates between groundwater -- as privately owned -- and surface water (rivers, lakes, streams, creeks) as owned by the state of Texas.

It was during the 2015 legislative session that a group of conservation and landowner interests, including LIV, dubbed a plan by Rep. Lyle Larson (R-San Antonio) to move masses of groundwater across the state through a water grid, "Gridzilla".  "Griddy" is a "water sucking monster" and all kind of wrong for Texas.

Gridzilla is a fictional character of what we also call The California Water Model. After 50 years of moving groundwater for real estate development in areas without local water supply, California is now scrambling to reverse these mistaken policies.

Bringing the California Water Model to Texas is the ugly baby of State Rep. Lyle Larson (R-San Antonio) who serves as chairman of the Texas House Natural Resources Committee and Texas State Senator, Charles Perry (R-Lubbock), who chairs the Senate Water Committee. Senator Perry's district sits over the Ogallala Aquifer, so it's hard to understand why he would be a big fan of Griddy, but he is.

This picture of Rep. Larson's "water grid" from the 2015 session tells you exactly where Lyle's head is -- the IH-35 growth corridor. That's where the real estate lobby wants to send massive supplies of groundwater for hyper-development. The Texas "growth machine" has truly captured most government agencies and officials who buy into all growth is good. In turn they shape policies which incentivize in-migration growth while offloading the costs for new infrastructure (particularly roads and water) on current residents to pay for those not here yet.

The truth is there are many competing forces on water -- rural, suburban and urban -- and we cannot let monsters or bullies continue to divide us. Small "d" democracy -- the ability to build consensus -- is the underlying issue in all our work at LIV. It is especially true on our most valuable resource in Texas -- water.

To fully understand what is driving us backward on water policy, please visit these LIV pages:

  • Costs of Growth section and watch the video of Austin developer-whistle-blower, Brian Rodgers. Rodgers coined the phrase "make growth pay for itself".
  • Vista Ridge project section here, the most imminent threat to some of the most prolific aquifers in Texas, including Simsboro formation of the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer 45 miles east of the city of Austin.
  • Watch the "Cadillac Desert" documentary below to understand the California mistakes. (It's also a great book!)

What we at LIV believe is this. Texas needs is a serious investment in conservation first, desalination second and then...if and when really needed, movement of groundwater with adequate compensation to landowners.

Pretty soon -- within the lifetimes of the incoming generation -- the resource known as groundwater will be too costly to deplete if it's not contaminated first.

Contamination is distinct possibility with so little regulation of oil and gas activity -- and the "ticking time bomb" of abandoned oil wells mentioned here in the Texas Tribune. The crony-capture of the Railroad Commission by those it is supposed to regulate in the oil and gas industry is so complete that the Sunset Commission -- the most "powerful" legislative committee -- that reviews state agencies couldn't even muster the support to propose a name change for the agency. It appears that the oil and gas lobby not want citizens to know that there is in fact an an agency that is supposed to regulate the industry.

More To Do List:
1.  Sign up for our email alerts  and join our facebook page (both linked to the right).

2.  Join or donate to the League of Independent Voters regardless of what primary you may vote in or membership in a party. Join here, donate here.

3.  Watch the I Oppose the San Antone Hose video above about the "game changer in groundwater" -- a dangerous game brought to us by San Antonio's public water utility, San Antonio Water System. SAWS is a "shining" example of how NOT to run a public agency if you care about transparency, accountability and your everyday ratepayer. (Our news section is rife with well-documented and sassy pieces about SAWS and Vista Ridge, aka the San Antone Hose.

SOME ADDITIONAL HELPFUL WATER INFO:

What's an acre-foot of water?

 

Check out this excellent slide show on "Ground and Surface Water 101" produced in 2013 by Steve Box (Environmental Stewardship) and Phil Cook (Lost Pines Sierra Club).

Do you like reading the deep policy dive?

This 2013 paper written about the Prop 6 Constitutional Water Amendment is deep, well documented and written by one of the founders of LIV, Michele Gangnes, longtime guardian of the aquifers underlying Lee, Bastrop, Burleson and Milam counties. Gangnes now serves on LIV's Advisory Board (see her bio here).

Even if you've read the book, we highly recommend this 9-part video series, "Cadillac Desert". It's a must see if you care about water and learning from the mistakes of California, now in a major water crisis.
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4 comments

  1. The crux of the statewide water planning in Texas is that the urban areas have all the political clout, yet very little of the water.

    When we speak of regional planning, and this is true of urban planning as well as resource planning, little effort is made to reflect the wishes of rural Texas. Rural Texans are planned FOR, not WITH, and as Texas becomes more urban, this is a trend that will continue.

    1. We agree, Delores and, just to state the obvious, you can make water flow uphill, meaning we can fight this by uniting urban and rural Texas.

      How do we unite, or on what basis do we unite urban and rural. Texas Urbanites are paying for the costs of growth through higher taxation (property taxes for homeowners and thru increased rents) and rural areas are paying with water and land grabs. We all lose together or we win by uniting!

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