As the current drought sweeping Texas and the Southwest continues, state leaders work to create rules and procedures for wisely administering the $2 billion in water infrastructure loan funds approved overwhelmingly by legislators and voters in 2013. Investments made through this program are critical to the future of Texas and will come none too soon, particularly those investments related to water conservation. Read more from the Houston Chronicle.
The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) soon will announce draft rules and priorities for how SWIFT funds will be spent. In advance of that announcement, the Hill Country Alliance (HCA) convened a roundtable discussion in Blanco on June 4th where HCA board, advisory team and other water and land stewardship experts discussed a range of solutions that could save money and provide water to see the state through future severe droughts. Read more
“The path to a secure water future – and thus, our economic prosperity – was largely written when this area was first settled over the Edwards Aquifer centuries ago. Sound planning will be necessary to ensure clean and abundant water for generations to come and to maintain the aquifer as a primary strategic economic and environmental asset.” Read more from San Antonio Councilman Ron Nirenberg published in the Rivard Report.
The Trinity Aquifer and the Upper Guadalupe River are major components of the hill country’s available water supply. While these water resources typically do not receive as much attention as the more prominent Edwards Aquifer, for example, with the rapidly growing population in this part of the state their importance has never been more crucial. Read more from Livestock Weekly.
Recent rainfall in Austin delivered more water to the Gulf, but little to lakes Travis and Buchanan, the area’s water supply reservoirs. With near average rainfall the last two years and the lakes continuing to fall, a historic flood or an extremely wet year is necessary to replenish central Texas water supplies and avoid the unthinkable. Read more from Tom Hegemier of the Central Texas Land Water Sustainability Forum.
The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) has developed an updated version of its Interactive 2012 State Water Plan webpage that will let water users statewide take an up-close look at data in the 2012 State Water Plan and how our water needs will change over time. The website, http://texasstatewaterplan.org, allows Texans to access information about water demands and needs (also referred to as shortages or deficits) around the state. The latest module release includes: data on water demand projections - the total amount of water that users will require (in each planning decade) to maintain business as usual through the drought, an additional map layer, and improved functionality that allows users to easily switch between types of planning data while viewing each geographic area of interest
A report issued by the non-profit Texas Center for Policy Studies (TCPS) finds that the current water planning process in Texas tends to over-estimate future water demand and under-estimate the potential for making better use of existing supplies. “This report shows that, with more reasonable demand projections and better use of conservation and drought management, the demand/supply gap in 2060 is less than one-half that predicted by the current 2012 State Water Plan issued by TWDB. Read more and download the report from TCPS. Read more from the Texas Tribune, “How Much Water Will Texas Really Need by 2060?”
“Innovative Strategies to Protect and Restore Rivers,” is a 3-part webinar series designed to inform people about strategies to ensure the future health of Texas’ rivers, bays and estuaries. If you missed session one, presentations delivered by Myron Hess, Andy Sansom and Brian Richter are posted on the Texas Living Waters website. Mark your calendars and register now for the next two sessions scheduled for May 28th and June 25th. Great work by our friends at Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation and the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment.
The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) has opened their State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) rules making process for public comment. Participation in the rules making process is critical to ensure that the intentions of the State Legislature are carried out in the long-term administration of the State’s SWIFT funds. The HCA has submitted a list of recommendations to the TWDB that will help ensure spring and stream-flow sustainability in the Hill Country.
The Hays County Commissioners Court is actively searching for partners in a quest to supply water for the future growth expected west of I-35. Additionally, developers, water marketers, and local politicians are looking for new sources of water that will provide for that growth. The Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer east of I-35 is being marketed as an abundant resource ready for export into the Hill Country that would supplement the Hill Country’s already strained Trinity Aquifer. This Austin American Statesman article by Andra Lim reports on a recent Hays, Travis and Williamson combined County Commissioners Court meeting to explore the formation of a regional water grid that would pipe water from Bastrop and Lee Counties to points west of I-35.
The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) has developed a new Interactive 2012 State Water Plan webpage that will let water users statewide take an up-close look at data in the 2012 State Water Plan and how our water needs will change over time. This data will arm communities with important information as they plan for projects to submit for State Water Implementation Fund (SWIFT) funding. Learn More
Approval of “Prop 6” indirectly transferred $2 billion from the state’s “rainy day” fund into this new State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) to provide water for “non-rainy” days. But just moving money around doesn’t create water. That’s why what’s happening now at the state’s Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) is so important. Read more from Ken Kramer at TexasLivingWaters.org.
How are the city’s current policies affecting water quality and supply? How do the city’s growth strategies impact our water security measures? Do these efforts complement or conflict with each other? And most importantly, how are ratepayers impacted? A full transcript of Nirenberg’s keynote to the Resilience Conference are posted on the Rivard Report. His must read request to Council related to the Edwards Aquifer and Water Supply Planning can be read here.
“The chairmanship is a posting that could easily tumble into cynicism, to the knowing feeling that despite legislative assurances that portions of the water money will be used for the sort of conservation project that Delia, the 9-year-old girl, favors, most of it will benefit the engineering, real estate and lobbying firms that have the most to gain from massive water projects.” Read the full story in the Austin American Statesman.
The State Comptroller’s Office released “Texas Water Report: Going Deeper for the Solution” earlier this month. The report demonstrates the value of conservation investments and innovation in water research and technology. A website was also launched to compliment the report and provide ongoing education about water use- some great thoughts here worth reading: http://www.txwaterreport.org.
“Local conservation districts, democratic institutions that allow regional interests to control their own fate, should be permitted to continue their work. But they must be empowered by the Legislature to do their jobs properly, which will never happen as long as private property rights are allowed to trump all other considerations.” Read the full story from Texas Monthly.
A bid by San Antonio's water utility to declare ownership of the sewage it treats and releases has sparked a regional tug-of-war — one that could become more common as Texas' thirsty water users struggle to protect their supplies. Read more from the Texas Tribune.
The challenges and opportunities in brackish groundwater desalination as a source of future water supply in Texas have been receiving considerable attention lately. With a Joint Interim Committee on Desalination, Senate Natural Resources Committee interim charges that include desalination, and a new Texas Desalination Association, this area will continue to be a hot topic. Read more from the Texas Center for Policy Studies blog.
Imagine a water management strategy that would accommodate growth and development without unsustainably pumping down aquifers or incurring the huge expense and societal disruption to build reservoirs or transport water from remote supplies to developing areas. Welcome to the concept of Zero Net Water. Read more from waterblogue.com.
On Sept. 1, 2013, the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) began serving the citizens of Texas under a new management structure with three full-time Board members. Between that time and the successful passage of Proposition 6 on Nov. 5, both the new Board members and agency staff have been hard at work preparing to implement the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas and to respond to other new legislation. Read More
In a series of three guest blogs, 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. Click here to read.
The mayor of Del Rio told San Antonio Water System trustees Monday that his city would use every legal means to block a proposed plan to pipe billions of gallons of water from Southwest Texas to San Antonio. The proposal, made by the V.V. Water Co., would send enough water for more than 150,000 households per year from drought-weary Val Verde County to SAWS by 2018. Red more from SA Express-News.
The Sierra Club’s Lone Star Chapter recently 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. Read More
With groundwater and surface water treated as two independent water supplies under Texas law, it can be tricky to plan for our future generations. Citizen involvement is essential to achieving fair policy to sustain our water supply, a shared resource. A great place to learn is the Texas Living Waters Project - Tune in.
Environmental leaders call on water board to focus Prop 6 money on conservation and avoid projects harmful to rivers. “The State of Texas has consistently declined to implement common sense approaches to to maintain in-stream flows to the bays and estuaries - to the point where coastal ecosystems are now in peril,” said Annalisa Peace, Executive Director of the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance.” Read the story from Environment Texas.
As with nearly every beloved Texas river, the 600-mile Colorado River — which flows from West Texas to the Gulf Coast — is under serious threat. Drought and surging population growth have taken their toll on the water’s flow and its wildlife and, by extension, the farmers and fishermen who rely on it. Learn more from the Texas Tribune.
Proposition 6, to provide some funding and implementation of the State Water Plan, will appear on the November 6th ballot. Does HCA support everything about the State Water Plan and everything in it? No. Does HCA support the need to prioritize the projects included in the State Water Plan and invest heavily in conservation? YES!” Learn more from HCA.
In her recent contribution to the Rivard Report, Amy Hardberger explains, “The success of the city depends on a plan that includes all aspects of planning including water and energy needs within a land use context. A city cannot predict demand of resources before first determining who it will service, which is dependent on land use decisions.” This is true over the entire Hill Country region, especially beyond the city limits where counties don’t have any land use planning tools at all. Read Amy’s article here.
On September 26th LCRA submitted a request to TCEQ to seek emergency authorization to allow them to diverge from their Water Management Plan and suspend river flows to Matagorda Bay. Learn more from TexasLivingWaters.org.
Imagine the possibility of new, modern planning strategies to meet water needs and challenges ahead. Read this excellent blog post from Mary Kelly, Texas Center for Policy Studies.
The struggle over water management of the increasingly dry San Saba may not be new, but the debate over whether the irrigators upstream need to be monitored more closely has heated up this summer. Read more from NY Times.
Texas faces huge spending decisions to meet water supply challenges. All of us need to be aware of the possible implications of big infrastructure expenditures and ask the right questions to ensure that utilities and decision makers make the best decisions. HCA supports conservative solutions to meet future needs verses expensive plans to create new demand further from our cities and towns. Read Jennifer Walkers most recent blog here.
As with any major public policy initiative, the devil is in the details. So, what does HB 4 do and what can we expect to happen over the next few years? More from Texas Center for Policy Studies here.
A great illustration from State Impact of the change in water use with rice farmers cut off last year. Municipal use is now a much bigger piece of the pie, but how much of that 47% is used for watering lawns? Read more from State Impact here. Also, a telling report from Native American Seed about water conservation and taking care of your land. The TCEQ will conduct a public meeting regarding the LCRA water management plan on June 26th.
Texas’ environmental agency is putting the brakes on a long-term plan for managing Central Texas’ main water supply, saying Monday that the managers of the Highland Lakes may not be adequately accounting for the kind of drought now affecting the region. More from Statesman.com.
“The latest version of the LCRA Water Management Plan (WMP), which the TCEQ released for public comment on April 15, 2013, still raises serious concerns.” For example, recent years' data indicates the average inflows have significantly decreased but the plan still uses data from past assumptions. “Average inflows of 1,200,000 AF are assumed as compared to the recent five year average of 450,000 AF.” Read the full list of recommendations from CTWC.
The San Antonio Water System has stopped drawing water from Medina Lake and shut down its treatment plant on the Medina River because of problems with the quality of the lake water. More from SA Express-News.
The recent federal court opinion holding the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) accountable for the deaths of 23 whooping cranes because of inadequate freshwater inflows to San Antonio Bay has generated a lot of concern and discussion. Read More
Are we listening to the next generation? 18 year-old Justin Wolfe writes, "The state’s next step ought to be to legislate groundwater as a public resource, so as to manage and regulate it effectively. Only by managing this resource can we ensure the longevity of our water system for generations to come." Read Justin's full article here.
Seeing our legislature taking a good, long and hopefully, logical look at our State Water Plan and its financing is hopeful. But going for the big, expensive and glamorous water projects will often cause more problems and not reduce our appetite for what is now more precious than gold, oil or gaswater. Read more from Mike Mecke in Ranch & Rural living here.
A new water dialog has been launched www.waterblogue.com. “The stock in trade of water conservation programs practiced by cities and other water supply entities only tinkers around the margins of the basic water management infrastructure system; they do not attempt to fundamentally alter that system...what we need, if we are to approach sustainable water, are dependable, enduring long-term savings that are inherent in our water management processes. To get there, we need to get more deeply into how we manage water, and to fundamentally reform those processes." Read More
Facing a record-breaking drought with no end in sight, the Lower Colorado River Authority has again asked the state to allow us to not release water from the Highland Lakes for most downstream farmers this year unless substantial rainfall replenishes the reservoirs. LCRA’s Board of Directors took that action Jan. 8 for the second year in a row. Last year was the first time most rice farmers didn’t get any Highland Lakes water. Read More
Frank Harren, a commercial Realtor who serves on the LCRA’s Travis/Austin Regional Council, an advisory board, calculates that lakes Travis and Buchanan now have 28 months of water if recent trends continue. "Releasing water to the rice farmers would shave five months from that total," Harren said. More from Statesman.com.
It’s hard to look at any media in Texas today without being confronted by a dire outlook on the state’s water future. The jarring effects of a deep drought and the steep price tag attached to the state’s water plan definitely make for attention-grabbing copy. But for those who care about sustainable management of our limited water resources, property rights and fiscal discipline in the state budget, it’s worth a look behind those headlines. More from Statesman.com
Local and regional water suppliers say that state financial assistance is needed to fund about half of the total $53 billion price tag for water infrastructure projects in the current State Water Plan. However, simply providing funding without improving the plan and carefully prioritizing projects to be funded would not be an efficient use of taxpayer funds. More from Caller.com.
Milan Michalec, incoming President of the HCA Board of Directors, takes a look at water issues ahead of the 2013 legislative session. "Ground and surface water supplies originate with the rain that falls on the land and in turn, this water is captured by complex, large-scale ecological processes involving many variables, including plants, animals, soils and geology. We are every bit an integral part of the water cycle." Read the four-part series which will also be published in the Bandera County Courier beginning Thursday, December 6th.
With the lake now below 11 percent of its estimated storage capacity, each exposed post and trunk raise the threat that local residents will run out of water, farmers will have to let land go fallow and San Antonio will lose part of its water supply. More from SA Express-News.
Joey Park is the founding member of H2O4Texas. He told listeners at the South Texans’ Property Rights Association annual meeting that Texas has a water plan, though many people don’t know about it. “That brings us to a problem. That’s all it’s been: a book on the shelf for the last 10 years. We have not done anything about it except refer to it as our State Water Plan.” It is a serious document, though, with a list of things that need to be done, can be done and will be done to address the water needs of the state. It is missing a couple of things, namely funding. Read full Livestock Weekly article.
Once again, the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) is coming under fire from some Central Texans. The reason? A recommendation by agency staff that could lead to water being sent downstream next year for rice farming. Read more from State Impact.
In the most recent signal that drought conditions have eased since 2011, the staff of the Lower Colorado River Authority recommended last week that board members not seek emergency power from the state to cut off water next year for rice farmers. That’s a reversal from September 2011, when the LCRA’s board approved an emergency plan to cut off water to rice farmers if less than 850,000 acre-feet of water was stored in lakes Travis and Buchanan, the LCRA’s two main reservoirs, on March 1 of this year. More from Statesman.com.
“We need to be very careful in not misleading the people that we can build our way out of this problem,” he said, noting the loss of agriculture and undeveloped land is a direct threat to water quality and that no amount of reservoirs or pipelines could replace the water needed if Texas loses the natural systems it is dependent on. Read more from SA Express-News.
The San Antonio Water System is considering loosening watering restrictions that should make drought-weary residents happy, allowing them, for example, to wash their cars at home on Saturdays. Read full SA Express-News article.
New Braunfels Utilities reported a surge in water use this week after experiencing a dramatic drop the week before when the utility banned the use of sprinklers and irrigation systems. Average daily water consumption by its 25,000 customers dipped to about 11 million gallons last week during the first-ever implementation of Stage 3 restrictions, said NBU spokeswoman Gretchen Reuwer. Read more from SA Express-News.
The Coalition for Equitable Water Rates (CEWR), a ratepayers’ group fighting a proposed 71 percent water-rate hike, said in a press release that it presented arguments recently in a formal hearing of its rate case against Canyon Lake Water Service Co. (CLWSC). Read more from Herald-Zeitung Online.
Carrying water so precious it has been called liquid gold, the 23 major rivers in Texas flow past pastures and cities, factories and suburbs. These waters have endured the wettest and driest of years, but experts say the rivers’ biggest stresses now come from the multitude of demands from industries, municipalities, agriculture, environment and wildlife. Learn More
Texas Lake Levels around the state are alarming. Check out this telling graphic. Link to more water related information at http://WatrNews.com. See a snapshot of lake levels around the state. Good material within the rest of website as well.
Because different parts of Texas have unique water needs and challenges, the Legislature has parceled the state into manageable areas. Region K is one of 16 regional water planning groups created to craft policy at a local level. If you live in the Colorado River Basin, your region is K. Region K is now taking public input regarding non-municipal water demands for long-term future planning. Show Austin that you are paying attention. Learn more and voice your opinion.
As stewards of more than 95 percent of the landscape in Texas, private landowners do have a huge role to play in our water future, and they are not getting much help. Texas loses rural and agricultural land faster than any other state, and this continued fragmentation of family lands is irrevocably impairing the function of our watersheds and aquifer recharge zones, as well as increasing nonpoint source pollution, which is runoff from agricultural fields, highways, parking lots and an increasingly paved-over countryside. Read full article by Andrew Sansom.
Texas is the only Western state where rule of capture is law. That may work well for property owners wanting to sell their groundwater, or sell their mineral rights, but not so great for most of the rest of the population that relies on water as a life source. Read full article by Joe Nick Patoski.
The 2012 Texas Water Plan produced by the Texas Water Development Board reports that water supplies for the Hill Country are insufficient to meet projected municipal (urban and rural) water demands during the next severe drought. The report identifies 60 Hill Country municipal water suppliers (i.e. city utilities and water districts) that will have water shortages. For many of the suppliers, the water demands are substantially greater than the supplies. View Presentation by Raymond Slade, HCA Advisory Board and Technical Team member.
More than miles separate the rice farms of the Texas coast and the Highland Lakes, where the outward march of Austin is marked by each new house, strip mall and marina. They are divided by how to share the water of the Colorado River, pitting agriculture against recreation in a state that values both. Read more from SA Express-News.
“The goal would be to provide water to a portion of Hays County where the General Land Office owns at least 4,500 acres. Bringing water to that land would make the property more valuable, increasing any asking price the land office sets for it,” Patterson said. Read full Statesman article here. “But isn’t desalination expensive and energy-intensive?” Learn more from StateImpact Texas.
On day five of the Aspen Ideas Festival, leading thinkers on water issues gathered on a panel to discuss the question, "Is Water the Next Global Security Threat?" “The key will be harnessing the political will to fix the problems and iniquities in our distribution system”. Read More
After the drought of record in the 1950s, the state responded by building a record number of new water projects. In fact, 65 percent of the reservoir capacity statewide was built between the 1960s and 1980s. As the fears of drought subsided, development of these projects also waned. Now, the Texas population is 25 million versus 8 million in the 1950s. Our industrial base is four times larger. The self-imposed moratorium on addressing our water demands needs to end. Read more from SA Express News.
Reclaimed water "is a way to stretch our existing supplies and potentially avoid expensive infrastructure projects," said Myron Hess, the manager of the Texas water program for the National Wildlife Federation. Putting potable water on grass is especially wasteful, environmentalists say. Read more from Texas Tribune.
“We not only have to consider the main Guadalupe River flowing from western Kerr Co. to the Gulf, but the Medina, San Antonio, Blanco, Comal and San Marcos Rivers to deal with all water uses and flows. And, these rivers are all spring flow originated which ties river flows directly into groundwater use in the headwaters region.” Mike Mecke explains his disappointment in TCEQ proposal that doesn’t follow stakeholder recommendations. Read the full article here.
A Texas process is in place to make collaborative regional decisions about the health of our water systems – in order to work, citizens must be involved. The San Marcos River Foundation (SMRF) is one of the best regional examples of organized citizen activism. Proposed TCEQ management rules for the San Marcos River, (also the Colorado, Lavaca, San Antonio and Guadalupe Rivers) do not reflect the conservative and balanced goals set forth by stakeholders. TCEQ is proposing more business as usual permitting and withdrawals. People must speak up by May 14th. Learn More
The conservation community is reeling with outrage and disbelief over the unreasonable rejection of reasonable recommendations aimed at balancing the needs of man and nature with rational protections for river flow. Read more from Caller.com.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) proposed a rule on Friday, April 13th that will determine the amount of water that must remain flowing in Central and South Central Texas rivers and into the region’s bays to sustain fish and wildlife populations. Unfortunately, this rule fails to include many of the protections recommended by the region’s stakeholder committees, leaving fish, oysters, whooping cranes and other wildlife high and dry. However, the good news is that there is still time to improve the rule by voicing support for stronger flow protections to the TCEQ Commissioners during the public comment period, which runs from now until May 14, 2012. Learn more from NWF.
The amount of water that should be left in the San Antonio, Guadalupe and Colorado river basins to maintain their health and the bays they feed will be based on proposed rules published Thursday by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality in the Texas Register. For the two legislatively appointed stakeholder groups that spent the past year and half working on compromises between the science-based environmental needs of the basins and the growing demand for water, the proposed rules are a disappointment, leaving less water in the rivers than they recommended, according to the chairs of the groups. The TCEQ representatives explained that they did not follow the recommendations of the stakeholders, which represented industrial, recreational, environmental and business interests, because they had balanced the needs of humans and nature. Read full SA Express-News article.
CTWC March Headlines: “No Lake Water for the Rice Fields”; “House Natural Resources Committee Explores Drought Options”; “46th TX Legislative Conference Looks at Drought and the TX Economy” “CTWC Sponsors Bass Fishing Tournament on the Highland Lakes April 21‐22”; and “Sen. Fraser to address the CTWC April 26 Meeting”. Read the full news blast here. More about the CTWC here.
Brian Richter, an international authority on river conservation and the director of The Nature Conservancy’s Global Freshwater Program, will be the keynote speaker for a statewide water conference being held by the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club in Austin on Friday, April 27. Read More
Exactly how (the decision) will change the game is what everyone is trying to figure out. The case clearly established two things. First, that landowners legally own the groundwater underneath their land, and second, that landowners may be owed compensation if state or local regulations go too far in limiting the amount of groundwater landowners can pull. Beyond that things start to get a little murky. Read more from NPR.
The Lower Colorado River Authority’s decision to deprive downstream rice farmers of water – for the first time ever – was an especially dramatic example of the historic Texas drought’s continuing impact, even as unexpected winter rains have mitigated its severity somewhat. Read more from Texas Climate News.
For decades, the city drew most of its water from Lake Meredith...But Lake Meredith has fallen to historically low levels. “This year, for the first time in 40 years, it’s gone.” Read more from Texas Climate News.
Texas Comptroller Susan Combs released today The Impact of the 2011 Drought and Beyond – an analysis of the effects of the severe 2011 drought in Texas, current and future water resources in the state and innovative solutions being used in Texas and elsewhere in the Southwest to solve the water crisis. “Planning and managing water use will be of utmost importance for the state’s growth and prosperity,” Combs said. “While recent rains have helped put a dent in drought severity in different parts of the state, we’re not out of the woods. Texas is prone to cycles of drought which makes it important for residents, businesses and state and local governments to manage water use. Every Texan has a stake in water issues the state faces.” Read the Impact of the 2011 Drought and Beyond online.
It's official. According to the National Climatic Data Center, the year 2011 was the driest on record. The average total rainfall across the state was 14.88 inches, beating the previous record low of 14.99 inches established in 1917. Now, more than ever, is the time for each of us to take an active role in water conservation in order to extend our existing water supplies. Without waiting for plans and finances or rains to catch up, there are ways to increase your water supply today. Read full Statesman.com commentary by HCA's Milan Michalec.
Fifty years ago, Texas experienced the drought of record — which simply means the worst drought we had ever seen. Following that drought, big thinkers made big decisions. They invested in infrastructure to expand existing surface water supplies, cultivate unexplored groundwater supplies, and store and conserve more water. The investments of the 1950s have gotten us this far, but won't carry us much further. Read more from Statesman.com.
After months of vetting by a diverse volunteer stakeholder committee made up of scientists, developer interests, landowners, residents and groundwater planning professionals Travis County Commissioners unanimously passed recommended new subdivision rules dealing with water use. “Already built or planned subdivisions and those with five or fewer lots that use surface water or have a rainwater collection system to back up groundwater would be exempt from the rules.” Read a brief from the Austin American Statesman that includes a link to the feature article from earlier this week here. Read Travis County staff summary to the Court here.
Is water too cheap? Perhaps the most obvious indication that it is, said Michael Webber, a University of Texas professor who heads a research group focused on water and energy, is how freely we use it. A growing population requires more water, which the state says can't come from one source. Addressing the state's water needs requires a range of solutions, most of which are expensive. Read more from Statesman.com.
LCRA is taking public comment on the proposed revision to the Water Management Plan for lakes Travis and Buchanan. The plan is posted at LCRA.org. Comments can be submitted by email to email@example.com. The LCRA Board will consider the plan at its February 22 meeting. Comments are due February 9. Learn More
The state's population is expected to nearly double by 2060, from 25.4 million people to 46.3 million, according to the state water plan. New management strategies and supply projects are needed to meet the state's residential, business and agricultural water needs. Failure to act could result in devastating business losses, lost jobs and reduced incomes, the state plan says; public health and economic development will suffer. More from Statesman.com.
Dwindling supplies of water and electricity are imperiling the state's economic future, a Texas Senate committee was told Tuesday. Read more from Statesman.com.
“The primary message of the 2012 State Water Plan is a simple one: In serious drought conditions, Texas does not and will not have enough water to meet the needs of its people, its businesses, and its agricultural enterprises.” Learn more from TWDB. Read what Tom Mason, former LCRA General Manager has to say about the plan here.
Texas water authorities at every level are on alert. Last summer’s extremely hot, dry weather was a wake-up call. Now more than a dozen Texas towns are in danger of running out of water. Texas is in a water crisis. To make it official, the Texas Water Development Board December report says the state reservoirs are extremely low even after some autumn rain. Read more from CleanHouston.org.
Over the past 500 years, Central Texas has seen droughts far worse than the 1950s drought of record, according to a report commissioned by the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority and published Wednesday in the December issue of the Texas Water Journal. Researchers warn that makers of water policy should broaden their planning to factor in the possibility of droughts far worse than the spell that set the bar more than a half-century ago. Read more from Statesman.com.
Across the state, a growing number of suburban Texans are getting their water from large, private corporations owned by investors seeking to profit off the sale of an essential resource. State figures show private companies are seeking more price increases every year, and many are substantial. Read full Statesman.com article.
So, what happens when local residents and landowners don’t agree with the groundwater management plan handed down by a regional governing body that affects the future of a precious, local groundwater resource? The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) has a process for such situations, and it’s now playing out with precision in the Wimberley Valley of Hays County. Read More
Environmental groups say that upcoming decisions by state water officials will determine the future of Central and South Central Texas rivers and bays as well as oysters, shrimp, whooping cranes, and other fish and wildlife – and economic industries dependent upon those resources. Read More
The water shortage in Texas can certainly use some prayers, and maybe even some rain dances. But it's going to take more than that — much more. That was the conclusion Saturday of panelists at a session called "The Coming Crisis Over Water." Read more from Go San Angelo.
The Texas Water Development Board has posted the 2012 State Water Plan in draft form for public review and comment. This is your opportunity to provide input to the State of Texas about the future of our water resources. An email option makes it easy to send comments. Several public meetings will be held to gather input including October 3rd in San Antonio followed by a formal public hearing in Austin on October 17th. Learn more from TWDB.
The Barton Spring Edwards Aquifer Conservation District issued an update this week about drought conditions, conservation and restrictions to expect. “The District asks all of its groundwater-using residents to continue their water conservation measures and be even better stewards of an increasingly scarce resource. A list of water conservation measures and more detailed information on aquifer conditions are available on District’s website at http://www.bseacd.org.” Read the Aquifer Bulletin here.
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.
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
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.
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.
This week The Texas Tribune is featuring the five part series about the LCRA,Water Fight, about the devastating drought’s affect on the diverse interests in the Highland Lakes. “Three major power plants are using about 45 percent more water now versus two years ago.”
On the cliffs surrounding Central Texas’ large Lake Buchanan, a white ring extends some 13 feet above the shoreline, marking where the water reaches when the lake is full. At nearby Lake Travis, staircases that once led to the water’s edge now end well above it. These two lakes serve as key water sources for dozens of cities and hundreds of farmers, as well as for several power plants. Read more from Texas Tribune here.
As of Wednesday, the Llano River, which normally courses through town at 158 cubic feet per second this time of year, was flowing at 3.8 cubic feet per second — the slowest since 1953, according to the U.S. Geological Survey. The river is the city's sole source of drinking water. Read full Statesman.com article here.
The Lower Colorado River Authority says there is enough water, even in dry times, for a proposed coal-fired power plant in Matagorda County — a finding that all but removes one of the last hurdles for the controversial project. Read full Houston Chronicle article here.
The Llano River was recently named one of the “Top Ten Waters to Watch” for 2011. This ranking will be discussed and celebrated at June 25th meeting of the South Llano Watershed Alliance. Read more
In one of its first major water contracts since a record drought left the basin stricken in 2009, the board of the Lower Colorado River Authority could decide on Wednesday to sell at least 8.3 billion gallons of water a year to a proposed coal-fired power plant near the Gulf coast. Read full Statesman.com article here.
The adopted Desired Future Conditions for our aquifers will cause the Colorado River to lose its base-flow by 2060. Environmental Stewardship illustrates this point and introduces “Project Game-Changer” Learn more
The general manager of the Lower Colorado River Authority announced his resignation Tuesday, setting off a potential battle over the future of the enormous Central Texas wholesale electricity and water supplier. Read full Texas Tribune article here.
The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality on April 20 granted LCRA a permit to capture water from the Colorado River downstream of Austin during high flows and store it in yet-to-be-built reservoirs in the lower basin. Read more from LCRA here. Read more from the Austin American Statesman here.
In the latest sign of how dry the recent drought has been, Lower Colorado River Authority officials announced Wednesday that the flow of water from streams and creeks into the Colorado River over the past six months is worse than any similar period during the worst-ever drought. Read more from Statesman.com here.
A report released last month by the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority regarding water planning in Kendall County and Fair Oaks Ranch is based on estimates of available groundwater that are substantially different - 67 percent less - than estimates released by the Texas Water Development Board on Feb. 7. Read full Boerne Star article here.
Senate committee takes up measure that would equate groundwater with private property. Read full Statesman.com article here.
“There is little or no understanding of a term that is familiar to ranchers called 'carrying capacity'. On a ranch or a pasture, it means the numbers of animals, including livestock and wildlife, which can be maintained without damaging the desired rangeland vegetation...I think towns, cities, counties and regions also have a sustainable carrying capacity for people.” Read this insightful article by Mike Mecke here.
The Keep Our Water Association has launched campaign in response to an ongoing movement by private investors to pass legislation that will allow the transport Edwards water away from the rural western region. The mission: To protect and preserve the wellbeing of the western portion of the Edwards Aquifer and those citizens and businesses that are affected by it. Learn more here.
What began in the 1990s as an effort by the Lower Colorado River Authority to bail out failing, far-flung sewage and water systems, eventually became a utility and infrastructure spree as the LCRA extended its clout, transforming the development of the Hill Country in the process. But in November, the LCRA announced that it would sell 32 systems it still controlled because they collectively cost about $3 million more to operate than they raise in rates. Read full Statesman.com article here.
The State Bar of Texas’ water rights conference is coming up February 24 – 25th at the Hyatt Hill Country Resort and Spa. Anyone interested in becoming better educated about water law, groundwater management, state water planning, environmental flows is welcome to register. Program details and registration here.
At their meeting Tuesday, SAWS voted unanimously to adopt a resolution that ended a five year long legal dispute between SAWS and the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance, the Helotes Heritage Association, the City of Grey Forest, the San Geronimo Valley Alliance, and the Hill Country Planning Association. Learn more
Read more here.
Next legislative session, during the few minutes not taken up with the budget, redistricting and immigration, an old stand-by of an issue could creep onto the agenda: water. Observers say legislative proposals on groundwater rights are probable, given that Texas is just wrapping up a controversial process for planning the allocation of water from aquifers, while environmentalists will be pushing more measures for water conservation. Read more from the Texas Tribune here.
Pay attention to this reminder of how drought and growing water demands have sapped the Colorado River (the other Colorado River) and its huge reservoirs. Click here
By Friday's deadline, 13 potential sellers responded to San Antonio Water System's request to help diversify its water sources. With the new approach, water sellers would compete to do the work — obtain pumping permits and pipeline easements, financing construction and, in some cases, work to change state law to allow for a pipeline to be built. Read full San Antonio Express article here.
Long reliant on one source of water for much of Central Texas, the Lower Colorado River Authority will study alternate sources to meet future demands of the growing region, according to a plan the authority’s board approved Wednesday. Read more from Statesman.com here.
While the establishment of water districts to cover the entire state may be boiling over with some municipalities, a $21 billion shortfall in the state’s budgeting is likely to curtail any serious reform measures. Read full Lake Travis View article here.
The water marketers have taken steps to get Bastrop and Lee county groundwater against our wishes.” The Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority (GBRA) and the South Central Texas Regional Water Planning Group (Region L) move towards a $400 million pipeline from Bastrop, Lee and Burleson counties to San Marcos and San Antonio. Learn more here.
Hoping to broker a massive deal that would send water from beneath counties east of Austin in a $400 million pipeline to San Antonio, the general manager of a Central Texas river authority has asked the region's chief private water developers to convene in Seguin on Friday. Read full Statesman.com article here.
A Texas Watershed Steward training program will be held from 8 a.m.- 4 p.m. Sept. 21 at the Utopia Senior Center on Main Street in Uptopia. The program is sponsored by Texas AgriLife Extension Service and the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board in coordination with the Nueces River Authority. Details
An intensive process to plan out the maximum depletion of aquifers over the next half-century has been completed just ahead of the Sept. 1 deadline. Read full Texas Tribune article here.
Riparian areas are important components of the landscape and water cycle. Please read Steve Nelle’s (NRCS) “Riparian Notes”, learn about taking care of your water resources. More information and details about upcoming workshops here.
The board of the San Antonio River Authority has come out against the state lowering water quality standards for any of the creeks and rivers it oversees. Other Hill Country river basins are looking at this issue carefully. Sign a petition supporting high standards and learn more here.
State Representative Doug Miller and TWDB Board Member Thomas Weir Labatt III will headline the fall meeting of the Texas Water Conservation Association (TWCA), scheduled for October 13-15, 2010, at the Crowne Plaza Riverwalk Hotel in San Antonio. The program will also include numerous presentations on surface and groundwater management. Registration information and a full agenda should be available on the TWCA website by mid-August.
After nearly four years of hydrology modeling and politicking, representatives from groundwater districts in Kendall and eight other Hill Country counties decided Monday to limit the drawdown of aquifer levels to no more than 30 feet over the next 50 years. Read full Boerne Star article here.
Ray, who has a weekend place on Lake Buchanan, waters his lawn by pumping water from the lake.” LCRA is asking property owners to pay up. Read more from Water Matters.
Rodney Smith's pitch to the Uvalde City Council this week was all about water, but the reception seemed more like the kind you'd see extended to a carnival hustler trying to engage the local citizenry in a game of Three-Card Monte. Read full San Antonio Express article here.
There was standing room only at the Uvalde City Council meeting as citizens crowded into council chambers to hear about the Uvalde Water Project pipeline. Southwest Texas Water Resources wants to construct a 67-mile pipeline from Uvalde County to San Antonio to transport Edwards Aquifer water. City Council says “no”. Read more here.
Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine’s ninth annual water issue is on the news stand now and is a useful resource to engage readers with current water issues that affect their lives. The full text of the issue is also available on the magazine’s website.
Treated sewage effluent that the City of Fredericksburg contracted in 2006 to sell to Boot Ranch is finally available to the troubled golf resort. Read full San Antonio Express article here. Read more from Fredericksburg Standard here.
"Groundwater is covered by an archaic law that could leave use high and dry." Read the full article by Nick Patoski, Texas Observer here.
The Center for Watershed Protection has been collaborating with the US Geological Survey's Effects of Urbanization on Stream Ecosystems research group to help interpret and disseminate the study results to local watershed managers and planners so they can base land use and management decisions on the best available science. Read more.
What is the economic loss to Wimberley if water flow or quality declines in Cypress Creek? What is a CCN? Rainwater harvesting and water conservation tips…this newsletter is a must read for everyone in Hays County and those in the Hill Country Region who would like to learn about the importance of watershed based planning. Click here for more.
EDF hosts “Texas Water Solutions” an informative blog for citizen participation in state water planning processes. A torrent of draft regional water plans have flooded the state this spring, as a part of the state’s regional water planning process. Public hearings and public comment periods on these draft plans present critical opportunities for Texans to let planners know their opinions about how best to meet the future water needs of people and the environment in your area. Visit the blog for more information.
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service may decide by the end of the year whether 11 species of mussels are endangered. If the answer is yes, the state's river authorities might have to recalculate how much water they can distribute to industry, farmers and growing cities and still leave enough in Texas' already stressed rivers to keep mussels healthy. Read full Statesman.com article here.
Last year State Comptroller Susan Combs urged lawmakers to take action to avoid a major water shortage in the wake of two decades of explosive population growth. Read full Amarillo Globe News article here.
Billionaire T. Boone Pickens wants a court to derail state approval of a water management plan that he claims would take $10 million off the value of his groundwater rights in the Texas Panhandle. Read full Statesman.com article here.
In a move that it says will save money and is a practical strategy for monitoring the state's waterways, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has proposed loosening its water quality standards. Read full Statesman.com article here.
Texas Water Matters is an outstanding resource on all things related to water planning in Texas. The site is full of current information on all water planning processes. Recently the project added new features to their website illustrating the “interconnectivity” of surface and ground water supplies. Check out the Living Waters Project and specifically the latest material on interconnectivity here.
Perhaps the timing isn’t best (the drought has lifted and attention has drifted elsewhere) but the National Wildlife Federation and the Sierra Club released a report this week on water conservation efforts in nineteen Texas cities. As the two groups note, the “quality and extent of water conservation programs in Texas’ cities vary considerably.” Read full Texas Observer article here.
The National Wildlife Federation and the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club released a joint report today recommending seven common-sense water conservation measures. The report reviews 19 cities around the state to see where these measures are in place and concludes that, with some exceptions, most of the cities surveyed are not doing enough to make the most efficient use of existing water supplies. Read more...
The board of the Edwards Aquifer Authority on Tuesday moved toward limiting development over the entire recharge zone of the aquifer from Hays to Uvalde counties. Controlling the amount of impervious cover, or the square footage of parking lots and roofs, on top of the recharge zone is a step the authority has contemplated since 2003 to protect water quality. Read full SA Express article here.
Now is the time to let LCRA know your ideas for managing the water in the Highland Lakes. Meetings will be held in Austin, Burnet and El Campo, you can also provide input in writing or take an online survey. Learn more...
The state environmental office Wednesday denied a request to repeal a ban on the discharge of treated wastewater into the Highland Lakes, which serve as the prime recreation and water supply reservoirs in Central Texas. The decision, made at a meeting of the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, ends a public policy discussion that boiled down to water quality versus water quantity. Read full Statesman.com article here.
Industrial facilities dumped 13 million pounds of toxic chemicals into Texas’ waterways in 2007, according to a report released today by Environment Texas: Wasting Our Waterways: Industrial Toxic Pollution and the Unfulfilled Promise of the Clean Water Act. The report also finds that toxic chemicals were discharged in 1,900 waterways across all 50 states. The information detailed in this report was compiled from the Environmental Protection Agency’s database on toxic release inventories. Read full media release here.
In the United States, we constantly fret about running out of oil. But we should be paying more attention to another limited natural resource: water. A water crisis is threatening many parts of the country -- not just the arid West. Read full article here.
The spring-fed Cypress Creek and surrounding Hill Country landscape is a unique and cherished natural system located in and around Wimberley, Texas. Learn about what’s being done to protect this resource, check out the latest Cypress Creek Project newsletter here.
Texas contains nearly 200,000 miles of streams and rivers. Thirteen of the state’s 15 rivers flow through metropolitan areas supply-ing water for more than 22 million people. Twenty percent of those people depend on a single river: the Trinity. To supply water for people while balancing the needs for wildlife, positive things must happen on the landscape — 95 percent of which is in private hands. - Read full TPWD article here.
On May 12th, about three-dozen Llano County neighbors and their attorneys and consultants made the trip to Texas Parks and Wildlife Headquarters to discuss a proposed permit to remove sand and gravel from the Llano River. Joining them in Austin were several interested persons who offered insight into how a decision on this permit could shape state policy towards the management of rivers. Read full Llano News article here.
Sixty feet below the shimmering surface of Jacob’s Well, an artesian spring that for thousands of years has pulsed iridescent blue-green water from the Trinity Aquifer to the surface, a sophisticated instrument measures the spring’s vital signs. The results are beamed almost instantaneously to the Internet. These days the gauge detects only the thinnest of pulses. Read the full Texas Observer article here.
"In a called meeting following Monday’s Presidents’ Day holiday, the Llano City Council on Tuesday heard a report from local hydrologist Tyson Broad on how the current drought will continue to adversely affect the city’s water supply unless we receive more rain," writes Dale Fry for the Bandera Bulletin. "Citing current stream flow figures, Broad expressed concern for the future of Llano’s water supply and recommended that the city begin now to determine at what point it should take steps to conserve its supply of the precious liquid." Read the full Bulletin story here.
"The River Systems Institute has prepared an overview of drought conditions in Central Texas from several sources. In summary, it appears difficult to compare the current situation to the 50s because of the duration of the 50s drought, and Central Texas did have rain in 2007. But although on a shorter time frame, this drought has been more severe than even portions of the 50s drought, especially in the Central Texas." Read the full summary from the River Systems Institute at TSU here.
"The Colorado River may be drying up as a potential source of drinking water for San Antonio," writes Jerry Needham for the San Antonio Express-News. "The San Antonio Water System is spending millions of dollars looking into bringing Colorado River water to the Alamo City, but scientific studies, and now maybe policy decisions by the board that oversees the river, continue to shrink the amount of water available and cause the estimated costs to skyrocket." Read the full Express-News story here.
"Although urban areas take just three percent of U.S. land, their loss of water-retaining soil and vegetation -- and their polluted runoff from impervious surfaces, lawns, vehicles, industries, and construction sites -- have harmed all urban streams, and, on a larger scale, caused most impairment of 13 percent of rivers, 18 percent of lakes, and 32 percent of estuaries, concludes the National Research Council's Committee on Reducing Stormwater Discharge Contribution to Water Pollution," Smart Growth News reports. Read the full story here.
HCA is partnering with Schreiner University, Texas Tech University and Texas Public Radio to present a series of four free lectures and forums designed to engage Central Texans in the water and growth issues of our area. Read about the Texas Water Symposia here, and read the full press release for the event here.
"Environmental Defense Fund's South Llano River Project was initiated in early 2008 to begin discussions with local and regional stakeholders on the interest and feasibility of developing a plan of action to ensure the long-term protection of this rich and unique resource," writes Texas Water Matters. "Work will initially focus on the South Llano River, however there is potential for eventually widening the project area to include the greater Llano River watershed." Join the project on November 15 in Junction and read the details and pre-register to attend here.
"Jacob's Well, the famous natural spring known to be the longest underwater cave in Texas, stopped flowing for the second time in recorded history on the evening of October 20th," reports the Wimberley Valley Watershed Association in a press release. "Jacob's Well has been hovering at between one and two cubic feet per second for the past several months. Jacob's Well is the barometer for the health of the aquifer; the well ceasing to flow at this time is a major environmental event, as it stopped for the first time in recorded history in the summer of 2000." Read more after the jump.
"The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality recently formed a new Water Quality Planning Division dedicated to improving water quality with Kelly Keel as director," reports the Texas Water Resources Institute. "The division has three sections: Planning and Implementation, Monitoring and Assessment and the Houston Laboratory." Read the full story here.
In the latest edition of Preserve Our Water's newsletter, the organization discusses: Current Blanco County drought conditions, Blanco-Pedernales Groundwater Conservation District's drought stage, Jacob’s Well running dry, Central Texas' drought, an update to the GMA 9 Desired Future Conditions, and our own Hill Country Alliance 2009 Calendars. Read more after the jump.
"The tendency of humans to build, live and play in and near attractive riparian areas has resulted in stream banks having been stripped of vegetation, paved, compacted and littered with all kinds of trash," writes Jan Wrede, Director of Education at Cibolo Nature Center. "These highly impaired riparian zones now cost taxpayers hundreds of millions of dollars to restore...Protecting the Cibolo Creek from degradation and preserving its natural good health is part of our generation's mandate to provide for sustainable living in this wonderful town." Read more after the jump.
The Texas Legislature is gearing up for another session and these lawmakers are working on changes to Texas Water Laws. New topics include "dam safety, new electric generation sources and technologies, mercury and arsenic emissions, water and energy needs and challenges, water salinity technology, monitoring implementation of HB 1763 as it relates to Groundwater Management Areas, related groundwater issues in areas without a groundwater conservation district, evaluation of increasing caps on export fees, and review of the powers of state river authorities," according to an article in Livestock Weekly. Read their full story after the jump.
"Drought and an agreement to release water to help keep downstream trout alive have left Canyon Lake just inches above the lowest level ever reached after the reservoir was first filled in 1968," writes Roger Croteau for the San Antonio Express-News. "Canyon Lake's normal level is 909 feet above mean sea level, and its historic low was 899.7 feet in December 1984. On Monday the lake, which has been dropping about an inch a day, stood at 900.11 feet."'
Read the full Express-News story here.
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What is your vision of the Hill Country that future generations will inherit? The Hill Country Alliance (HCA) asks this question as it calls for photographs for its 2016 calendar. The annual HCA photo contest opens on March 1 and runs through May 31. Winners receive cash prizes and their photos will appear in the popular HCA calendar and in the organization’s various educational products. Entering the contest is easy through the HCA website. Learn more
"Over the past 15 years, I have studied more than 1,000 springs, closely examining the relationship between springs and the health of the aquifer. I have discovered that springs are of inestimable value to plants and wildlife in landscapes where they occur and have also learned that springs continue to be as important to populations today as they were thousands of years ago. We have also found that in many ways, springs are the canary in the coal mine for groundwater sources." Read more from the National Geographic.
The Trinity Edwards Springs Protection Association (TESPA) today announced its formation as a Texas non-‐profit corporation created to protect these aquifers and their associated springs. In the process, TESPA seeks to bring clarity to the groundwater property rights associated with owning land over the Trinity and Edwards Aquifers and associated springs. Learn more
The second Bennett Trust educational program will take place April 23-24, 2015 at the Inn of the Hills Resort and Conference Center, Kerrville. This first-of-its-kind conference, “Protecting the Legacy of the Edwards Plateau,” will bring the best and wisest, accomplished stewards, visionaries, and legacy-leavers together as educators. Details
While it was once widely assumed that heavy brush like cedar was keeping rainwater from recharging our streams and groundwater systems, science seems to indicate that it's not quite that simple. When done with care and an eye toward restoration, brush control can be beneficial to ecosystem health. Just be realistic about the likelihood that it will fill your stream or stock pond. Read more from Texas Wildlife Magazine.
Ten high school students in Pioneers Youth Leadership were awarded $24,000 in scholarships and cash awards last week at the Capital Farm Credit Rural Youth Entrepreneurship Competition at the San Antonio Stock Show and Rodeo. “Participating in this competition has given me confidence that I can successfully start and run a business in my hometown,” said Steeley Smith. “I was able to learn so much about the positive impacts of rainwater collection through my research,” said Jessica Dong of Knippa. Learn more
A recent article in the Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine profiles some of the biggest problem species invading Texas lakes and waterways, and finds that the damage they are inflicting could cost Texans billions of dollars - and millions of gallons of water - each year. "It's a war, and you are involved." Read more from TPW Magazine.
Learn the basics of birding at the Cibolo Nature Center & Farm. “Birding is good for you physically, mentally and spiritually. You get outside, you use your brain, and it’s about something bigger than you,” says Patsy Inglet of San Antonio. The veteran birder and certified Master Naturalist teaches Introduction to Birding workshops with her birdster husband Tom Inglet. Their next class at the center is 9 a.m. to noon March 28. Learn more
Environment Texas Research and Policy Center has launched a new website - www.OurTexasWater.org highlighting some of the best and worst projects in the State Water Plan. The website features an interactive map where Texans can find projects in their communities that get either a Thumbs Up or Thumbs Down for their impact to our rivers, aquifers and natural resources. The website currently gives a thumbs down to the proposed Marvin Nichols Reservoir in northeast Texas, pumping of the Carrizo Wilcox Aquifer in Bastrop County and a Val Verde County water project which could threaten the Devils River.
“With supplies depleted by drought, the population growing daily and few large water projects in our immediate future, new development must minimize their water demands to protect the lakes, aquifers, and rivers. The counties surrounding the rapidly growing major cities will play a huge role in how we wisely use or diminish our water supplies and in the end determine the State’s economic attractiveness to the nation.” Read more from Tom Hegemier, chair of the Central Texas Land Water Sustainability Forum.
“Well drillers are locating these gaps in water district jurisdictions and exploiting them for pure profit,” said PEC District 6 Director Larry Landaker, who sponsored the resolution. “What is happening in Hays County through the misuse of the rule of capture is tantamount to the theft of water by one community to serve another. … That volume of water could … create a serious economic impact to the Hill Country communities we serve. Economic impact to the Hill Country is economic impact to PEC.” Read more from PEC.
As the story of unregulated groundwater in Hays County unfolds, there are two websites worth paying attention to for current information about citizen involvement. Citizen’s Alliance for Responsible Development (CARD) and Save Our Wells.
Many hill country people have been following the Flying J story in Junction; a poster child for ongoing threats to Hill Country rivers due to a lack of rules and oversight. View this video, read final testimony to the City of Junction here.
Come on out to Enchanted Rock this weekend to celebrate the stars! The first Enchanted Rock Star Festival will be February 21 at the Enchanted Rock State Natural Area in Fredericksburg. According to Melissa Mial, event spokesperson, the purpose of the inaugural event is to celebrate Enchanted Rock’s designation as an International Dark Sky Park and Wildlife’s Dark Sky Initiative and increase awareness of the benefits of dark sky friendly lighting. Learn more
Op-ed by Ron Walton: “I am not against growth but know the importance of being able to provide the infrastructure to support it. Unfortunately, I see a growing tendency however for growth in the area at all cost which, especially in the Hill Country (my specialty as a Hydro-geologist with background in water wells, septics, and geomorphology) I think does a disservice to all current residents like myself who came here recently.” Read more
Preliminary 2014 data shows the drought gripping the Highland Lakes is now the most severe drought the region has experienced since construction of the lakes began in the 1930s. As a direct result of the prolonged record-dry conditions and record-low inflows from the streams and tributaries feeding the Highland Lakes, the “firm yield,” or inventory of water LCRA can provide reliably every year, has been decreased by about 100,000 acre-feet, to 500,000 acre-feet per year. (An acre-foot of water is 325,851 gallons.) Further reductions in firm yield are possible as the drought continues. Read more
“As built artifacts, the county courthouses of central Texas tell a compelling story of a particular part of the country over a specific period of time. But more than a mere index of a building type, this project seeks to describe how county courthouses and the squares in which they sit relate to the larger communities that surround them.” Read more from TPR. HCA likes to imagine Hill Country courthouses with native landscaping and rainwater harvesting.
“Communities need to reevaluate traditional planning approaches if they are to support increasing population and economic expansion in the coming years – particularly in areas with high growth and stressed water supplies,” said Mary Ann Dickinson, President and CEO of the Alliance for Water Efficiency. Read more from the Alliance for Water Efficiency report, "Water Demand Offset Programs Offer a Path to Sustainable Community Development" here.
This week the US Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) announced what many have noticed for the past 20 years- monarch butterfly numbers are on a precipitous decline. Over the past 25 years an estimated 970 million monarchs have disappeared, largely due to loss of habitat. The Texas Hill Country is an important part of the monarch migration route, and USFWS has prioritized the entire I-35 corridor for reestablishing butterfly habitat. That means planting native milkweed and other pollinator-friendly plants. Read more about the efforts to bring monarchs back from the Washington Post
A plan to build a concrete batch plant northwest of Dripping Springs has created an uproar among some residents. The plant, which would be operated as Dripping Wet Concrete, has received a preliminary approval for an air quality standard permit, according to documents provided on the TCEQ website. The plant will release a variety of air contaminants, including aggregate, cement and road dust, the document indicates. Read more from Austin Business Journal. Read more about the lack of county oversight of these issues here.
The National Association of City Transportation Officials (NACTO) – considered one of the country’s most innovative transportation organizations – has selected Austin as the site of its 2015 Designing Cities Conference. Read more from Statesman.com.
A lot has been said about brush control recently, from those who tout it as a way to generate new water supplies to those who argue that it may cause more harm than good. When thinking about brush control on your property, there are some important things to consider. As Steve Nelle describes in this helpful article published in TWA's Texas Wildlife Magazine, the first thing a landowner needs to know is WHY they are undertaking brush control. That will inform the location, intensity and methods of treatment.
“I am a rural Texan family farmer. I am a downstream stakeholder/landowner. I have surface water rights that run with my land. These rights and this river I guard intensely, for they are integral to my livelihood and my children’s future. As some say, they are “golden.” "...The system is broken when we cannot protect our most basic elemental resource – clean water." Read Bill Neiman's story as published in TWA's Texas Wildlife Magazine.
On February 3 Hays County Commissioners’ Court took an important first step, in order to, start the process for legislation to address un-regulated commercial pumping of our groundwater resources. Commissioner Conley is encouraging all jurisdictions in Hays County and surrounding areas to pass similar resolutions. “It’s important our state officials hear from our entire community” stated Commissioner Conley. Read the Resolution. Learn about upcoming public meetings and the latest details on this issue at www.saveourwells.com.
A satellite launched by NASA over the weekend could help people around the world tackle the challenges of drought. Researchers at the University of Texas will play a part in that mission that could also help forecast flooding and allow officials to better manage reservoir water supplies. Read more from State Impact.
There are two events this February where you can learn how to save money, preserve our night skies and enjoy some star gazing with friends and family. Join HCA for "Better Lights for Starry Nights" at the Johnson City Library Feb 17 and Enchanted Rock Star Festival Feb 21. Learn more about protecting night skies here.
Take time to watch and consider “Where Am I? The Power of Uniqueness” A TED talk by Ed McMahon, former Scenic America President. Watch now
Two decades ago, the Legislature dedicated a portion of sporting goods sales-tax proceeds - levied on everything from kayaks to pingpong balls - to state parks. Instead of using these funds as advertised, typically, the bulk of the proceeds are diverted into the general revenue fund to pay for schools, prisons and roads. Read more from the Houston Chronicle.
A diverse group of water and energy experts, known as the Texas Roundtable on Water, will release a thorough set of recommendations at a Legislative Briefing on February 16, 2015 at the State Capitol in the Auditorium Room E1.004. The recommendations are designed to ensure the security and sustainability of water resources for the long term economic and social viability of Texas. Read more
With the San Antonio City Council’s Governance Committee’s unanimous approval, renewal for sales tax funding of the Edwards Aquifer Protection Program (EAPP) and Howard Peak Greenway Trails System is expected to go to the voters on the May 9 ballot. Read more from the Rivard Report.
High school students from Hill Country area schools in Pioneers Youth Leadership attended the Pioneers State Leadership Forum in Austin last week. Over two days, the students worked with state agencies and elected officials to address the challenges faced by rural Texas communities regarding water conservation, youth leadership education, and economic development. Learn more
In mid-western Hays County, a groundwater war is escalating. A private water supplier, with goals to pipe and sell close to 6,000 acre feet of water per year has strategically located a well field in an area of the Hill Country where the Trinity Aquifer is unregulated. Read more from the January 26 blog post by Vanessa Puig-Williams. Also read "Groundwater Wars Brewing in Austin’s Suburbs” published in the Texas Tribune.
Want to see what San Antonio will look like in 2020 and 2030? An interactive tool developed by the Urban Institute lets you look at the future size of U.S. cities and their demographics, and even alter assumptions for birth, death and immigration rates to see how low, average or high metrics will affect long-term growth and population makeup. Read more from the Rivard Report.
Nearly three months after approving the $3.4 billion Vista Ridge water purchase and pipeline deal, City Council now appears poised to authorize renewal of two landmark propositions that have funded protection of the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone and development of the Howard Peak Greenway Trails System for the last 15 years. Learn more from the Rivard Report.
In a recent piece in the Upper Llano River Watershed Protection Plan Newsletter, Dr. Tom Arsuffi explores the value of a healthy, functioning Hill Country ecosystem. In a Texas that is increasingly urbanizing, how do we ensure that our urban centers properly value responsible land management that produces the clean water, resilient wildlife habitat, fresh air and healthy food resources we all need? A related article from High Country News explores the nuances of ecosystem services. It's not as simple as putting a price tag on nature.
Recently elected Texas Department of Agriculture Commissioner Sid Miller said Wednesday that he plans for the agency to play a more active role as it relates to water. “We’re going to have a water department, and we’re going to be very involved,” Miller said at a luncheon during a Lower Colorado River Authority Planning and Public Policy Committee meeting. “And we’re going to be involved in policy.” Read more from the Austin Monitor.
In a classic example of the gaps in Texas' patchwork approach to regulating groundwater, an unprecedented amount of water may soon be pumped from underneath already parched Hays County with virtually no oversight. Read more from the Texas Tribune.
The Hays County Commissioners Court voted unanimously January 20 to form a committee that would hold public forums to discuss concerns over groundwater pumping, particularly in areas where conservation districts have no authority, in the interest of protecting private land rights while promoting public responsibility. Read more from Hays County. Also read related article from Statesman.com: "Critics see conflicts of interest in Hays County water wells".
A decade-old project to build a passenger rail line between the San Antonio and Austin areas picked up steam January 21 with a public meeting of the Lone Star Rail Project. The meeting served as the kickoff to the project’s environmental impact study, which Lone Star Rail Director Joe Black called a “major, major point in the project.” Read more from the Austin Monitor.
On March 4th, hundreds of conservation professionals, land trust volunteers, landowners and agency folks working on land and water conservation issues in Texas will travel to Austin to gather for the 19th annual Texas Land Conservation Conference. Learn more
“Conservation and the importance of preserving our natural habitat are deeply held Texas values,” said Dan Allen Hughes, Chairman of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Commission. “Texas voters understand that a strong and thriving system of state parks contributes to a vibrant economy, is an important source of recreation for Texas families and helps protect the natural environment that makes Texas unique.” Read more
A new player has plans to sell up to 5.3 million gallons of water per day to utilities in Hays County, where rapidly growing communities are increasingly desperate to secure water. But the location of Houston-based Electro Purification’s well field, near the intersection of three water districts, has Hays County officials worried that the company will dodge regulatory oversight and hog more than half of the water available from the Trinity Aquifer — an already-depleted aquifer in the northern part of the county. Read more from Statesman.com
The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service will be conducting public meetings in Helotes and Kerrville in early February to obtain comments on the Southern Edwards Plateau draft Habitat Conservation Plan, draft Environmental Impact Statement and an incidental take permit application. Learn more
Hays County commissioners are pretty sure of one thing: Changes will need to be made to FM 150 if it is to accommodate the increased traffic expected to come as a result of Hays County’s rapid growth. However, commissioners are unsure of what exactly those changes will look like. Read more from Community Impact.
"Texans living in the Hill Country have a deep and abiding understanding of the importance of clear, flowing streams, heritage trees, trash-free landscapes, and a calm, quiet environment. We also have a very strong belief in property rights and the responsibilities that accompany those rights." Read more from Leo Tynan as published in the Fredericksburg Times Standard.
The Hill Country Science Mill in Johnson City will be hold its Grand Opening Celebration February 14 from 10am -6pm. Included will be a presentation by Selah, Bamberger Ranch Preserve as well as live music and fun activities. Proceeds from the Grand Opening will benefit the Science Mill's Scholarship Program, which will help defray the transportation costs for field trips, admission, and enrollment in science programs and camps for qualified students. Learn more
The pumping of water from the Edwards Aquifer, the enormous underground cave system beneath Central Texas, has long been a topic of fierce dispute, involving property rights, endangered species, and drinking water needs. Leading policy-makers, scientists, environmentalists and attorneys will convene Tuesday in San Marcos for a day-long free forum titled History of the Edwards Aquifer Dispute: A View from the Trenches. Read more from Statesman.com.
“These wells are being drilled THROUGH and BELOW the Edwards Aquifer into the underlying Trinity Aquifer, the aquifer that supplies the groundwater for western Hays County, including the Wimberley and Dripping Springs areas (not to mention most of Blanco, Kendall, Bandera and many other Texas counties).” Learn more from CARD about this critical Hill Country issue in an area that is not covered by a Groundwater Conservation District. More from CARD.
Residents of Greater San Antonio area reduced the number of vehicle trips taken on area roads by more than 1 million during 2014, according to AACOG, who sponsors NuRide, an online carpool matching, alternative transportation tracking, and reward system. The eliminated vehicle trips cited by AACOG were those of individuals who walked, cycled, took transit, carpooled/vanpooled, worked a compressed schedule, or telecommuted; and self-reported these trips through NuRide.com. More from AACOG.
Peter Mullan, who helped lead the critically acclaimed redevelopment of New York City's High Line park, has been tapped to lead the Waller Creek Conservancy, which is itself looking to dramatically reshape Waller Creek into a lush greenbelt park running through central Austin. Read more from Austin Business Journal.
If you don't know what water catchment area (watershed) your land is in, you can find it on our map viewer. Landowner networks exist in many fragile hill country water catchments. Learn about current news and events of the South Llano River Watershed Alliance here. If you're interested in networking with landowners in your water catchment, send us a note.
TWDB unveils new tools for observing drought data and trends. "We wanted Texans and all those interested in our state's drought resources to not only see the information we use when evaluating drought in Texas, but also understand why and how we use it," explained Robert Mace. This data is easy to access whether you are doing technical research or simply trying to understand “Drought in your backyard.” More from TWDB.
The LCRA's drought update for the Highland Lakes region is full of interesting- and disappointing - facts. Due to the rainfall in the Colorado watershed coming in dispersed events and generating little runoff, 2014 inflows into the Highland Lakes system were the second lowest on record. In fact, 7 of the 10 lowest inflow years on record have happened since 2006. If the combined storage of the Highland Lakes fall to below 600,000 acre feet, the LCRA board would be forced to declare a drought worse than the drought of record. For more information, read the LCRA's drought update page here.
“San Antonio voters have long recognized that our economy and quality of life rest on protecting the water and green spaces that drew people here centuries ago,” Councilmember Nirenberg said. Renewing this highly successful Hill Country conservation program for a fourth five-year term would require voter approval on the May 9 ballot. Learn more from the Rivard Report.
Should, could and would water be considered “a crop” by agricultural interests to market to water short urban neighbors? And, while protecting their own property’s value, their neighbor’s, natural resources possibly dependent upon that water (springs, creeks, etc.) and the community’s future needs? Read more from Mike Mecke, published in Ranch and Rural Living Magazine.
“The stars at night, are big and bright, deep in the heart of Texas...” The 1942 Hit Parade song paying tribute to the Lone Star State’s starry skies strikes a sour note today in large cities nestled deep in the heart of Texas, where artificial light pollution has rendered all but the very brightest celestial bodies invisible to stargazers. But there’s a meteoric movement in Texas to hit the dimmer switch on manmade illumination that obscures night skies across much of our state. Read more from the January issue of Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine.
Patrick L. Reznik, an attorney with Braun & Gresham, answers a few common questions about the rights of Texas landowners threatened by eminent domain, a process by which private and public entities condemn private lands to build transmission lines, pipelines, rail systems and roads, and to take surface or groundwater. Learn more
Carolyn and Roy Horton are passionate stewards of Sandylands Ranch, a sweeping property that backs up to the Pedernales River in the Hill Country. Texas Land Conservancy (TLC) sat down with Carolyn and Roy to ask them about their stewardship ethic, their love of the land, and their vision for the future of Texas. Read the interview and learn more about TLC including a January 17th hike at Sandylands Ranch.
The Cibolo Nature Center in Boerne plans on starting the new year with a 3-part workshop on Texas's wildlife tax valuation. If you are a landowner with 20 acres or more and are interested in learning more about switching your land from agricultural to wildlife valuation, this is the course for you. More details and registration information available here.
The January/February edition of the Texas Parks and Wildlife Magazine features a profile of Terry Hershey, an important pioneer in the history of conservation. Hershey left a lasting impact on the Hill Country and the rest of Texas by championing the use of conservation easements to permanently protect open spaces. Check out the full story here. Read the entire issue (including a story about protecting our dark night skies) here.
Former President and Texas native Lyndon B. Johnson once said: “Saving the water and the soil must start where the first raindrop falls.” In Texas, where about 95 percent of the land is privately owned, and 83 percent of that land is rural farms, ranches and forests, it is essential that all Texans understand the interconnection of land and water to ensure the healthy stewardship of both, according to natural resource professionals. Read more from TAMU.
The topic of land stewardship has gained a great deal of public attention during recent years. This is a good trend since it helps focus greater awareness to the importance of how the land is treated, and the people who carry out responsible land care. However, land stewardship to some extent, has become a catchphrase; feel-good words; frequently used but seldom clearly defined. In some ways, land stewardship is becoming an over-used slogan; thus the need to clarify its true meaning and character. Read more from Steve Nelle's article published in the Hill Country Land Trust Newsletter.
The legislative session is gearing up, and increasing groundwater production will be the objective of at least a couple of bills. Groundwater will be an important asset for Texas' future water portfolio, but should maximization be the goal? That's one of the questions Our Desired Future is meant to provoke. Read Sharlene Leurig’s recent op-ed in the Texas Tribune.
“Where have all the monarchs gone?” This is becoming an oft repeated query, and Texas Parks and Wildlife Department biologists are asking for citizen help in answering the question. Since monitoring of overwintering monarch butterfly populations 1993, the WWF has documented a significant decline that reached an all-time low in the winter of 2013. Biologists recently launched a project to explore Texas milkweed and determine where it is, how much is out there and are the monarchs using it. Read more.
A TCEQ Public Meeting will be held Monday night, December 15th at 7 pm at Star Hill Ranch to hear concerns about the wastewater treatment plant to service this large, dense proposed development. Community members encourage participation as this development will profoundly change the Hamilton Pool Road neighborhood. View the meeting notice here. You can learn more about this project and other issues affecting the Bee Cave and Hamilton Pool Road community at www.HPRmatters.com.
Water is not traditionally thought of as a crop, but Water As A Crop® and its partners are hoping to change that. This organization promotes the idea that water falling on private, rural land can be effectively conserved and marketed in a manner similar to crops. In exchange for implementing conservation practices, rural landowners receive financial incentives to reimburse their costs. These conservation practices benefit investors and landowners and preserve water for rural and urban communities alike. Read more from Texas Water Resource Institute.
You’ve been hearing about SWIFT for months; TWDB is now ready to implement this revolving loan program for water supply projects. The first round of applications are due February 3rd. Conservation is the least expensive and most efficient strategy of all which is why SWIFT legislation requires that not less than 20 percent of this program (hopefully more) is spent on conservation and reuse. Learn more
Los Angeles is a city that is notorious for its use of water- importing it from hundreds of miles away and delivering stormwater to the Pacific Ocean through the Los Angeles River, which largely has been converted to a concrete ditch. The story that is less often told is how this city of 3.8 million, and cities across the country, have begun implementing conservation practices that have shrunk their water footprint and changed the way we look at stormwater. Read more here.
Despite the fact that Texas counties have very little real control over how unincorporated land is developed, Travis County is giving it its best effort, as Commissioners approved a comprehensive Land Water and Transportation Plan on Tuesday. Read more from Austin Monitor.
Stanley Rabke’s family has lived and worked on their Hill Country ranch since 1889. Generations of Rabkes have struggled with the extremes of Texas weather, but one storm sticks out in Stanley’s memory: it came after the drought of the 1950s. Learn about the Bureau of Economic Geology research the Rabke’s are participating in. Read the full story from Mose Buchele at State Impact.
Comal commissioners are supporting proposed legislation to create the “Comal Trinity Groundwater Conservation District.” “The GCD is necessary because the Trinity, a major source of well water in the Hill Country area west of Interstate 35, already has dropped some 87 feet in the last 15 years” Read more from the New Braunfels Herald-Zeitung.
Storing and using the rainwater that falls on your roof can improve the quality of your drinking water and free you from the restricted use of water for your landscape in time of drought. The Cow Creek GCD has provided several video examples to show how it's done.
Residents are concerned that a sand quarry would destroy the tranquility of the rural community. Because mines typically operate 24 hours a day, 365 days a year, a quarry would bring noise and heavy truck traffic to the area…and because Pontotoc is emerging as a destination for wine tasting, local vintners fear that noise and dust from a mine would bring an end to a growing ecotourism business that has brought visitors to its tasting rooms. Read more from the San Antonio Express News.
The Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance has published "Watershed Stewardship for the Edwards Aquifer Region, a Low Impact Development Manual." The manual was designed for developers, landscape architects, and all of those who live on, or are planning to build over our fragile aquifer recharge areas. Information about techniques that encourage infiltration of clean stormwater on site, and how plantings and landscaping can be used to mitigate stormwater pollution are outlined. Download the manual for free here.
Groundwater rights have been hotly debated in Texas for as long as there has been the ability to pump it. Unlike surface water, which is owned by the state and held in trust for the public, Texas courts have ruled that groundwater is the surface owner’s vested private property. This vested right can be regulated by Groundwater Conservation Districts. Read more from Texas Living Waters.
This 60 Minutes segment on Groundwater Depletion in California’s Central Valley explores California’s drought and the depletion of it’s Central Valley aquifer due to agricultural over-pumping. With dwindling reservoirs here in Central Texas and ever growing population projections, numerous proposals are under consideration to pump and pipe groundwater to the I-35 Corridor and beyond. What can the Hill Country learn from California’s “groundwater overdraft?”
HCA has been recognized as an "HONORARY MEMBER” in the Hays County Chapter of the Texas Master Naturalist for exemplary service and commitment to the community and natural resources of the State of Texas. Thank you Dixie Camp and the HCMN for many years of collaboration, we look forward to many more. Read more about the award and learn about the Master Naturalist program here.
The Hill Country Alliance, in partnership with the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department and The Nature Conservancy, will host a workshop on the nature and function of stream and riparian zones in the Hill Country. The workshop will feature presentations on riparian plants, basic hydrology, and techniques for ensuring healthy riparian function. The workshop will take place from 8am-4pm on Friday, December 5th. A variety of continuing education credits are available. Details
This amazing natural area is devoted to protecting the habitats of hundreds of species of native flora and fauna, grasslands, wooded hills and canyons, and vital watersheds. Thousands of school children visit and participate in hands-on learning experiences here. Learn more about this resource and how you can help protect it. Friends of Balcones Canyonlands
"The regulatory process, including groundwater districts' permitting process for huge commercial projects like this one, must afford the same due process to landowners who do not wish to sell their groundwater as it provides to private water marketers who derive their water rights from landowners who do choose to sell water." Read more
"Prince Charles has warned that the majority of people have 'lost any real connection with the land' as he outlined his concerns about the future of the countryside. He stressed the benefits to the wider economy of the countryside's 'ecosystem services' - with meadows and other grasslands storing millions of tonnes of carbon, providing homes for pollinating insects, supporting the agricultural economy and areas of beauty attracting visitors to boost local tourism." These issues translate here in the Texas Hill Country, read more from The Guardian.
“Groundwater is being pumped at far greater rates than it can be naturally replenished, so that many of the largest aquifers on most continents are being mined, their precious contents never to be returned.” Take a look at these maps that illustration how serious water shortages are in California, it’s essential to learn this lesson and protect healthy aquifers here in Texas, particularly here in the Hill Country.
"The take-away message from this study," Dr. Crompton says, "should be that the state park system is an important contributor to the Texas economy, particularly in rural areas and that the state’s net investment in parks is returned many times over as visitors travel to enjoy the outdoors and leave their dollars behind." Many of state’s most popular parks are right here in the Texas Hill Country. More from TPWD.
Ranchers and Landowners Association in collaboration with Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service and Bandera County River Authority and Groundwater District will be hosting a rainwater catchment program November 15th in Bandera. Topics will include the state of Bandera County water, rainwater harvesting systems, and rainwater harvesting impact on appraisals. Details
Do you live in karst? About 25% of the US and the planet’s land surface is karst. Karst areas are the world’s most diverse, fascinating, resource-rich, yet problematic terrains. They contain the largest springs and most productive groundwater supplies on Earth. They provide unique subsurface habitat to rare animals, and their caves preserve fragile prehistoric material for millennia. They are also the landscapes most vulnerable to environmental impacts. Their groundwater is the most easily depleted and polluted. Learn more about the importance of Karsts during a free webinar from SNS, November 18. Details
Last week, the San Antonio City Council unanimously voted to move forward with the Vista Ridge Project that plans to bring 50,000 acre-feet of groundwater from Burleson County to the city. Because of our many concerns with this project, the vote was a disappointment, but last Thursday’s Council deliberation did stir some positives worth discussing. Read more from Texas Living Waters.
While much of the plan is dedicated to the preservation of farmland, watersheds and nature preserves, other parts focus on encouraging building more dense, urban-like centers in the county’s unincorporated and undeveloped areas. Read more from Community Impact.
On November 6, 2014, the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) adopted a set of rules needed for fully implementing SWIFT in the lone star state. These rules will determine how projects eligible for SWIFT will be prioritized for funding. Now that the rules are official, public water providers are encouraged to submit an abridged application as the first step to receiving funding. More from TWDB.
HCA is interested in learning how you feel about the challenges facing the Texas Hill Country. Please take two minutes to fill out a brief public opinion survey by Monday, November 10th and you may win a two night stay at the Cool River Cabin along the beautiful Llano River. Take the survey here.
CNU Texas Chapter is bringing Chuck back to Texas for a three hour workshop on sensible transportation and infrastructure planning. “We advocate for a model of growth that allows America's places to grow financially strong and resilient,” Strong Towns. Chuck was a huge hit at HCA’s Summit, catch him November 20th in Austin. Learn more
Yes! Rainwater harvesting is a doable, practical, affordable and great tasting way to provide water for homes, gardens and businesses. That was the message heard by the more than 750 people who came out to Dripping Springs to celebrate and learn at HCA's day long edu-fest. Attendees enjoyed 63 booths filled with helpful information and demonstrations, live music, great food and 13 speakers who discussed a range of rainwater harvesting and water conservation related topics. Thanks to all who participated and we'll see you next year! See photos from this year's event here.
Blayne Stansberry has been announced as the unofficial winner of of the Precinct 2 Directorship for The Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District. She and Director Craig Smith (Precinct 5, uncontested this election) will serve 4 year terms and join current directors Mary Stone (Precinct 1), Blake Dorsett (Precinct 3) and Robert (Bob) Larsen (Precinct 4) on the Board. More from BSEACD.
Balancing Rural and Urban Water Needs: How Local and Regional Planning Activities Ensure Long-Term Supplies. Join State Representative-Elect Andrew Murr as he moderates a discussion with SARA General Manager Suzanne Scott; Hydro-geologist, Region J consultant, John Ashworth and GBRA director/former CCGCD president, Tommy Mathews. Difficult decisions lie ahead as urban areas demand more water, rural areas experience loss of spring flow and our region faces increased challenges brought by population growth and drought. Are Central Texas’ water planning processes on track to balance the needs of its rural and urban users and protect the natural water resources that sustain our ecologic and economic health? Learn more
On October 31 the LCRA formally submitted an application with the Public Utility Commission of Texas (PUC) for the construction of a 138-kV transmission line project in Blanco, Gillespie and Kendall counties. Potentially impacted landowners should receive notice in the mail in the coming days. That information is also posted on the LCRA website. Potentially impacted landowners are encouraged to review the application documents, including the updated map, and participate in the PUC process. Landowners have until December 15 to become formal interveners in the PUC review process. More information and instructions on accessing LCRA TSC’s complete CCN application are available here.
Last week, the San Antonio City Council “unanimously voted in front of a packed chamber to approve a controversial pipeline that would bring in groundwater from 142 miles away. The $3.4 billion project would pipe in 16 billion gallons of water each year from Central Texas' Burleson County.” Read the full story as well as related stories leading up to this vote in the Texas Tribune.
The Community Gardens Program recently announced that the Bamberger Foundation will be funding a new urban garden in San Antonio. The garden will emulate many of the practices set forth by J. David Bamberger at the award winning Bamberger Ranch Preserve in Johnson City. Learn more
Driving through western portions of Austin, maybe you’ve noticed scenic, tree-covered hills spreading across the landscape and wondered when they will become a new shopping area or residential development. While growth is inevitable, it is also important to preserve land for the environmental benefits it provides. Learn more
Water is a hot topic in Texas – and it’s getting hotter. Register for Trib + Water to stay informed. This bi-weekly newsletter is brought to you at no cost by The Meadows Center for the Environment and The Texas Tribune.
“The project is much too important and costly for San Antonio not to have a full and complete understanding about the reliability of the groundwater supply.” Read more from this open-letter by Dr. Curtis Chubb, rancher and groundwater expert, published in the Rivard Report. Citizens have the opportunity to address the San Antonio City Council each Wednesday at 6:00 pm. The Alamo Group of the Sierra Club has created a clearinghouse of articles and reports to keep you informed. SA City Council is likely to vote on the project Thursday, October 30th.
“This historic decision puts us within reach of purchasing the entire tract of land and protecting the habitat Bracken’s bats have used for thousands of years.” Read more from Bat Conservation International. “San Antonio is one of the fastest growing cities in the county, in part because of the vast natural resources of the region. It’s our responsibility to ensure we protect and conserve what makes this region incredibly special.” Councilman Ron Nirenburg, quoted in the Rivard Report.
There's a lot of evidence that millennials don't drive as much — or care as much for cars in general — as previous generations their own age did. They're less likely to get driver's licenses. They tend to take fewer car trips, and when they do, those trips are shorter. They're also more likely than older generations to get around by alternative means: by foot, by bike, or by transit. There's still a lot of dispute, however, over exactly what these trends mean. Read more from the Washington Post.
"Everything from urban development to dance hall preservation was on the agenda at the Hill Country Alliance 2014 Leadership Summit, held Thursday at the Nimitz Hotel Ballroom." Read the full article from the Fredericksburg Standard.
“We are reaching a point in Texas where simply standing on common ground is not enough. The lives of urban and rural Texans are irreversibly intertwined, so we must all join forces to create and define initiatives and policies that conserve the common good, while protecting the heritage of private landowners.” Read more of David K. Langford's guest blog for the Cynthia and George Mitchell Foundation.
Most food growers rely on tap water to keep their plants alive during dry weather, but gardeners are discovering that chemicals in tap water harm the soil organisms that plants depend upon to absorb nutrients. As a result, more and more gardeners are storing rainwater. Read more from Sustainable Food Center.
For the past year, San Antonio City officials, Bat Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy and many other organizations and community leaders have been searching for a solution to avert a 3,500-home development over the Edwards Aquifer and adjacent to Bracken Cave Preserve. Next week, San Antonio's city council will meet to vote on whether to invest $5 million from their Edwards Aquifer Protection Program toward the purchase of the property and a conservation easement to protect aquifer recharge. Learn more from BCI.
City Council chambers filled Wednesday evening with more than 100 people who signed up to speak for or against the proposed SAWS-Vista Ridge Consortium water agreement. Individuals were given two minutes to express their views, while group representatives were allotted five minutes. Read more from the Rivard Report.
“I have never understood why in Texas zoning laws are good for city mice but not for country mice, especially as we lose more and more of the open land that is necessary to our survival as a species every year, but that is the way it is and there seems to be no way to change it until Texans get tired of seeing our state gobbled up by strip malls and truck stops and march on the state capitol armed with shotguns and pruning hooks.” Read this personal story about the Hill Country, by Lonn Taylor, featured in The Big Bend Sentinel. Learn more about County Authority in Texas here.
The public is invited to learn more about the process to develop a Roadway Character Plan for FM 150 from near Arroyo Ranch Road northwest through the Driftwood to RR 12 in Dripping Springs at an October 16 meeting. Hays County Commissioners Will Conley and Ray Whisenant are hosting the meeting to share information about the roadway and gather ideas from the public about what this important cross-county road needs to look like as changes are phased in to improve mobility and safety. Details
..the effects of human endeavors all around the planet can be gauged by listening to the sounds of different habitats. Wild, urban, rural — they all can be interpreted.” Read more from Bernie Krause in “Call of the Wild,” featured in Sun Magazine. Find out what neighbors are doing through the Noise Pollution Clearning House.
“Through Texas Land Trends, we have been able to raise awareness that ‘Yes, we have a lot of land in Texas,’ but we are losing it at a faster rate than most other states in the country, and that loss is having profound impacts on our agricultural base, our water resources and our native wildlife habitat,” Fitzsimons said. Read more about Land Trends.
A community workshop will be held October 9th from 6–8 pm as part of a “Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) process,” a planning approach that invites the surrounding communities and neighborhoods to influence the design, so that it reflects their cultural and historic values and aesthetic preferences. Learn more about the event hosted by the CTRMA and TxDot. Explore http://Fix290.org for more information.
HCA has released their 9th Texas Hill Country Calendar. Once again, this calendar delivers stunning photography while remaining an informative resource on Hill Country conservation. The stunning photographs featured throughout the 2015 calendar were chosen from nearly 400 submissions to HCA’s 2014 Photo Contest. Learn more
San Antonio is one step closer to buying some of the most expensive water ever sold in Texas, just as the deal is drawing more critics. Read more from Texas Tribune.
at Cibolo Nature Center & Farm on Oct. 6-11 Volunteers interested in learning about Hill Country wildlife and contributing to its scientific study are encouraged to become citizen scientists during the Wildlife Field Research “bio-blitz” taking place Oct. 6-11 at the Cibolo Nature Center & Farm. Wildlife Field Research is open to participants of all ages and skill levels. Learn more
The Highway Beautification Act will be 50 years old next year. As envisioned by Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson, it was supposed to protect the natural landscape from billboards. Ever since its passage, scenic activists and billboard companies have been at war over the views along American highways. More from NPR.
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.
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
“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.
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.
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
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.
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.
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
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.
Central Texas is having a pretty decent year, rain-wise. Were 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.
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.
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.
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.
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. Whats 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.
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.
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.
“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.
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
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.
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 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.
February 28 in Kerrville - Wildlife Tax Valuation Workshop, part 3 of 3 - Details
March 4-6 in Austin - 2015 Texas Land Conservation Conference hosted by the Texas Land Trust Council - Details
March 25 in San Antonio - Saving Family Lands Seminar - Hosted by Texas Agricultural Land Trust - Details
March 26-29 in Brackettville - Advanced Women of the Land Workshop by TWA - Details
March 28 in Austin - Native Plant Society Spring Symposium at the Wildflower Center - Details
March 28 in Stonewall – 8th Annual LBJ 100 Bike Tour - Details
April 9 - Six-county wildlife program and tour by Texas Agri-Life Extention - Participating counties: Mason, Menard, McCulloch, Llano, Gillespie & Kimble - Details
April 22 in Jourdanton - Agri-life Workshop - Presentations by HCA's Sky Jones Lewey, Rainwater Harvesting Expert John Kight and more - Details
Runs March 1 - May 31
Imagine a place where vibrant communities draw strength from their natural assets to sustain their quality of life. A place where citizens care about protecting the special qualities of a region – their region. A place where people and partners band together to envision a better economic future, tackle shared challenges and care for the natural, scenic, and recreational resources that define the place they call home.
~This is a Conservation Landscape
Helpful Mapping Resources - Beautiful and informative maps of the region to print and share.
HCA Dynamic Mapping Tool - Interactive online GIS mapping tool