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Section A: General News


Proposition 6 — for all Texans




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October 23, 2013 | 1,415 views | Post a comment

By Russell Boening

Proposition 6 is before voters in the Nov. 5 general election. How someone views data is often about perspective. So, I would like to give you my perspective as a rural landowner, irrigated farmer, and state board member of the Texas Farm Bureau.

The state water plan is indeed mostly about strategies to provide water to urban areas. Seventy percent of Texans live in these areas, and they will double in population by 2060, whereas most rural counties will be lucky to grow at all during that period. Two-thirds of our legislators are already elected from the urban areas. It is only going to get worse. So, do we really think that by voting “no” on Proposition 6 that we will stop water projects for urban areas? They can and will build their projects with or without Proposition 6.

The State Water Plan Implementation Fund (SWIFT) created by Proposition 6 will assist in getting these projects started before the situation becomes critical by offering low-cost loans and other financing. The SWIFT is a financial assistance fund that is repaid by the governmental entity sponsoring the project, not a grant program. In fact, grants aren’t legal under the program.

Without Proposition 6 and the SWIFT, where does it leave rural water systems and agriculture? We are the least able to finance water projects on our own. We don’t have millions of ratepayers to generate revenue and borrow money. We need Proposition 6 so that the state can help us afford to secure new water supplies or implement water conservation.

I certainly think the rice farmers in Colorado and Matagorda counties, or the farmers in the Rio Grande Valley view Proposition 6 as a vehicle to help them continue to farm in the face of urban development. The new water supplies currently being developed by the Lower Colorado River Authority and the conservation programs on the Rio Grande Valley irrigation systems are critical to their survival. And the farmers in the Texas Panhandle are depleting their aquifer. The up to 30 percent of financial assistance set aside for conservation projects in the new water fund is pretty important to continuing irrigated agriculture over the Ogallala Aquifer -- not because conservation will allow water to be converted to municipal use, but because it extends the life of the aquifer to support agriculture.

With regards to groundwater, it is indeed the private property of the landowner. So, if you support private property rights, then you have to recognize that they have the right to sell their water. And it is the groundwater conservation district’s job to ensure the rural areas are protected by making sure everyone has their fair share of the groundwater. But, most importantly, of the 8.3 million acre-feet of water needed in the state water plan, only 9 percent is targeted to come from groundwater. So, rural groundwater is not the main target of the state water plan. Eighty-four percent of the water needs will be met by three areas other than groundwater. These are conservation (24 percent), reuse (10 percent), and surface water projects (50 percent).

I hope those of us from rural Texas will recognize that while some of us have ample water supplies for our communities and agriculture, others, including rural areas, are not so lucky. We should support Proposition 6 to help those whose water supplies will literally dry up if nothing is done.

Russell Boening is a resident of Floresville. A member of the Texas Farm Bureau, he is among several generations of his family to farm in Wilson County.
 

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Section A: General News Archives


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