The 2019 Legislative Session, Water Legislation
This is the page for information on legislative actions, pending legislation and actions SAWDF is taking to intervene on water legislation affecting the central Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer, including our beloved Simsboro,
and our local communities.
We will provide links to information on pending bills and instructions for how to respond to certain bills, when we put out alerts here. Watch for emails from info@ simsborowaterdefensefund.org or email@example.com.
See the Good Bills/Bad Bills Section of this page here, for bills to watch and for the text of our proposed Sustainable Groundwater Development Act.
Please let us know by return email if you are planning on going to the Capitol in response to an Action Alert or for any other reason; also let us know if you work or live in Austin and would be willing to go to the Capitol to "sign in " on any bill for which we issue an alert.
Go here and select any Committee Hearing you want to see live on the day of the hearing if you can't get to the hearing. Remember! You can always make calls to legislators from your home or office if you can't go to the hearing. Phones lighting up is a good thing!
We are still at risk for -- and must defend against --- legislation that paves the way for private interests to strip rural communities of their natural resources and landowners of their private property rights in their groundwater. We respect the right of a landowner to sell his or her water rights, but we reject the notion that one landowner has the right to strip another landowner's groundwater any more than one's trees or other private property can be unlawfully confiscated by another. We will also be looking for opportunities to ask for important amendments to pending bills that would benefit our communities.
ACTION ALERT --- HEARING on March 19 in House Natural Resources Committee, Room EXT E2.104 (that's Floor E2 in the Capitol Underground which you must access from the main Capitol Building.) on pending House bills including:
HB 726, by Larson (San Antonio) Relating to the regulation of groundwater. (This bill, among other things, has the same provisions as HB 1066 relating to matching up terms of operating permits and transport permits. THIS IS A PROVISION SAWS NEEDS TO MAKE VISTA RIDGE "WORK". We will tell you more about this bill.
HB 1806 King, Tracy O. Relating to the use of water withdrawn from the Edwards Aquifer by certain entities. (SAWS is pushing this bill even though it agreed not to sell water outside the Edwards Aquifer Authority when it agreed to a federal lawsuit settlement about the EAA.)
An action alert will be issued when the LCRA Sunset Bill (SB 606) filed by Bastrop's State Sen. Kirk Watson, comes up for hearing in the Senate Rural and Water Affairs Committee. We will need people to testify at that hearing, and to make calls into the districts of the Committee members. Other bills that will require action, if they move forward, include:
HB 3998, by Rep. Terry Wilson ---Relating to the transfer of the administration of surface water rights permitting from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality to the Texas Water Development Board and the regulation of groundwater; authorizing fees; authorizing civil penalties. (not yet assigned to a committee)
Action Alert! Action will be needed on short notice ~~ if you are potentially available to attend a hearing and testify at the Legislature on the LCRA Sunset Bill, SB 606 by Sen. Kirk Watson, and its companion in the House, HB ___
SAWDF Fact Sheet for "Sustainable Groundwater
The proposed bill is reproduced below the Fact Sheet
Support the Sustainable Groundwater Development Act:
Sustainable, Regional Partnerships Are the Key
Texas faces periodic drought, continuing population growth, and the need to remain economically competitive. Water supply is critical to facing each of these challenges. Every effort must be made to develop sufficient and cost-effective water supplies on a sustainable basis.
The majority of Texans today rely on surface water projects that were developed in response to the prolonged drought of the 1950’s. This drought of record has been exceeded in parts of the state while the population continues to grow at a dramatic rate. Clearly traditional sources of municipal water supply are in many cases inadequate to meet future demand. However, the need for additional resources must be balanced against the protection of the state’s limited water resources for the needs of future generations.
Groundwater is a mainstay of rural and agricultural communities, and its value to the state economy and the security of the nation’s food supply cannot be overstated. The last decade, though, has seen a surge in private efforts to market groundwater across vast distances to municipal end-users with little regard for rural and agricultural communities. These private efforts don’t come from the water-planning or environmental sector. Rather they represent institutional investors and speculators who look to government debt to balance their high-risk portfolios.
Such investors have been making use of well-positioned lawyers and lobbyists to impose their own de facto Water Plan on the people of Texas. Unlike the official State Water Plan, their plan is not predicated on the need for water supply projects. Frankly, the needs of local communities and the environment have no place in it. And these investors have been very successful, facing little organized opposition at the State Capitol and before local governments.
As a consequence, the State Water Plan has been relegated to the sidelines and replaced by a plan predicated on: (1) moving high quality freshwater from rural and agricultural communities to distant municipalities; (2) bullying groundwater conservation districts into permitting well-fields without regard for either sustainability or need; (3) lobbying public officials to ignore conjunctive use (multiple sources of a water supply, rather than single source) or other alternate projects in the State Water Plan; and (4) suborning regional projects so that as much groundwater as possible will be mined as quickly as possible.
Institutional investors and financial speculators benefit from their de facto Water Plan because they can place large sums of money in long-term debt guaranteed by local rate- and tax-paying residents with little notice and accountability, at least until the public has to begin to pay for all that long term debt. By then, the investors, and of course their lawyers, engineers and an army of consultants will have long since cashed out and left the public to pay the cost and continued maintenance for redundant and unnecessary projects.
The foregoing scenario isn’t a matter of speculation or a warning of some future calamity. It is already being played out in San Antonio. The reality is that the rate- and tax-payers of San Antonio are on the hook for a $3,400,000,000 142-mile pipeline project, despite the uncontroverted fact that the actual, ignored, State Water Plan includes projects that could have provided the same amount of water at less than half the cost and would have allowed the city to share the cost of operation and maintenance of the project with other communities.
The Vista Ridge scandal and men behind it is a powerful illustration of the need for The Sustainable Groundwater Development Act.
The Sustainable Groundwater Development Act will foster cost-effective projects based on sustainability, regional partnerships, and conjunctive uses. Groundwater is a finite asset that is recharged slowly and for which the risk of overdraft is significant. To help this state meet its current and future water needs while avoiding wasteful and duplicative projects, it makes for sound public policy to develop groundwater on a regional basis concurrently with other water planning solutions.
What the Sustainable Groundwater Development Act Does:
• Adds a chapter to the water code promoting groundwater development on a sustainable basis
• Restores a reasonable definition of need to prevent speculation in groundwater
• Clarifies that Permits issued by Groundwater Conservation Districts neither convey property rights, nor limit existing property rights
• Requires political subdivisions to consider regional alternatives before undertaking groundwater projects
• Enhances the economic value of state property rights in the beds and banks of Texas rivers
• Ensures that groundwater projects do not diminish existing surface water rights or environmental flows
• Requires river authorities to monitor and collect data on the surface groundwater exchange
• Creates an Office of Public Interest Counsel to participate in public hearings on major permit applications
Advantages of the Sustainable Groundwater Development Act:
• Fosters cost-effective groundwater projects based on principles of sustainability.
• Prevents wasteful, duplicative projects by promoting cost effective regional partnerships.
• Promotes projects based on multiple sources of supply, conservation and storage
• Provides meaningful public participation in groundwater conservation district permit hearings
For more information: Contact James Lee Murphy, a Top Texas Water Lawyer, firstname.lastname@example.org or 210-859-2189 (C)
Support the "Get LCRA Out of Groundwater Act"!:
By: __________ H.B. No. ____
A BILL TO BE ENTITLED
AN ACT relating to the powers and duties of the Lower Colorado River
BE IT ENACTED BY THE LEGISLATURE OF THE STATE OF TEXAS:
SECTION 1. Section 8503.004 (r), Special District Local Laws
Code, is amended to read as follows:
(r-1) As a necessary aid to the conservation, control,
preservation, purification, and distribution of surface waters and
groundwater of the Colorado River and its tributaries within the
boundaries of the authority, the authority shall collect data on
the surface groundwater exchange in the Colorado River basin, and
identify all negative impacts of groundwater withdrawals on the
Colorado River flow. The authority is delegated the responsibility
and the right to defend surface water rights against infringement
or diminishment by groundwater withdrawals may construct, own,
operate, maintain, or otherwise provide sewage gathering,
treatment, and disposal services, including waste disposal
services, and may make contracts regarding those services with the
United States, this state, counties, municipalities, and others.
The authority shall charge the actual cost of those services.
(r-2) The authority may construct, own, operate, maintain, or
otherwise provide sewage gathering, treatment, and disposal
services, including waste disposal services, and may make
contracts regarding those services with the United States, this
state, counties, municipalities, and others. The authority shall
charge the actual cost of those services.
SECTION 2. Section 8503.005 Special District Local Laws
Code, is amended by the addition of Section 8503.005 (h)to read as
(h) The authority may not finance, develop, own or operate
groundwater well fields or facilities related to the development,
transportation or any other use of groundwater. The authority may
from time to time contract with public or private entities for the
purchase and transportation of groundwater to supplement existing
surface water supplies, provided however that any such use by the
authority must be specifically authorized and approved by a
groundwater conservation district with jurisdiction over the
source of groundwater.
SECTION 3. This Act takes effect September 1, 2019.
Tell Our Elected Officials to File These Bills!
Call Rep. John Cyrier at 512-463-0682 by noon tomorrow --- DEMAND he file both of these bills!
Tell Our Elected Officials to File These Bills!
Call Rep. John Cyrier at 512-463-0682 by noon Friday, March 8-- DEMAND he file both of these bills! Or email if you like --- see Jeannie Jessup's e-message to Rep. Cyrier
Here is Jeannie Jessup's letter to Rep. Cyrier, dated March 7, 2019
Jeannie email@example.comToJohn Cyrier firstname.lastname@example.org, alonzo.wood email@example.com
I wanted to drop you a note and say how much I have appreciated your help working with me and the LCRA on my "worst case scenario" mitigations...
Over the course of my time working on this, I have people saying things, often on the Facebook Friends of Bastrop Water page, other times to me personally, about the generic "elected official" and how they never help and how they're all crooks and what are the odds that our guys are going to do anything about any of this....
To be fair, I've never previously worked with an elected official but I always replied to them that no, this guy is different. He's helped me on my efforts for quality of life issues and he didn't have to do that. I really think he's on our side. To be honest, I've had to say this more often than I would have ever guessed... and my not being a Republican, this is truly saying something.
So, I guess I'm rather surprised and very much confused when I see that you're not sponsoring James Murphy's Sustainable Groundwater Development Act and the LCRA Reform bill. What I have been working on is very much a very local concern but groundwater in general is a statewide crisis in the making. And your support on this would indicate a statewide perspective and a desire to do the bigger things. Much like your State Park efforts, which I am very much in favor of (and thank you).
There's an old saying out there... A failure to plan is a plan to fail. We need to get ahead of our looming water crisis while we still have time. I hope that you are the one to lead the charge and do what is in the best interest of everyone.
Our first Action Alert this session
The "Sustainable Groundwater Development Act" was not filed -- thanks to all who responded to our Action Alert
We tried to get legislators to file our comprehensive reform bill drafted by San Antonio attorney James Lee Murphy (see SAWDF's Fact Sheet on the bill and the bill's text here), to assure the future sustainability of our groundwater resources in our State.
SAWDF took action behind the scenes
We supported legislation to "Get LCRA Out of Groundwater"
No legislator was willing to prevent the Lower Colorado River Authority from exploiting our groundwater resources and the Colorado River ~ see the text of the bill we supported here.
Good Bills/Bad Bills
Bills to watch -- and text of bills and other info you might not see anywhere else!