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. The 2017 legislative session will be about many things, but don't let "Gridzilla, the water sucking monster" sneak up on you and confuse you. Our interests -- rural and urban -- are intimately tied and we cannot let monsters or bullies continue to divide us.

Gridzilla, aka the California Water Model -- is the ugly baby of State Rep. Lyle Larson (R-San Antonio) who is now the chair of the House Natural Resources Committee and Sen. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock), who chairs the Senate Agricultural, Water and Rural Affairs Committee. This picture of his "water grid" from the 2015 session tells you exactly where Lyle's head is -- the IH-35 growth corridor. That's where he wants to send massive supplies of groundwater for hyper-development. Though some movement of groundwater is necessary, this is the California Water Model that took only 50 years to cause a water crisis of historic proportion.

The 2017 Texas Legislative Session is a humdinger of chaos thanks to the Lt. Governor Patrick and his potty police.

Most telling is that while Patrick has transgender bathrooms as a center piece of his legislative agenda, his water appointee, Senate Sen. Charles Perry (R-Lubbock), Chairman of the Senate Committee on Agriculture, Water and Rural Affairs, has held interim hearings with speakers by invitation only on water -- muzzling Texas landowners and promoting water-grabbing profiteers and their hired guns (attorneys armed with "fake" testimony) speaking as "experts". This is all kind of Texas wrong.

If you want to understand the imperative of profiteering and privatization of water in Texas, see our "Costs of Growth" section and watch the video of Austin developer-whistle-blower, Brian Rodgers. Rodgers coined the phrase "make growth pay for itself".

Gridzilla (and the "growth machine") is a proven man-made and unmitigated disaster in California as a result of 50 years of mass movement of groundwater and surface water from the north and central portions of the state to a desert now known as Los Angeles.

What 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 -- like 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 its 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 once again propose a name change for the agency. No one wants citizens to know that there even exists an agency that supposed to regulate the industry!

Your To Do List:
1.  Sign up for our email alerts  and join our facebook page (both linked to the right).
2.  Join the League of Independent Voters regardless of what primary you may vote in or membership in a party. (On the menu above)
3.  Watch the I Oppose the San Antone Hose video about the "game changer in groundwater" -- a massive destructive water grab by San Antonio and their rogue water utility, San Antonio Water System.

What's an acre-foot of water?

2015 SESSION & SOME WATER WAR HISTORY: (this is dated content we are leaving on the site for historical purposes.)

Water wars are breaking out across the state. In the 2015 Texas legislative session a natural coalition emerged of rural Republican legislators (like Rep. David Simpson, Longview, pictured above) and urban Democratic legislators (like Kirk Watson, Austin) to hit the breaks on large-scale movement of groundwater. That said, the water grabs through public-private partnership continues today. The most imminent threat in Texas to sanity in water management is the 142-mile water pipeline from Burleson County to San Antonio -- called Vista Ridge. We have a special section for the Vista Ridge project here, as we are working to scrap this destructive plan to drain the Simsboro formation of the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer 45 miles east of the city of Austin.

Read these comments we just filed on September 1, 2014, with the Texas Water Development Board on how we think the water funds passed under Prop 6 by voters in 2013 should and should not be spent.

The guys in the black hats are water marketers (speculators and assorted profiteers), large-scale corporate agriculture interests who actually use the most water and some who are dragging their feet on conservation, the oil and gas lobby which is wasting billions of gallons of potable water and risking contamination on fracking (they could be recylcling but mostly don't), many municipalities and many citizens.

The good news is that we/they all could put on a white hat and work together and some of the more enlightened are doing that. For example, the city of San Antonio has been doing great work in conservation. That said, there is still a very big problem. San Antonio, and most Texas cities are heavily influenced by the real estate lobby. This lobby has us all hooked on growth. San Antonio is no different in this regard. Growth is not always good, especially when it's too fast and developers are allowed to offload the costs of growth (all the new infrastructure needed for all the newcomers -- water, wastewater, public safety, schools, fire stations, etc.) on to the backs of current residents to pay for the newcomers.

Read more about the costs of growth in this "beef" section. Just note that there are limits to growth and certainly how fast cities can grow without hitting a brick wall of unaffordability and big city problems that cost us -- taxpayers and residents -- not only lots of cash but something less easily quantified. That would be our quality of life. Can we enjoy life in the midst of traffic jams, polluted air and water and no open spaces? (Then there's the issue of growing foods locally. This is a "beef" we haven't yet written about. Just note that most people want their food grown as locally as possible by people they know and through practices they can trust.)

Large-scale real estate interests and the oil and gas lobby, with their friends in state government on the Texas Water Development Board, the Texas Commission for Environmental Quality and the Texas Railroad Commission, are already raiding rural Texas of its water. One such raider is real estate heavy weight, Forestar Real Estate Group. UT-Austin President Bill Powers is on their board.

Forestar has been making a bad name for itself with their litigious (lawsuit happy) ways until and unless they get all the water they want from the most sought after aquifer in the state -- the Carrizo-Wilcox. They not only sued the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District for "only" giving them a permit for 12,000 acre feet per year (they wanted 45,000 AFY), they then sued each board member individually. These are all community volunteers for gosh sake! Forestar even sued a local Bastrop company, Griffin Industries, who had asked for just 224 acre-feet per year of groundwater from the Lost Pines GCD. Forestar's position is 'if we can't get all the water we want, nobody gets any'.

p2jlyHurmWe also wish to point out that the State Representative for Bastrop and Lee counties, Tim Kleinschmidt (R-Giddings) actually sold his water rights to Forestar. Not only has Kleinschmidt done nothing to come to the aid of his own home county, to protect their groundwater, he is part of the problem. He will financially gain if Forestar gets further with their water raid. Kleinschmidt has been heard around the district answering his constituents questions about the matter that 'you're just gonna get sued." Thanks Tim, we needed that.

Note, since this section was written, Kleinschmidt was reelected in November 2014 and 17 days later announced his resignation to take place just after he is sworn in on January 13th.  Go to our news section for more and sign up to get our emails.

Also, since the section was written, San Antonio Water System came in to Burleson County with a big swift water grab for 50,000 acre feet for the Vista Ridge Project. It was rammed through the San Antonio City Council in October, 2014. We have 30 months to bust the contract as SAWS can walk away with little penalty for any reason. Please visit the Vista Ridge Page (on our menu above) for details.

A good friend of ours, Environmental Stewardship (Steve Box, in particular) works very hard to get the story straight on the now epic battle just east of Austin between water marketers (now Forestar Real Estate Group and former Williamson County Commissioner, Frankie Limmer's EndOp L.C.) and the residents and landowners of Lee and Bastrop County and their local officials. You can read this about Forestar and check out more on this informative site.

Though the aquifer underlying rural Lee County in particular (that would be the Simsboro formation of the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer), likely still has large reserves, water profiteers and their friends in government are running around hysterically yammering silly ideas like, "it's drought proof." If that were true, don't worry, it wouldn't last for long since one of the groundwater districts, the Post Oak Savannah Groundwater Conservation District (for Milam and Burleson counties), is in process of handing out permits on the very same water source to water marketers/profiteers like candy.

Post Oak GCD, and others, are simply bowing to the real estate and oil and gas lobbies -- while making money for their districts off of pumping fees. State government ignores the problem or is in on the heist as well, as seen in the antics of the "new and improved" Texas Water Development Board (TWDB). After being reorganized by the legislature in 2013 as a prerequisite for the passage of Proposition 6 (the Water Amendment) -- the TWDB is a thoroughly politicized agency -- just like so many other Texas state agencies. How do we know this? We know this because the agency is in process of attempting to ram projects, like the long opposed Marvin Nichols Reservoir in NE Texas, on our citizens, landowners and businesses. (See more later.)

We can expect that in 2015 legislative session, there will be a bevy of bills introduced to gut what little local control the groundwater districts have to protect their citizens' water -- those that are doing their jobs, that is. If you followed what happened to the Ogallala aquifer, you understand that there is no such thing as a "drought proof aquifer", which used to be said about it too.

It is also nothing short of an outrage that state agencies are ignoring a looming problem with groundwater contamination from fracking and the use of potable water for fracking. Be sure to read our Fracking section under "Beefs" for more.

Reservoirs like the long-opposed Marvin Nichols in NE Texas should be off limits especially in the midst of a historic drought. Reservoirs are enormously expensive, take years to build and, with 50% evaporation rates and the massive land grab associated with them, are old hat. There are far cheaper and more responsible ways to produce more water, including large-scale conservation projects for corporate agriculture and more serious conservation efforts in the municipalities. These methods include reuse, rain harvesting and even subsidizing homeowner's replacements of St. Augustine grass with lawns that don't need near as much water and there so much more that can be done to save water. Some of our better managed cities are using these methods and are in process of revamping their planning for future water needs.

This article about reuse might surprise you -- No Joke: Most Drinking Supplies Flush With "Potty Water" | The Texas Tribune.

The Marvin Nichols alone would flood 70,000 acres of prime farm and timber land. But state officials and office holders are ever determined to get it built after 14 years of battles with local landowners who have said -- repeatedly -- no, we are farmers and other businesses that provide local jobs and we happen to live here! Don't believe us? Read this article, Balkanization of Texas water must end - San Antonio Express-News, by State Rep. Lyle Larson (R-San Antonio) who should know better.

Now, read this enlightened piece by Rep. David Simpson (R-Longview) Simpson: It’s not just about water - Longview News-Journal: Opinion, who hits the nail on the head about the Marvin Nichols and our Texas water woes. This is about local control. Our state agencies are interfering with it, at the same time our state officials complain repeatedly about feds doing the same to them.

The Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District (Lee and Bastrop counties) has been a leader in the battle underway to protect aquifers from depletion and to preserve the modicum of local control Texans have over groundwater. You think we still have "rule of capture", right? Well, not exactly and it's complicated by recent court rulings and suits still pending. Right now, one of the the only few things standing in the way of a takeover of our groundwater by the state of Texas is the local groundwater districts. Some of them are really trying to protect aquifers from over-permitting and over-pumping. Others can't hand out those permits out fast enough.

This excellent paper written by Michele Gangnes, League interim board member, about Proposition 6 passed last November, tells you more than you probably want to know about the Texas Water Wars and the Texas Water Development Board. Thank you Michele, for this and ten years of volunteering your considerable writing and legal skills -- for no pay -- for the cause of Texans conserving our most precious resource!

East Texans and those living close to the growth corridors of this state don't mind sharing some water. That's what may be needed in the midst of this drought. But not unless and until everyone is doing all they can to stop some of the more egregious water waste in our state. While some citizens in some cities, like San Antonio, continue to reduce their water use, per capita use is going up in Texas in the middle of a historic drought! The chart in this article uses 2011 numbers from the Texas Water Development Board and shows how Dallas has a long way to go to conserve water.

Brian Rodgers, featured under the "Beefs" section of this site under the "Cost of Growth" tab made this presentation about water and growth at the "Water Wars" Conference held in 2011 in Bastrop. This will explain why we all need to be hell bent for leather to make growth pay for itself to protect our wallets and our water. Click here to watch it.

What happens when the big fish at the state level eat all the little fish at the local level? We all perish. Texans better get prepared to use the 2015 legislative session to take local control of water resources for our local officials, landowners and residents, or forever hold your peace!

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).

This spot-on series of articles on water issues in the Lost Pines were printed in the Bastrop Advertiser in the summer of 2015 by Phil Cook.

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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  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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