October 11, 2011
If there’s a lesson from this terrible drought, it’s that nothing is more important to Texas than a clean, reliable water supply. And on Nov. 8, you’ll have the chance to protect it.
Proposition 8 would write a water stewardship amendment into our state’s Constitution. It would enact the law passed in the recent legislative session encouraging landowners to manage their property in a way that conserves water and improves water quality for future generations of Texans.
This was a bipartisan effort that passed unanimously in both chambers of the Legislature. It’s also been endorsed by a wide range of business, environmental and agricultural groups – folks who don’t always agree, but who are all focused on ensuring a reliable supply of clean water for our children and grandchildren.
If you pass it in next month’s constitutional election, Proposition 8 will create Texas’ first statewide water conservation mechanism. The practices it encourages will protect water quality and increase the supply in river basins and tributaries upstream of areas such as Houston. In this way, it will help Houston protect its primary source of drinking water.
Here’s how the water stewardship law works:
Many rural property owners in Texas already have their land appraised using an agricultural valuation. This generally results in a lower property tax bill, helping protect farmers and ranchers from unaffordable tax bills, allowing them to keep their land undeveloped and protecting the state’s rural heritage.
Over the years, Texas has used this agricultural valuation to encourage other activities on rural property, such as those that help wildlife. With Proposition 8, landowners could receive this valuation by controlling erosion, conserving well water and taking other steps to improve water quality and increase the water supply. This incentive would apply only to landowners who already qualify for the agricultural valuation, encouraging them to manage their land in a way that helps the state’s water supply. In this way, Proposition 8 helps meet the state’s needs without costing the state money.
Such tools will be essential as Texas looks for ways to meet its long-term needs. Roughly 95 percent of all the land in Texas is privately owned, so most of the water in this state either flows across or sits under private land. Proposition 8 would provide a market-friendly tool to fortify the water supply by encouraging landowners to be good stewards. And as this drought keeps reminding us, Texas needs new tools more than ever.
More than 90 percent of Texas is in some form of moderate to severe drought. Some forecasters are predicting it could actually get worse.
Texas does have a long-range plan meant to meet our needs for 50 years, though the Legislature has yet to actually fund it. In the long run, the plan says, about a quarter of Texans’ water supply should come from better conservation. Proposition 8 will help Texas meet this goal.
Given Houston’s growing dependence on surface water, the city has a vested interest in making sure as much clean water as possible flows into the river basins it depends on.
But more than that, the state simply needs to get serious about meeting its water needs – both for the people, farms, ranches and businesses that are already here, and especially for future generations of Texans.
Proposition 8 will help jump-start that process. Vote for Proposition 8 on Nov. 8.