Tuesday, April 05, 2005

Water conservation bill introduced Monday

SB 3 by Ken Armbrister (D-Victoria) is a key piece of water conservation legislation that has taken eight years of bipartisan cooperation to produce, and many environmentalists are claiming this as a huge victory. Environmental groups are joining cattle raisers, farmers, and wildlife associations in backing this 50-year water proposal.

The management plan is necessary to assure clean water to cities and farmers over the next 35 years, when the state's population is expected to double, Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst said, acccording to the Dallas Morning News. Carrying out this proposal will be helped by the $15 million "Know Your Water IQ" education campaign - from the same firm that developed "Don't mess with Texas" campaign.

The most controversial part of the plan is to implement a 13 cent tax for every 1,000 gallons past the first 5,000 gallons of water for businesses and households. However, governmental and religious, educational, and public service organizations would be exempted from the proposed tax. SB 3 would also include a new fee on water for the manufacturing that is provided by a public utility. The fees would raise an estimated $125 million annually - to pay for water projects such as reservoirs and pipes, according to the San Antonio Express-News. Chris Bell, who is interested in running in the 2006 gubernatorial race, is getting in his political jabs now by declaring the 13 cent tax a "new tax on being alive," but proponents of the measure point to the fact that most households only use roughly 5,000 gallons of water per month, meaning this measure would only penalize "water hoggers."

A seemingly less controversial part of the plan would create a Water Infrastructure Fund, as a special fund outside of the treasury, which would receive revenue from Water Conservation and Development Fee and other water-related fees. The Fund would be allowed to make grants to outside entities. A statewide program would also be established to assist economically disadvantaged communities. The program would allocate grants and loans to areas that have inadequate water supply or sewer services and inadequate financial resources. Economically disadvantaged communities would be defined as an area whose median income does not exceed 75 percent of the median state household income.

The focus of the bill is to provide greater protection for Texas rivers, streams, bays, and estuaries, and this would be accomplished through new management structures. SB 3 would:

  1. Reauthorize Environmental Flows Commission (EFC), which would appoint the Texas Environmental Flows Science Advisory Committee (SAC) to monitor flow studies and methodologies for rivers, streams, bays, and estuaries. Using the recommendations of the SAC, the EFC would establish local bay/basin area stakeholder groups to address the needs of the given area.

  2. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality would incorporate the work of the EFC and the SAC in the decision-making process.

  3. Create Groundwater Management Area Councils (GMACs) to provide coordination and consistency in each of the state's 16 groundwater management areas. The current Texas Water Development Board's limited "checklist" review of groundwater districts' management plans would be replaced with a plan for the TWDB and the GMACs to provide a new management framework. The framework would consist of the TWDB, GMACs, and Groundwater Conservation Districts (GWCDs) working together to implement rules in a GMA-oriented management of groundwater.

To clarify, the EFC, SAC, and TCEQ work together in one organizational matrix, and the TWDB, GMACs, and GWCDs work in another. The EFC, SAC, and TCEQ would focus on preservation of rivers, streams, bays, and estuaries, and the TWDB, GMACs, and GWCDs would deal with groundwater and aquifers, like the Edwards Aquifer.


At 8:40 AM, Blogger imasuit said...

According to the city, the average Houston household uses 6,700 gallons of water per month.


huh. So I guess the average Houston household would pay an extra 26 cents per month. Well, citizens from rural areas still support this bill.

I'm unsure where I stand, though I usually lean towards environmentally-friendly policy. And I guess if I moved to Houston I could spot a quarter per month for water conservation.

"Texas has historically planned for its water needs through local governments," [Mayor Bill] White said at a City Hall news conference.

Well, while I agree with local control, I believe that the state should be active in ensuring protection for bodies of water and water conservation. Hmm...lemme think about this one for a while

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