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Texas Water News Roundup | July 2016

Submitted by Sean Hennigan on Tue, 08/02/2016 - 10:11am

Statewide – In 2013, the state of Texas sued New Mexico over an alleged breach of a compact governing management of the Rio Grande. In the suit, Texas alleged that New Mexico failed to deliver water promised by the compact, the recipients of which include Mexico and the United States. The compact governs the disposal of a water resource that serves over 6 million people and over three thousand square miles of irrigated farmland for both the United States and its southern international neighbor. This month, a special master assigned by the United States Supreme Court issued a report recommending that the case move forward, despite New Mexico's motion to dismiss. This means that the case will likely be decided in the nation's highest court; if Texas wins, it could lead to dramatically reduced groundwater pumping and irrigation in New Mexico. You can read more on the story here.

The Alliance of Texas Groundwater Districts is holding a summit on state groundwater in San Marcos this month. The participants will include groundwater conservation district staff, water planners, and stakeholders from across the state. You can find more on the “premiere groundwater event in Texas,” including registration information and a detailed agenda, here.

Region E – The city of El Paso has been approved for approximately $150 million over the next two years from the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) for land purchases to secure its long-term water supply. This comes in the same month that the city purchased the 26,470-acre CL Ranch for almost $50 million, for the purpose of building a well field. While El Paso's water supply in the short term is secure, city officials are hoping to take advantage of low interest rates to bolster groundwater supply and shore up water supplies decades into the future. The plan is not without critics: local landowners have expressed concern over the effects of increased withdrawal on surrounding farmers' irrigation needs. You can read more on the story here.

Region H – This month, the city of Houston was approved for a $241 million-dollar loan from the TWDB under the State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) as part of a nearly three billion-dollar effort to wean the city off groundwater. Houston has struggled for decades with the problem of land subsidence due to over-withdrawal of groundwater from the underlying Gulf Coast Aquifer. The city plans to reduce the proportion of groundwater in its municipal water supply by 60 percent by 2025. This capital-intensive initiative has led to Houston becoming the single greatest beneficiary of SWIFT, a state-backed low-interest loan program for state water projects. The bulk of the $2.9 billion in total loans will be used to expand water purification on Lake Houston and complete the Luce Bayou Interbasin Transfer Project. You can read more on the story here.

Region I – The TWDB approved a $75 million-dollar loan through SWIFT for The Sabine River Authority (SRA), which plans to use the funds to construct a new raw water pumping station. The project’s overall goal is water conservation; during low flow periods along the Sabine, the new project will allow for less water release from the Toledo Bend Reservoir, thus making the Sabine a more reliable source of water for Orange and Newton Counties. You can read more on the story here.

Region K – On July 21, the TWDB approved $167 million in low-interest loans for the City of Austin to fund two major water conservation initiatives. The first would replace the city's water meters with smart meters, which provide more precise and up-to-date data on water use, while the second would improve the city's wastewater reclamation system. You can read more on the story here.

Region L – In the town of Boerne, a “miniature version” of the contentious Vista Ridge Pipeline project is upsetting residents. While the proposed pipeline in Boerne is only 6.5 miles long to Vista Ridge's 140 miles, many users in Boerne and eastern Kendall County are concerned over the sustainability of the project, which would bring groundwater from Boerne to the town's expanding suburbs. Kendall West Utility, the entity proposing the project, defended it, saying that ultimately the water is from the same aquifer and that “diverse well locations...preclude drawing down the water table in one area.” Opponents are worried that the project will do exactly that, and have expressed concern over insufficient data on water availability and environmental impact. You can read more on the story here.

Upcoming Regional Planning Group Meetings

(B) Region B

Wednesday, August 17, 2016; 10:00 am

Red River Authority of Texas Headquarters, 3000 Hammon Road, Wichita Falls, Texas 76310.

(H) Region H

Wednesday, August 3, 2016; 10:00am

San Jacinto River Authority Administrative Offices,1577 Dam Site Rd., Conroe, Texas.


(L) South Central Texas

Thursday, August 4, 2016; 9:30 am

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