You’ve been granted free access to this subscribers only article.
Proposition 6 — not a long-term water solution
Darrell T. Brownlow, Ph.D.October 23, 2013 | 4,116 views | 2 comments
This is Part II of an analysis of Proposition 6, to amend the Texas Constitution, on the ballot before voters in the Nov. 5 general election.
Let me begin by saying that I’m not telling anyone how to vote on Proposition 6. If you know enough details and believe it supports your best interests -- whether that is local, regional, or even statewide -- vote for it. I also know that the state water plan includes 15 other regions besides South Central Texas, each with their unique issues. I haven’t studied those plans.
However, a rural landowner who is reliant upon groundwater understands that the value of the surface is worth far less without the rights to the groundwater beneath it. As such, any governmental actions that may diminish the rights to the groundwater and the availability thereof must always be viewed with great caution and even healthy skepticism. Government actions to fund water-supply projects, like all government funds, will most certainly have strings attached. What those “strings” are is unknown at this time.
As I mentioned in Part I last week, my experience is that money, or the lack thereof, has never been the driver in implementing projects in the water plan. My experience is that every entity that proposed projects to the regional planning group was doing so on grounds that there was a demand for that water and those needing the water would be paying for the water.
Certainly, there were some projects more expensive than others and obvious prioritizations were made -- desalination and new reservoirs on the high end and local groundwater and conservation measures on the lower end. As we know, cost is not the only consideration; impact on the environment and private property rights are just as important.
The regional water planning process is complex and dynamic, with changes in demand and supply occurring with each five-year planning cycle. Changes in law, in how regions cooperate with each other, in weather, in regulations, and in scientific knowledge and information often mean that by the time the plan is approved, it is already outdated.
There have been nine legislative sessions over the course of three statewide water plans, and with each legislative session comes change. So what is it about this new funding, specifically of water projects, that would result in a change from the past 15 years? In my opinion, very little.
Would access to the new money address the critical issues that have prevented us from implementing water projects in the past? Would the new funding increase our knowledge and understanding of the aquifers and the effects of overpumping?
Would the money help clean our rivers and improve the habitats of our bays and estuaries? Would the money be used to increase our knowledge of the relationship between groundwater and surface water? Would the money be used to better fund and staff our regulatory agencies such that more timely analysis of new permit or permit modification requests and decision-making can occur?
Would the money be used to sufficiently fund the Texas Water Development Board’s own efforts to work with the groundwater districts and groundwater management areas that are tasked with defining the available groundwater in rural areas? Would the money even support more funding for the regional water-planning process in a manner sufficient such that the entities whose projects may receive funding are not having to subsidize the water-planning process itself?
While it is a fact that the water plan is obviously far more complex than the way I described it in Part I, in my opinion, the absence of funding for these issues is the real driver in why it takes so long to get anything done. Until these fundamental issues are adequately addressed, simply directing money to implement specific water projects is unlikely to yield the results the politicians are claiming will occur. It’s analogous to a boy who breaks his leg and is given the money to buy a bicycle. Fix what’s broken first, then buy the bicycle.
And now there is a new demand on rural groundwater -- “frack” water, a demand that was not recognized in the 2012 State Water Plan. There is little argument that the Texas economy, and nowhere more evident than in the Eagle Ford region of South Texas, has boomed because of the windfall of shale fracking. That windfall is directly related to the availability of groundwater in the rural areas.
Except for reducing some availability of groundwater that the big municipalities may desire, fracking does not take water away from the large municipalities that need water. Fracking is occurring principally in areas where the regional water plan indicates that unallocated groundwater supplies are reported to exist.
This fact suggests to me that the rural groundwater interests -- primarily agriculture, livestock, small rural municipalities -- should work toward forming an alliance with oil and gas operators to ensure adequate groundwater supplies are available for meeting both the fracking needs and the existing and expanding rural water needs.
In closing, all of us -- both rural and urban residents -- must recognize that with access to surface water so heavily restricted and with the Edwards Aquifer limited by environmental concerns, all the “cheap” water is gone. But turning to rural groundwater and backing it with big state dollars has its own drawbacks, as I have outlined, and it’s ultimately not a long-term solution either.
I realize most of my words here may not win me any friends with the politicians and lobbyists who are anxiously awaiting the power associated with dividing up $2 billion, but maybe, just maybe, there’s at least one legislator out there who will more closely examine and supervise the spending after this thing passes.
Darrell Brownlow is a geologist with a Ph.D. from Texas Tech University. From 1999 to 2012, he was a small business representative to the South Central Texas Regional Water Planning group and from 2001‐11, he was Gov. Perry’s appointee to the Evergreen Groundwater Conservation District. He currently serves as an elected director on the board of the San Antonio River Authority. He is a rancher and landowner in Wilson and LaSalle counties. His opinions are his own and are not intended to reflect the views of any board or organization which he currently serves upon or has in the past.
Your Opinions and Comments
October 25, 2013 3:48pm
Share your comment or opinion on this story!
You must be logged in to post a comment.
Section A: General News Archives
Appraisal district board votes to resume construction (April 27, 2016)
Baylor University awards Cody Soto (April 27, 2016)
Behind the lens: Swan lake (April 27, 2016)
Budget Blinds of La Vernia receives national award (April 27, 2016)
Celebrate hospital’s Grand Opening (April 27, 2016)
Children’s Alliance plans ribbon-cutting (April 27, 2016)
County judge breaks tie vote (April 27, 2016)
Court Update (April 27, 2016)
Cowboy Fellowship celebrates 13 years in Jourdanton (April 27, 2016)
Earth Day plant sale April 30 (April 27, 2016)
Editorial: It’s time to get out and vote for the best for our city (April 27, 2016)
Editorial: Quit whining and play by the party rules (April 27, 2016)
Emergency-services area may expand to cover City View (April 27, 2016)
Floresville chamber is on the move (April 27, 2016)
Floresville Event Center’s no-BYOB policy here to stay (April 27, 2016)
Floresville man honored with service award (April 27, 2016)
Free ‘Shred Day’ in San Antonio (April 27, 2016)
Get outside and connect with nature (April 27, 2016)
Help CASA during the Big Give (April 27, 2016)
Hospital receives audit report, notes record month (April 27, 2016)
La Vernia EMS: Four decades of care (April 27, 2016)
Learn about hosting a foreign exchange student (April 27, 2016)
Letter: Anyone listening? (April 27, 2016)
Letter: Clarity around FEDC contributions (April 27, 2016)
Letter: Unreliable weather forecasts (April 27, 2016)
Life Line Screening available (April 27, 2016)
Loan converts to a scholarship (April 27, 2016)
Master Gardener orientation (April 27, 2016)
Meeting Watch: Falls City ISD (April 27, 2016)
Meeting Watch: Floresville Planning & Zoning Commission (April 27, 2016)
Parks plan is still ‘wish list’ (April 27, 2016)
Police Blotter (April 27, 2016)
Ramirez promoted to Colonel (April 27, 2016)
Scammers target CPS Energy customers (April 27, 2016)
Support children through Big Give (April 27, 2016)
ACTS skeet shoot May 7 in Marion (April 20, 2016)
Annexation for La Vernia EMS? (April 20, 2016)
Brahma Happenings: Jackson’s Journey, HOPE fund-raisers, more (April 20, 2016)
Challenger Water Solutions set to close deal in Stockdale (April 20, 2016)
Coach to take on athletics for his alma mater (April 20, 2016)
Community Resource Fair (April 20, 2016)
Crisis Center plans fund-raising events (April 20, 2016)
District 3 considers substation in Sutherland Springs (April 20, 2016)
Early voting begins on Tuesday in (another) election (April 20, 2016)
Editorial: The ‘voice of the people’ fallacy (April 20, 2016)
Elmendorf wades into developing its own municipal water system (April 20, 2016)
Emergency service, via helicopter (April 20, 2016)
Entertainment lineup for the Jubilee (April 20, 2016)
FEDC OKs July 3 ‘Freedom Fest’ (April 20, 2016)
Floresville parks plan: an analysis (April 20, 2016)
Hail pounds ‘like a thousand hammers' (April 20, 2016)
Housing seminar set (April 20, 2016)
La Vernia: New home for Wilson County’s performing arts? (April 20, 2016)
Letter: A word of caution to advertisers (April 20, 2016)
Letter: Eating sustainably (April 20, 2016)
Letter: Obama’s executive ‘lawlessness’ rears its ugly head (April 20, 2016)
Letter: Wilson County lacks animal control (April 20, 2016)
Meet the Floresville candidates, ask questions April 21! (April 20, 2016)
Meeting Watch: Poth ISD (April 20, 2016)
Meeting Watch: Stockdale ISD (April 20, 2016)
Missions to include Floresville’s Rancho (April 20, 2016)
Police Blotter (April 20, 2016)
Poth VFW Post 8555 honors students, teachers, guests (April 20, 2016)
Small-business training webinars (April 20, 2016)
Special meeting April 21 for Floresville parks master plan (April 20, 2016)
Talk about boundaries (April 20, 2016)
Walk to end child abuse (April 20, 2016)
Wilson County’s unemployment rises (April 20, 2016)
Yanta: Prosper the work of our hands (April 20, 2016)
Apply now for Baptist Health Foundation community grants (April 13, 2016)
Authorities arrest cattle rustler (April 13, 2016)
Behind the lens: Screams, spins, speed (April 13, 2016)
Christian counseling comes to Wilson County (April 13, 2016)
Doctor will close Floresville office (April 13, 2016)
Editorial: Before you reject the system, understand it (April 13, 2016)
Editorial: Football great Will Smith and mental illness in America (April 13, 2016)
Editorial: White House needs a mature president — not ‘The Donald’ (April 13, 2016)
Federal funding for community projects (April 13, 2016)
Free senior exercise classes at OKMH (April 13, 2016)
Kicaster Cemetery meeting April 21 (April 13, 2016)
La Vernia UMC to hold blood drive (April 13, 2016)
Letter: Extra effort (April 13, 2016)
Letter: The importance of no Supreme Court hearing (April 13, 2016)
Mayor recaps infrastructure projects (April 13, 2016)
Meeting Watch: China Grove City Council (April 13, 2016)
Meeting Watch: La Vernia ISD (April 13, 2016)
Meeting Watch: Wilson County Commissioners Court (April 13, 2016)
National Lineman Appreciation Day (April 13, 2016)
Pair face felony charges for graffiti on Enchanted Rock (April 13, 2016)
Pair lead police on high-speed chase (April 13, 2016)
Police Blotter (April 13, 2016)
Poth cemetery plans cleanup (April 13, 2016)
Pray to end child abuse on April 24 (April 13, 2016)
Rainbow Play Systems recalls trapeze rings (April 13, 2016)
Registration for Alzheimer’s, dementia care training is open (April 13, 2016)
Save the date for Bike Rodeo, Bike-A-Thon (April 13, 2016)
Scammers hijack smartphones in new ransomware scam (April 13, 2016)
Selling sentimental stuff (April 13, 2016)
Start Smart your business April 28 (April 13, 2016)
Stockdale city limits expand (April 13, 2016)
Stockdale library seeks donations (April 13, 2016)
Stockdale officials approve open carry gun ordinance (April 13, 2016)
Truck strikes man on highway (April 13, 2016)
Vets service offers online links (April 13, 2016)
Workshop energizes teachers to educate about energy (April 13, 2016)
Adventure Run set for April 16 (April 6, 2016)
Authorities search for cattle rustler (April 6, 2016)
Behind the lens: Riveting reptile (April 6, 2016)
Donate blood April 8 (April 6, 2016)
DWI crackdown targets Poteet area for weekend (April 6, 2016)
Editorial: Political parties display hypocrisy over Supreme Court nominee (April 6, 2016)
Editorial: We are window-shopping for the next president (April 6, 2016)
Falls City Council seeks partner for sewer upgrades (April 6, 2016)
FELPS addresses cost price hike as fuel costs decline (April 6, 2016)
FELPS payment scam victimizes restaurant owner (April 6, 2016)
FISD plans Wellness Fair and 5K (April 6, 2016)
Floresville plans community Independence Day celebration (April 6, 2016)
Injury accident (April 6, 2016)
Just be honest (April 6, 2016)
Learning opportunity for teachers June 6-9 (April 6, 2016)
Letter: La Vernia ideal home for YMCA (April 6, 2016)
Letter: Leave political correctness out of Jaguar name (April 6, 2016)
Letter: We are the stooges (April 6, 2016)
Little League Night in Floresville (April 6, 2016)
LV Greater Chamber plans April 6 meeting (April 6, 2016)
One-Act Play shines at District (April 6, 2016)
Online control system detects faulty switch, saves FELPS $750K (April 6, 2016)
Opry Jam Night April 7 (April 6, 2016)
Participate in Candidates’ Forum (April 6, 2016)
Police Blotter (April 6, 2016)
State test glitches heighten exam anxiety for students (April 6, 2016)
Sutherland Springs woman: Snakes alive! (April 6, 2016)