Archive for January, 2013

Using “Rainy Day” Funds for Water Conservation a Great Idea!

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The Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance (GEAA) endorses the position stated jointly by the Lone Star Sierra Club and the National Wildlife Federation – Meeting Texas Water Needs.

Recognizing the need for Texans to address our water needs, GEAA supports Representative Ritter’s HB 4 and HB 11 authorizing a one-time allocation of $2 billion from the State’s “Rainy Day” funds to capitalize a new, dedicated revolving fund for use in financing water projects in the State Water Plan. HB 4 especially recognizes two very important principles that the environmental community and others have flagged as critical to our water future: the need to prioritize projects for state financial assistance and the fact that water conservation is a key component of meeting water needs.

GEAA will be working to insure that half of this funding is dedicated to projects that conserve water, and advocating that the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) devote funding to state wide conservation efforts that might succeed in significantly lowering water use. TWDB grant funding for large projects should be contingent on the applicant having achieved State adopted conservation goals and establishing an effective drought management plan.

The TWDB needs to make funds available to fix leaks in municipal water systems, especially for small municipalities that do not have the tax base to float bonds for this purpose. Figures on leak ratios for small service providers State wide are very high, some has high as 25%. TWDB should also add funding for conservation projects for small municipalities and can explore whether there are Federal funds to augment these efforts. Making the water conservation programs, similar to those implemented by San Antonio, available to smaller systems statewide could yield significant savings and are worthy of funding at the State level. Likewise, water conservation efforts targeted at exempt well owners state wide could yield significant aggregate savings of groundwater.

We look forward to working with Representative Ritter and other state legislators to assure that Texas takes an effective and comprehensive approach to addressing all of our state’s water needs through conservation, drought response, environmental flow protection, and water and wastewater infrastructure*.

(*Many thanks to Ken Kramer for summing this up so nicely.)


House Committee Recommends Keeping the Status Quo

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The Interim Report of the House Committee on Land and Resource Management has some overall good news in regards to what might or might not come up during the 83rd session.

Among other charges, the committee was directed to “Examine current regulatory authority available to municipalities in their extraterritorial jurisdiction (ETJ)” and to “Make necessary legislative recommendations to ensure a proper balance between development activities and municipal regulations.”

We had dreaded the prospect that two bills filed last session that would have prohibited Texas cities from enforcing tree ordinances in their ETJ’s would be refilled this session. The interim report stated that most of the testimony provided to the committee focused on a specific tree ordinance in the City of San Antonio. Thanks to the City of San Antonio and the Joint Base San Antonio-Fort Sam Houston for testifying in defense of SA’s ordinance.

While troubling that the committee “had concerns regarding excessive and abusive regulations which impede or deny property owners their right to develop land as they see fit”, they also recommended that “these regulations should be addressed with targeted, local bills brought by members who represent the area affected by the regulations.” We would hope that none of our San Antonio delegation will file such a bill. But, we will be keeping an eye out and will keep you posted.

The committee was also charged to “Examine the effectiveness of the Texas Private Real Property Rights Preservation Act”. The TPRPRPA (whew!), which was passed in 1995 in response to San Antonio and Austin water quality ordinances, currently exempts cities under the Act. Despite lengthy testimony from vested interests who oppose the exemption of cities, the committee recommended that the Act remain as is, citing “the unintended consequences on municipalities using legitimate public policy oriented regulations.”

I will continue to keep you up to date, and to call on you to take action when needed during this Legislative Session. With all the attention being paid to water (or, lack of it) this will certainly be a busy session for us. The diversity of our Alliance is recognized by our Legislators, and really gives heft to GEAA’s shared agenda – so, a big thanks to all of you for your participation in GEAA!

Clearcut San Antonio