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News Archive - July, 2011

July 27, 2011

Understanding Your Remarkable Riparian Areas

Why would you want to know about this? Creeks, Rivers and Riparian areas are special and they are often misunderstood. Much damage is done by well meaning uninformed people acting on wholehearted belief in a few myths. A recording of Sky Lewey’s presentation on TWA’s popular webinar feature is available now to view online. Check it out and pass it on

July 22, 2011

Drought intensifies across lower Colorado River basin

A prolonged stretch of exceptionally dry weather is causing the drought across Texas and the lower Colorado River basin to intensify."This has been the driest nine months in Texas history - the absolute driest,” LCRA General Manager Becky Motal said. “This is a serious situation, but it’s not dire. Water flowing into the Highland Lakes is down to a trickle in places. Rest assured LCRA is managing the region’s water supply to make it through this exceptional drought, and we are asking everyone to use water as efficiently as possible and reduce water use wherever they can.” Read full from Statesman.com article here.

Silt decreasing our water supplies

Did you know the 2007 Texas State Water Plan estimates an 18% decrease in existing water supplies by 2060? Silt build-up in reservoirs is one two reasons given for the decline. The other is depleted groundwater supplies. Look to Denver, Colorado to see what it can cost to remove sediment from a lake. Denver Water is dredging the Strontia Springs Reservoir to remove at least 625,000 cubic yards of sediment. The cost is just over $30 million. Watch video

July 21, 2011

Marble Falls leaders have 'bright idea'

Pedernales Electric Cooperative workers could soon be busying themselves with swapping out the bulbs in 300 Marble Falls street lights. A recent audit revealed the city could reduce light pollution and save about $20,000 annually by switching from 250-watt to 100-watt street lights. This finding came after many residents complained about overly bright lights around the city, particularly on the Manzano mile, a street that runs on the city's eastern border. Read full KXAN article here.

July 20, 2011

Sustainable Urban Development

On Friday, September 23, AIA San Antonio will host the 2011 Sustainable Urban Development by noted architect, author and founder of the Congress for New Urbanism, Peter Calthorpe. This important lunchtime event will bring together a cross section of architects, planners, developers, city leaders, and environmentalists for the purpose of enlightening our community about the virtues of dense urban growth and transit oriented development, while at the same time reminding them of the dangers of our current practice of seemingly endless sprawl. Details

July 19, 2011

Hill Country Alliance Review of the 2011 Legislative Session

While some well funded lobbyists claim victories, others breathe a sigh of relief knowing threats were thwarted. Still, others return home to ponder whether or not they have the energy to return in two years to try to make a difference and continue their good work. Read more

Conservation in San Antonio is Saving More than Water

Who would believe that a translucent sightless amphibian that dwells only in dark underground caves could force a big Texas city to not only slash its water use but make water waste illegal? But the rare, four-inch Texas blind salamander has done pretty much just that – and spawned an unusual water story in San Antonio, where impressive conservation efforts are now being tested by one of the worst droughts in memory. Read full National Geographic article here.

July 16, 2011

Drought: A Creeping Disaster

FLOODS, tornadoes, earthquakes, tsunamis and other extreme weather have left a trail of destruction during the first half of 2011. But this could be just the start to a remarkable year of bad weather. Next up: drought. Read full New York Times article here.

July 15, 2011

Raymond Slade: Make tough choices before drought takes over region

Many hydrologists, as well as other scientists, have understood that the region has been long overdue for another serious drought. And the current drought could become much worse — it began only about a year ago, and past droughts in the area have lasted up to nine years. The benefit of a drought might be that residents of the Hill Country resolve to create a long-term plan to prevent such situations in the future. It will take many people working together to achieve this. Read full Statesman.com article here.

2011 Farm & Range Forum Scheduled October 14-15 in Uvalde

On October 14 and 15, the 2011 Farm & Range Forum will be held in Uvalde, Texas. The focus of this year’s forum is “Conserving Our Rural Heritage.” Landowners, urban and rural conservationists, and everyone interested in the history and dynamics of the region, its economic and social challenges and looming water issues is encouraged to participate. Uvalde County is an ideal setting for this dialog. Read more

July 14, 2011

Lakes Travis and Buchanan Stakeholders Form Central Texas Water Coalition

In May of 2010, the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) formed the Water Management Plan Stakeholders Advisory Committee to assist in updating the Water Management Plan. The committee consists of 16 individuals representing diverse interests: Rice Farmers, Environmentalists, Firm Customers, and the Lakes. After a year of meetings, and the realization that the Lakes are not viewed as the anchor for communities and businesses, but as buckets of water for LCRA customers, the Lakes Team decided to form the Central Texas Water Coalition (CTWC). Click here for the full article. Learn more about CTWC -- CTWC Philosophy

July 11, 2011

Expect the Unexpected

Our vegetation growth is at a standstill and ponds and creeks are drying up, forcing our wildlife to travel further to find enough food and water to survive. These conditions impact all wildlife in the stricken areas, birds, mammals, insects, reptiles and fish. Read more

Invasive Aquatic Species and their impact on Texas Water

One of the significant issues impacting the quality and quantity of Texas water is the deleterious effect of exotic and invasive plants and animals. Dr. Tom Arsuffi, of Texas Tech University in Junction, will speak at the at the July 25th meeting of the Hill Country Chapter of Master Naturalists. Dr. Arsuffi will discuss his ecosystem research and both immediate and future implications for Texas. Learn more

July 7, 2011

Uvalde pipeline is still a bad idea

The investors and promoters behind what is known as the “Uvalde Pipeline” have tried for two legislative sessions to change the law governing the Edwards Aquifer Authority that prohibits the transport of Edwards Aquifer water out of Uvalde and Medina counties. Read full SA Express article here.

No Watering in Fredericksburg Mon – Fri

Coming off its driest January-June period in 49 years -- and with still no rain in sight -- the City of Fredericksburg is this week implementing Stage 4 water rationing to limit outdoor watering to just one day a week. Read more from the Fredericksburg Standard here.

Guadalupe River Clean Up, July 23rd

The Upper Guadalupe River Authority has scheduled the 8th annual River Clean Up for Saturday, July 23rd. The Clean Up will be staged at one central location, Louise Hays Park in Kerrville. Details

July 6, 2011

Utility commission drops plan for renewable energy mandate

Taking a cue from the Legislature, the Public Utility Commission of Texas has dropped a proposal that would have mandated that electricity generators buy renewable energy other than wind. Read full Statesman.com article here.

Lengthy Drought Takes Toll on Texas Wildlife

Texas is now nine months into one of the worst droughts in recorded state history, and it shows no signs of abating. That's bad news for city dwellers who must use ever less water for their lawns, but it's worse for many wildlife and fish, which find their habitats drying up. Read full Texas Tribune article here.

July 5, 2011

Austin residents digging more wells

Read this alarming news report - Travis County is one of just a few areas recognized with critical groundwater issues and yet wells continue to be drilled without permitting or oversight. Read more about the lack of a groundwater conservation district in Western Travis County here. More on Hill Country Groundwater resources here.

Scaling Up Conservation for Large Landscapes

The central question facing land conservationists today is how to scale up efforts to protect entire landscapes and whole natural systems. The land trust movement has been built on the individual successes of conserved private properties, but increasingly both conservationists and landowners entering into conservation agreements want to know what is being done about their neighbor, their neighborhood, and most significantly their landscape. Read full Lincoln Institute article here.

Watershed planning short course Nov. 14–18 in Bandera

The Texas Water Resources Institute will be presenting a Texas Watershed Planning Short Course Nov. 14–18 in Bandera. “Well-considered holistic watershed protection plans involving as many stakeholders as possible in their development are becoming the widely accepted approach to protecting Texas surface waters,” said Kevin Wagner, an associate director at the institute and course leader. Read more here.

July 1, 2011

Scenic Hill Country Update, July 1, 2011

Kerrville’s challenge of the PUC route selection has been scheduled for 2pm, August 2nd in Austin. Potential Wind Farms causes concern in Mason County. Click here to read the latest from SOSHE.

Thirsting for water in Kendall County

When drought hits Kendall County, trucker Troy Immel stops hauling milk. “In the short term, water is more profitable,” he said from the cab of his Kenworth tractor that pulls a 6,000-gallon tank. Working 12 hours or more a day, including weekends and holidays, Immel struggles to meet the growing demand for water in the Hill Country caused by a drop in production from wells drilled in the Trinity Aquifer. Read full SA Express article and watch video here.


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The Latest News

SAWS Board to Vote on Water Deal, UTSA Panel to Follow

The San Antonio Water System Board will vote Monday on a $3.40-billion landmark water deal that would pipe in 50,000 acre-feet of water to San Antonio annually as soon as 2019, enough to meet 20% of the growing city’s future water needs. Read more from the Rivard Report.

Questions answered by SAWS Monday night

Monday’s vote by SAWS is step one, San Antonio City Council will ultimately consider and vote on the Vista Ridge Pipeline Project. Who is this water for? Where will it ultimately go? Who will ultimately pay and what are the long-term financial implications? Show up at UTSA Monday night for a balanced panel discussion. Get educated and get involved. Event details

Community groups question the rush to approve SAWS Vista Ridge Pipeline

“The 522 page draft contract for this $3.4 billion deal was posted on-line on September 23rd, giving the SAWS Board and the public less than a week to review a deal that will have far reaching implications for our community, including an estimated 16% rate hike for SAWS customers.” Read more from GEAA. As Margaret Day of the Alamo Sierra Club points out “to be sustainable, aquifer drawdown should be no greater than recharge.” Read this opinion piece from the Alamo Sierran Word.

The time is now to speak up in Travis County

Travis County is seeking public comments by Wednesday, Oct 1st on their Land, Water and Transportation plan. Read the plan, take the survey and/or send your comments via email. Meanwhile, CAMPO is taking comments until Oct 6th on a variety of projects including a study to construct a major tollway across sensitive preserve lands. “Traffic solution costly, harmful to environment” Read “City to oppose proposed tollroad” in the Austin American Statesmen.

Public Forum on Trinity Aquifer, Oct. 7

The League of Women Voters of Comal Area invites the public to attend “The Trinity Aquifer: A Shared Resource/ A Shared Responsibility,” to be held October 7 in Canyon Lake. “If you drink water in Comal County, you are likely to be drinking Trinity water, or you soon will be. It is up to all of us to learn more about this resource, no matter where in Comal County we live.” Learn more

Evaporation – a loss for humans and wildlife in Texas

It's no secret that drought has been a major factor in the declining water levels of our lakes and reservoirs here in Texas. But there is another factor that has has received very little attention - evaporation. Read more from Texas Living Waters.

New streetlights to make for darker skies

The stars may seem a little brighter over Kerrville next year. The Kerrville Public Utility Board last week set aside about $734,000 to upgrade 2,000 city street lights to “full cut-off,” high-efficiency LED lamps that won’t shine light upward. Read More from the Kerrville Daily Times.

Water Crisis: Time to Get Serious!

Last week’s “Water Crisis” event hosted by The Hays County Citizens Alliance for Responsible Development (CARD) drew a huge crowd and continues to create a lot of meaningful conversations about how rural lands west of I-35 will be developed. Learn more

Big changes for the Cibolo Nature Center (and FARM!)

Even as Cibolo Nature Center staffers celebrate a major milestone with the completed restoration of the historic Herff farmhouse, they're setting ambitious new goals. Read more from SA Express-News.

It Will Take an Insane Amount of Rain Before the Highland Lakes Recover

Central Texas is having a pretty decent year, rain-wise. We’re sitting just below normal. But these big rain events all have something in common: They really haven’t fallen where we need them most. “The watershed that helps our water supplies isn’t here in Austin; it’s way up into the counties to the north of us." Read more from State Impact.

Trend Of Land Fragmentation, Rural Loss Continues In Texas

Land fragmentation has been a growing problem for Texas, and by all appearances it isn’t going to slow any time soon. The state’s population continues to grow rapidly, and those residents have an insatiable appetite for land. Read more from Livestock Weekly.

No Land. No Water.

As the current drought reminds us, water continues to impact the sustainability and growth of Texas' economy. Unfortunately, land is disappearing faster than in any other state, threatening the water resources on which our economy depends. Land conservation is a cost-effective water resource protection strategy. Join TALT October 1st in Austin.

Fall Camping Workshops Announced for Outdoor Families

With cool weather around the corner, the Texas Outdoor Family program has scheduled outdoor recreational workshops statewide though the beginning of December. The workshops offer a low-cost weekend trip where families can un-plug, reconnect with nature, and learn the basics of camping. Read more from Texas Parks and Wildlife.

Aquifer is No Quick Fix for Central Texas Thirst

Water marketers who want to sell to cities say there’s plenty of groundwater, however landowners and conservationists warn that this precious resource could drain in a few decades. What’s the long-term impact on the Colorado River as the groundwater table declines? Who exactly is this water for and what are they willing to pay? Read this excellent article by Neena Satija, Texas Tribune.

Where is the Hill Country?

ACC Professor Don Jonsson takes an interesting look at various degrees of consensus about what geography is included in the “Hill Country.” His data shows Luckenbach as generally the mean center of the region and the Pedernales River Basin 100% Texas Hill Country. View his project findings, map and summary. HCA has a plethora of helpful Hill Country map resources available online and as well as an interactive map viewer.

Wild Pigs!

Landowner groups and Wildlife Coops – Here’s something worth passing along to your member lists. Wild Pigs are an issue throughout the Hill Country region. Here’s an opportunity to learn from the comfort of your own ranch/home computer. Dial in September 18th to from noon to 1:00. Find out how to access this webinar made possible by the Texas Wildlife Association.

"I’m a NIMBY and proud"

“The effects of population growth on traffic are easy to understand. More people equal more cars on the road. More cars on the road equal more congestion. Duh! The real culprit is the rate at which new people are moving here.” Read one bold Austinite's views (who happens to also be a Real Estate Developer) about the real issue facing Austin (and the Hill Country) population. Ed Wendler, Special to the Austin American Statesman.

CARD Hosts a Community Water Meeting September 11

to host a free community meeting this Thursday to discuss why water is an increasingly critical issue, and how we can all be part of improving the outlook. Speakers include Andy Sansom, Executive Director of the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, Steve Clouse, Chief Operating Officer of San Antonio Water Systems, Ray Whisenant, Hays County Commissioner, Peter Newell, Water Resources Engineer at HDR Engineering, and Bech Bruun of the TWDB. Details

What’s all this fuss about a Parkway through Oak Hill?

The Fix 290 Coalition, a group of over 40 organizations and businesses and 2,800 petition signers, have been advocating for a “parkway" concept to move traffic through Oak Hill and protect the original character and unique natural environment of the area for more than a decade. The City of Austin is now asking for a study of this community driven “parkway” alternative to TxDot’s traditional elevated/frontage road model. Read more from Fix290.

HCA Transmission Line Workshop Generates Crowd

On Saturday, September 6th the Hill Country Alliance hosted a landowner workshop for those landowners potentially impacted by the LCRA's proposed Blumenthal substation and transmission line project. The workshop featured an update from the LCRA on the status of their application to the Public Utility Commission, and a panel discussion of landowner rights during the transmission line routing and construction process. To read a more detailed summary of the event and access speaker presentations, click here.

A Tale of 2 Water Districts: 1 Aquifer, 2 Strategies

A decade ago, prospective water marketers easily secured the rights to pump more than 20 billion gallons of water annually from the Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer in Central Texas’ Burleson County. The company now holding those rights, BlueWater, is negotiating a $3 billion deal to send much of that water to San Antonio. Read more from The Texas Tribune.

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Upcoming Events

October

October 1 in Austin - No Land, No Water: Tools & Strategies for Conserving Land to Protect Water Resources - Presented by Texas Agricultural Land Trust - Details

October 7 in Canyon Lake - Public Forum on Trinity Aquifer, presented by The League of Women Voters Comal Area - Details

October 8 in San Antonio - Water Forum V: A regional forum on our future - Details

October 15 in Junction - SLWA Guadalupe Bass Workshop - Details

October 16 in San Antonio - Teaming with Wildlife: The State of Nature in Texas, presented by Compassionate San Antonio - Details

October 16 in Boerne - Hill Country Agri-land workshop - Details

October 17-19 in Alpine - Society for Ecological Restoration Annual Conference: Ecological Restoration in the Southwest - Details

October 24 in Utopia - Stars over Utopia - Learn how to protect our night skies and do some stargazing - Details

October 25 in Dripping Springs - HCA's 5th Annual Rainwater Revival! - Details

See more upcoming events


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