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Financing Sustainable Water: Tools for Solving the Revenue/Conservation Paradox

There are many reasons to get excited about water conservation. However, one big question that water utilities often confront is how can a utility sustain itself financially if it encourages its customers to buy less of its product? Solutions to this challenge don’t lend themselves to quick and easy explanations, which is why the Texas Living Waters Project, in conjunction with Texas Water Foundation and the Alliance for Water Efficiency, is hosting one-day seminars in both Houston and Dallas. The seminars are designed to provide information utilities need to navigate the challenges of revenue volatility, scarce supply, variable weather, and declining demand. Water resource professionals, and water conservation advocates willing to embrace the details, will...

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Vista Ridge Project Creates More Questions Than Answers

UPDATE: My  statement from the public hearing can be read here. This blog was written with the assistance of Tyson Broad with the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club For those who are keeping track, we are in year 4 of a statewide drought. Although some areas have received rainfall relief, the continuing drought has led many communities to ponder whether they have enough water for their future and, if not, where more water can be procured. Unfortunately, new water isn’t something that can easily be bought or delivered. It’s expensive, the infrastructure is lacking and the locals often don’t want it exported away from their region. Last spring, we posted a piece about a...

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Evaporation – a loss for humans and wildlife in Texas

As the current Texas drought drags on, it’s becoming commonplace to hear about yet another lake somewhere in the state reaching a new record low level. According to the 2012 Texas State Water Plan, about 40% of our water supplies today in Texas are drawn from so-called “lakes”. With the exception of Caddo Lake on the Louisiana border, all the lakes in Texas are actually water reservoirs that result from dams built on our rivers and streams. The state’s reservoirs can be likened to a checking account and the normal deposits from river and stream flows have been extremely low due to the drought. Since we continue to withdraw our water supplies from...

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Motivated by Deadlines? Here’s One for You: Sept. 1

In today’s fast-paced society, it’s hard to keep up with all the important things we would like to do – like, for example, create a sustainable water future for Texas! Deadlines often help to spur us to take action. Well, here’s a deadline for you: September 1, 2014. Yes, that’s Labor Day 2014. But it’s also the deadline for public comments on the proposed rules to implement House Bill 4. HB 4 is the water funding legislation passed by the Texas Legislature in 2013. It took effect with voter passage of Prop 6 on last November’s state constitutional amendment ballot. By approving Prop 6 Texas voters authorized the creation of the State Water Implementation...

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Limits to outdoor watering become a permanent part of the Texas landscape

As Smart Irrigation Month ends and summer temperatures continue to rise, outdoor irrigation continues to be limited across much of Texas. Some outdoor irrigation restrictions are always in effect through water conservation policies, whereas others are temporarily triggered as a result of drought response. Water conservation strategies reduce the consumption, loss, or waste of water at all times, whereas drought response is triggered during dry periods to ensure critical water needs are met. Cities across Texas have adopted water conservation policies that limit outdoor lawn irrigation as a way to reduce water waste and stretch existing water supplies. The City of Fort Worth is among the most recent to adopt no more than twice per...

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Heading to a Conclusion? Or Heading Back to Court?

The Executive Administrator of the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) has made a final recommendation regarding the long-boiling dispute between two Texas regional water planning groups over the proposed Marvin Nichols reservoir in Northeast Texas. TWDB’s three-member governing Board (also known at the Texas Water Development Board since we Texans like to keep people confused) will probably take action on the Executive Administrator’s recommendation at its August 7 meeting in Austin. But does that mean the controversy will be “resolved?”  More likely it means that the dispute will be headed back to the state courts. The Region C Water Planning Group, one of 16 such planning groups in the state, is responsible for developing...

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Keeping Rivers Flowing in Texas

Summer is coming and that means beating the heat by spending time at the river. For my family, that means swimming in the Pedernales, fishing along the Colorado, and tubing in the San Marcos. Rivers play an important role in the lives of Texans all over the state. Rivers connect communities, provide vital fish and wildlife habitat and supply essential freshwater to feed the nursery areas in our bays and estuaries along the Texas coast. Unfortunately, as important as Texas rivers are, we cannot always assume that the water our natural systems need will be there. It takes proactive management, thoughtful policy-making and the hard work of people, governments and organizations that care about...

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Celebrate Earth Day! Join the conversation about Keeping Rivers Flowing

What makes our planet Earth what it is? Water, of course! Why not top off your Earth Day festivities by reserving your spot to participate in the conversation about how to Keep Rivers Flowing? Sign up now to join us from 2:00-3:00 pm CDT on April 30th for the first webinar installment in a FREE three-part series. "Keeping Rivers Flowing: Innovative Strategies to Protect and Restore Rivers" and the rest of the webinar series are designed to inform interested persons about strategies to ensure the future health of Texas' rivers, bays and estuaries. Drawing on practical experience from here in Texas and around the world, speakers will discuss innovative approaches for ensuring that rivers, bays...

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Texas City Y Oil Spill – A reminder of bay ecosystem vulnerability

On March 22, 2014 near the Texas City Dike in Galveston Bay, a cargo ship, the Summer Wind, collided with a barge towed by the Miss Susan releasing 168,000 gallons of heavy fuel oil. The spill occurred at the point where ships can turn west to enter the Port of Texas City or continue through the Ship Channel, thus named the Texas City “Y” Oil Spill. Although the cleanup response to the spill was quick, the spill came with poor timing and the potential for devastating effects to the health of Galveston Bay. Every spring, tens of thousands of shorebirds begin migrations through the Galveston Bay area and often stop at the Bolivar Flats...

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You Can’t Say They Don’t Care What You Think – Public Input on HB 4

Last November Texas voters overwhelming approved Proposition 6 – a proposed state constitutional amendment that created a new state water fund for water projects in the state water plan. Approval of “Prop 6” indirectly transferred $2 billion from the state’s “rainy day” fund into this new State Water Implementation Fund for Texas (SWIFT) to provide water for “non-rainy” days. But just moving money around doesn’t create water. That’s why what’s happening now at the state’s Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) is so important. When Texas legislators proposed Prop 6 to the voters in 2013 they also passed House Bill 4 (HB 4). HB 4 tasks TWDB with administering the SWIFT and sets out some...

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