Statewide Water News for May

Water-boil notice in Corpus Chisti, permanent once-weekly lawn watering restrictions in Austin, Lake Columbia Reservoir and Vista Ridge Projects delayed. Additionally, the 2017 State Water Plan passed and Water Conservation Scorecards have been released.

On May 19th, the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) approved the 2017 State Water Plan. The Plan is the newest version of a document that is researched, developed, and revised every five years to plan for the future of Texas water. Forecasts in the plan include reduced agricultural demand; increased reliance on water storage (in the form of 26 new reservoirs in the next 50 years); and a population growth of 24 million people by 2070. You can read more on the story here, and the Plan is available to view online here.

This month, the Texas Living Waters Project, a consortium of state and national environmental advocacy groups, released its inaugural Water Conservation Scorecard. The Scorecard is an analysis of water conservation efforts by municipalities and water utilities across the state. There are a few surprises in the document. For example, a few cities long considered "water hogs," like Fort Worth and Dallas suburbs Carrollton and Irving, scored high, and Fort Worth ranked seventh in the entire state. The city of Austin was number one on the list, followed by the city of San Marcos. You can find the complete scorecard here.

 

 

Region I - The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers has withdrawn an application to build a reservoir in East Texas that has been in the works for four decades. The proposed Lake Columbia Reservoir Project, on the Angelina River near Jacksonville, would have cost an estimated $387 million and was initially outlined in 1978 by the Angelina and Neches River Authority (ANRA). 

The permit application process began in 2000, but the reservoir has not been a recommended water supply for the region in the 2017 or 2012 Plans, and there has been almost no activity on the reservoir since 2013. The ANRA has affirmed its plans to continue the project without the Corps, and the ANRA's general manager has described the withdrawal of the permit application as "in no way...the end" of the reservoir. You can read more here.

 

Region K - On May 5th, the Austin City Council voted in favor of an ordinance permanently restricting lawn watering to once a week. The vote came after an hour-and-a-half-long debate during which arguments in favor and in opposition were raised. In particular, debate focused on the effects of water restrictions on trees in generations to come and the volume of water expected to be saved by the ordinance (about 800 million gallons per year). 

At the time of the debate, Lakes Travis and Buchanan, the city's main water sources, are currently full or near-full due to recent rains, but these conditions are likely temporary. Council member Greg Casar described the ordinance as "thinking of generations to come." You can read more here.

 

Region L - In the ongoing saga of the Vista Ridge pipeline-which has appeared in almost every monthly water news report since its announcement-the San Antonio Water System (SAWS) has announced that it will not be seeking funding from the State Water Implementation Fund (SWIFT) for the current round of funding. 

The announcement comes in response to turmoil over control and construction of the project after the Spanish company initially tasked with the job became insolvent. SAWS officials have not ruled out applying for SWIFT loans in future cycles, but emphasized that until a construction deal is closed, they will not put any money towards construction of the Vista Ridge project. You can read more on the story here.

Meanwhile, SAWS also officially approved a takeover of the project by the Kansas-based Garney Construction. Read more about this development here.

 

Region N - The city of Corpus Christi made national news this month over a fiasco involving a temporary boil-water notice that has stretched to two weeks. The advisory was issued May 13th by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality after low levels of disinfectant were found in city water supplies. Boil-water advisories are often issued in response to bacteria levels in water, but in this case no bacteria have been found. 

The advisory has inconvenienced tens of thousands of residents; has become a PR nightmare for the city (growing to involve noted environmental activist Erin Brockovich); and has led to the resignation of the city manager days after the advisory was issued. You can read more on this story here.

 
SOURCE: The Texas Interfaith Center for Public Policy is a faith-based, 501(c)(3) non-profit organization providing theologically grounded public policy analysis to people of faith and other Texans. The Center is the research and education arm of Texas Impact, the state's oldest and largest interfaith legislative networrk.