March 11, 2007
As Central Texas grows and depends on limited water resources, we need to make sure local officials have the tools they need to ensure that there’s enough water for everyone. That’s particularly true in areas such as semi-rural Southwest Travis County, where residents rely on the northern segment of the Edwards Aquifer.
There, a good referee may be the only thing keeping water flowing out of a faucet.The Barton Springs-Edwards Aquifer Conservation District, which the Legislature formed in 1987 to “preserve, protect, and enhance” groundwater resources in the northern segment of the aquifer, needs to be able to curtail pumping during a drought for less-essential uses – such as athletic fields – and guarantee there’s enough for the tens of thousands of people who rely on the aquifer for drinking, cooking, and bathing.
SB 747, which became law last year, gives the conservation district this critical tool. It also sets a rate ceiling of 38 cents per thousand gallons, or the rate that the Lower Colorado River Authority sets for raw, untreated river water – whichever’s lower. That is, as ratepayers across Texas will attest, a very good deal.
The bill explicitly protects those who use aquifer water to irrigate farm land. Indeed, the District has to be completely open in its process for allocating water in a severe drought and stick to a prescribed schedule that provides for the planning and implementation of contingency actions.
It also levels the costs of groundwater and surface water – which is a much more reliable and environmentally friendly source than the aquifer. That encourages landowners to look at more innovative systems combining surface and groundwater – a process known as “conjunctive use.”
Finally, it conforms to a legislative charge that the Senate Natural Resources Committee “pay particular attention to inconsistencies in surface water and groundwater policies that may pose an obstacle to achieving conjunctive use.”