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Losing in Vegas – Water & Money!

This blog post was written by Ken Kramer, Water Resources Chair, Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club Most people who go to Las Vegas probably worry about losing money. Those of us here in Vegas at the Sixth Annual WaterSmart Innovations Conference, hosted by the Southern Nevada Water Authority, worry about losing water. But water losses often mean lost revenue for water utilities; and if your water utility is losing too much water in its distribution system, it could be gambling with your community’s future. Maybe that’s why utility water loss was the topic of several sessions at the national water conservation conference I’m attending in Vegas. “Water loss” is a slippery term (pardon...

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What Happens in Vegas Doesn’t Always Stay in Vegas!

This blog post was written by Ken Kramer, Water Resources Chair, Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club Sometimes being a water conservation advocate is tough work. For example, this week I had to travel to Las Vegas to attend the Sixth Annual WaterSmart Innovations Conference, the most prominent gathering of water conservation professionals and significant others held each year, hosted by the Southern Nevada Water Authority. This is the third one that I’ve attended, and I learn something new about water conservation and efficiency each year. Because water conservation is such an important part of the Texas Living Waters Project – and so important for the future of Texas – I’d like to...

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More Information on Texas Groundwater Law

Yesterday, I was invited to be on Texas Public Radio’s show, The Source to discuss the recent Bragg v. EAA court decision and the status of groundwater law in Texas.  Attempting to explain groundwater rules in short concise sound bites reminded me how complicated groundwater's legal history is and how unsustainable it can seem.  The show’s host, David Martin Davies commented that one of the challenges to water and water law is that so few people understand it or notice these new court decisions.  I have to agree.  It’s no one’s fault – it’s just so confusing!! I have been working with water law for about ten years and I am still learning...

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Cutting off Matagorda Bay’s Water is Unwise and Inconsistent with Texas Law

Previously, we posted about LCRA’s decision to seek emergency authorization from TCEQ to allow them to diverge from their Water Management Plan and suspend river flows to Matagorda Bay LCRA submitted their request to TCEQ on Thursday, September 26th.  We will lay out the process at TCEQ in another post.  Our current guess is that TCEQ may not take action on the request until mid-late October. This request is unprecedented and should be approached with an abundance of caution.  It is important to know the water in question here is to provide “critical flows” to Matagorda Bay.  This minimal level of freshwater inflows is designed to provide a sanctuary area near the mouth of the...

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State Officials Should Engage (Not Fight) Stakeholders on Endangered Species

When you decide to dedicate your career to environmental advocacy, you know the job will involve tackling some difficult issues and you know many people are going to disagree with you.  I think that’s great. The best ideas usually include a variety of opinions and viewpoints.  While I welcome a debate on complex environmental issues, a recent op-ed on endangered species protection written by Jerry Patterson, Texas’ current Land Commissioner and candidate for Lt. Governor simply took my breath away.  While it’s possible there is more background his comments, it wasn’t included so I took it at face value. I should start by stating that this post is based on two basic assumptions: 1)...

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LCRA to Take Matagorda Bay Off Life Support?

UPDATE 9/19: The LCRA Board voted 9-6 yesterday to seek emergency authorization from TCEQ to temporarily suspend freshwater inflows to Matagorda Bay. ORIGINAL POST 9/12: Matagorda Bay is the second largest estuary on the Texas Gulf Coast.  The Bay stretches over approximately 350 square miles and, in a normal year, receives an average of 1.8 million acre-feet of inflows from the Colorado River. So far this year, bay inflows have been about 150,000 acre-feet.   Tuesday, the LCRA Board met to discuss the fate of Matagorda Bay.  More about that in a moment – but first let’s explain how we got there. The Colorado and Matagorda Bay As the stewards of the Lower Colorado River, the LCRA is...

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Texas Courts Start to Fill in the Blanks on Groundwater Law

About eighteen months ago, the Texas Supreme Court issued a historic ruling on groundwater law.  In Edwards Aquifer Authority (EAA) v. Day, the Day family and others sued the EAA claiming that the EAA’s regulation of the aquifer, which limited the landowner’s right to pump groundwater, violated their constitutional rights because the landowner owns the water under their property.  The court ruled in Day’s favor; however, the decision was as striking for what it didn’t say as for what it did.  While the court held that ownership of groundwater is a property right attached to surface ownership, the Court also held that regulation of the resource is permissible.  Questions remained as to how...

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SAWS is Challenged on Project Transparency

A recent article in the San Antonio Express News caught my eye and echoed some of my own thoughts so I decided to bring it here in case you missed it.  Last year in their new Water Management Plan (WMP), San Antonio Water Systems (SAWS) laid out several new or expanding water supply projects to ensure San Antonio’s water future.  One of these projects was the Request for Competitive Sealed Proposals or RFCSP, or as I call it: the pipeline project.  This project sought bids from water marketers to bring 20,000 acre-feet of groundwater per year from other parts of the state to San Antonio in an effort to diversify the city’s water...

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Money for Water, but we Need to be Careful

As we explained in an earlier post, voters will soon have the opportunity to pass a constitutional amendment to partially fund the State Water Plan.  Even with these additional funds, it’s easy to see that there won’t be enough money to pay for every desired project across the state.  The Texas Tribune recently examined the 2012 State Water Plan and the $53 billion of water supply and infrastructure projects contained therein.   A staggering 77% of the proposed expenditures for water projects are proposed by just 3 of the State’s 16 regions. First, let’s review a few of the numbers. Region C, home of the Dallas-Fort Worth Metroplex, contains a whopping $21 billion dollars in...

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An Honest Conversation About Fracing Requires Honest Facts

Perhaps the most discussed environmental challenge these days is hydraulic fracturing or “fracing”.  You don’t have to look far to find documentaries, debates, websites and articles on both sides of the issue.  Fracing raises a wide-range of environmental issues, spanning from air quality to wildlife disruption.  In water challenged regions, such as parts of the South Texas’ Eagle Ford Shale area, a particularly important concern is the demand fracing places on water supplies. Fracing is the process of enhancing gas or oil production in tight rock formations by injecting fluids at high pressure to crack the rock and to free the product.   Once the fractures have been opened and extended, a propping agent, proppant,...

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