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Catching up on 2017 Water News

Submitted by Sean Hennigan on Tue, 06/27/2017 - 10:51am

Statewide – An article late last year in the Texas Tribune highlights the risks to Texas groundwater posed by abandoned oil & gas wells. Unproductive wells are supposed to be plugged, to prevent oil or brackish groundwater from coming to the surface, but many of the state's million and a half petroleum-related wells were drilled with no precautions whatsoever. This has led to everything from groundwater contamination to pollution of the surface by hyper-saline water. You can read more on the story here.

In 2013, the state of Texas sued New Mexico over groundwater withdrawal along the Rio Grande River. The state argued that pumping from the shallow aquifers near the Rio Grande are depleting the river, violating a 1938 interstate compact governing allotment of water in the Rio Grande basin. On February 9, a special master for the Supreme Court declined New Mexico's request to dismiss the lawsuit, meaning that they could potentially go to trial in the nation's highest court. A Supreme Court case would likely take years, but the new attorney general for New Mexico has indicated that he is interested in negotiating a settlement out of court. You can read more on the story here.


As of May 2017, less than 1% of the state of Texas is experiencing drought conditions, according to the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB). This includes parts of northeast Texas, which as late as early 2017 were still in a state of “extreme drought”. Above-average precipitation throughout the state is responsible for the reduction, with TWDB saying the state could be drought-free by the end of the month. You can read more on the story here.

As part of the Texas legislature’s appropriations legislation, the state government will allot over $2 billion to improve water quality for colonias and rural areas. Colonias are informal, unregulated developments, often with inconsistent or no access to utilities like electricity and water. The money appropriated by the legislature will be used to ensure access to clean and safe drinking water in these areas. You can read more on the story here.

Region C – The North Texas Municipal Water District (NTMWD) and its customers have been at odds over water rates for several years, and the conflict has appeared sporadically in Texas Impact water news roundups. Water rates for Dallas-area communities have risen by nearly 70% in four years, and are expected to continue to increase. On December 22, four member cities—Garland, Mesquite, Plano, and Richardson—requested the Texas Public Utilities Commission (PUC) to review their water rates, claiming they have been charged millions of dollars for water they did not use. The NTMWD says that their rates are necessary to keep pace with infrastructure, treatment, and delivery costs. You can read more on the story here.

Region G – A bill being considered by the state senate would dissolve a Bell County water district, but the county commissioners' court and state representative have said they will fight it. Senate Bill 248 would dissolve the Chisholm Trail Special Utility District, a water district that provides water to three central Texas counties, as it has already transferred its assets to the city of Georgetown's water utility. However, representative Hugh Shine of Temple says that the dissolution of Chisholm Trail would disenfranchise Bell County water users. As Bell County water users do not live in the city of Georgetown's city limits, they have no means of affecting how the district is managed. Shine has said, “If the bill makes it to the floor of the House, I will work to see it defeated.” You can read more on the story here.

Region N – On December 14, the city of Corpus Christi issued a warning to residents not to drink tap water due to a chemical leak in the municipal water system. The chemical was identified as Indulin AA-86, an emulsifier used in the production of asphalt. The source of the leak was determined to be a plant run by Ergon Asphalt & Emulsions, where a “backflow problem” led to the chemical flowing into the city's water system. Many questions have arisen in the wake of the leak, which led to a four-day ban on drinking or bathing in municipal water: to what extent responsibility for the leak is shared between Ergon and Valero Energy, who had contracted Ergon; why the chemical leak was reported on December 7th, but not addressed until a week later; and how the incident relates to a number of recent issues plaguing Corpus Christi's municipal water supply. This is a developing story, and will likely be updated in future roundups.

Upcoming Water Planning Meetings


Date & Time

Location & Address

(A) Panhandle

Wednesday, July 26, 2017; 1:30 pm

Panhandle Regional Planning Commission, 415 W. 8th Avenue, Amarillo, Texas.

(D) North East Texas

Wednesday, July 26, 2017; 1:00 pm

Mount Pleasant Civic Center, 1800 North Jefferson Avenue, Mount Pleasant, Texas.

(E) Far West Texas

Thursday, August 17, 2017; 1:30 pm (CST)

Hotel El Capitan, 100 E. Broadway St, Van Horn, Texas.

(F) Region F

Thursday, July 20, 2017; 10:00 am

Colorado River Municipal Water District Offices, 400 E. 24th Street, Big Spring, Texas.

(G) Brazos G

Wednesday, August 16, 2017; 10:00 am tentative

Brazos River Authority Headquarters, 4600 Cobbs Drive, Waco, Texas.

(I) East Texas

Wednesday, August 16, 2017; 10:00am

Nacogdoches Recreational Center, 1112 North Street, Nacogdoches, Texas.

(K) Lower Colorado

Wednesday, July 12, 2017 10:00 am

Dalchau Service Center, 3505 Montopolis Drive, Austin, Tx.

(L) South Central Texas

Thursday, August 3, 2017; 9:30 am

SAWS Service Center, 2800 US Highway 281 North, San Antonio, Texas.

(M) Rio Grande

REVISED Wednesday, July 12, 2017; 9:30 am

LRGVDC Main Campus, Bldg.B, 301 W. Railroad St., Weslaco, Texas.

(N) Coastal Bend

Thursday, August 10, 2017; 1:30 pm

J. Calderon County Building, 710 East Main Street, Robstown, Texas

(O) Llano Estacado

Tuesday, August 22, 2017: 10:00am

South Plains Association of Governments, 1323 58th Street, Lubbock, Texas.