Issue Papers and Publications

From Policy to Reality: Maximizing Urban Water Conservation in Texas

July 2008

Ensuring that Texas is sustainable in the 21st century depends in large part on smart management of the state’s water resources. A central element of that challenge is improving the efficiency of water use in the rapidly growing urban areas of the state. More efficient water use technologies, more sophisticated understanding of water pricing and the ability to more carefully measure water use at both the individual and municipal level provide new opportunities to reach advanced levels of water use efficiency. This report highlights both the good and the “not-so-great” in a broad sampling of current municipal conservation plans.

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Brush Management

July 2008

In Texas, the clearing of “brush” species—Ashe juniper, mesquite, and salt cedar—is a popular technique to increase water yields and improve livestock grazing and wildlife habitat. Many factors must be considered for responsible brush control projects to achieve these results, including amount of rainfall, evaporation rate, physical characteristics of the site, and the region of the state. Since brush management can be expensive, it is important to ensure that it is done correctly, with an eye toward long-term follow-up maintenance practices and grazing management so that both wildlife and human communities will benefit.

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Privatization of Water and Wastewater Services

July 2008

Traditionally, provision of municipal water and wastewater services has been a duty of public entities. However, private-sector participation in the provision of these services has increased both nationally and in Texas over the last decade. Recent changes in Texas law have helped facilitate this trend, though some argue more statutory changes are necessary. At the same time, there has been a large-scale consolidation among private sector water and wastewater utility providers, and many providers are now subsidiaries of large, foreign-owned, diversified multinational corporations.

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Water Metering in Texas

April 2007

As Texas faces challenges in meeting the water needs of its growing population, water regulators and water users are exploring every available tool to efficiently manage and conserve water. One of those tools is a flow measurement device, also known as a water meter. Unlike urban residential water users who are familiar with the meters used by water utilities to calculate monthly usage and monthly costs to the customer, domestic rural water users, who are supported predominately by groundwater resources, are not as familiar with meters. Concern for the increasing demands on groundwater in Texas has water managers, groundwater districts, considering the installation of meters on groundwater wells, particularly those wells used for agricultural irrigation.

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Myths and Facts About Groundwater Marketing

April 2007

With so much information being spread regarding water rights and water marketing in Texas, deciphering fact from fiction can be hard. Concerns about groundwater marketing have grown as the state begins to move forward in preparing for future water needs. This report is intended to provide background information to landowners that are considering water marketing proposals and groundwater districts that are managing areas with marketing interests in order to help them make decisions based on all appropriate considerations.

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Springs of Texas: Spring Owner’s Guide

April 2007

Springs have played a major cultural, historical, ecological, and spiritual role in shaping Texas. Springs in the state are as varied and unique as the landscape, and are an important resource for all Texans. Many springs have disappeared and the quality, integrity, and existence of many more are threatened. The intent of this guide is to increase awareness of the importance of springs and to assist spring owners in taking steps to care for their springs.

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Sierra Club proposal on Edwards Aquifer pumping caps – an opportunity for consensus

February 2007

For the third time in as many sessions, several interested parties are calling upon the Texas Legislature to raise pumping caps for the southern portion of the Edwards Aquifer from the 450,000 acre feet per year limit (400,000 acre feet per year by 2008) that is mandated in the Edwards Aquifer Authority Act (SB 1477). As in previous sessions, legislators are learning that the prospect of raising pumping caps is a very contentious issue that pits water user against water user, city against, city, interest group against interest group, and region against region. Such contention does little to help South Central Texas move toward resolution of the complex water issues swirling around the Edwards Aquifer.

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The Potential and Promise of Municipal Water Efficiency Savings in Texas

December 2006

The 2007 Texas State Water Plan is the principal document guiding the state’s future water development. The Plan recommends many strategies to meet the demands of a Texas population expected to nearly double from 20.86 million in year 2000 to 45.58 million in 2060. Over this 60-year period water demands for municipal purposes, the largest segment of growth in demand, are projected to increase by 4.211 million acre feet/year (MAFY) to 8.26 MAFY. While municipal water use is only about 24 percent of our state-wide total now, it is expected to account for nearly 40 percent of water use in 2060 due to population growth in our cities. In this paper, the National Wildlife Federation contends that the potential of municipal water efficiency savings to offset or partially eliminate the need for costly and environmentally damaging water supply projects remains largely under-utilized.

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Fair Warning: Global Warming and the Lone Star State

May 2006

The Texas impacts of global warming will vary by region. Because of Texas’ size, terrain, location and diversity, the list of those impacts is startling: more heat waves, worse air  quality, increased risk of disease, droughts, wildfires and coastal erosion. With this report, Environmental Defense provides a discussion guide about what Texas may face as global warming becomes more visible and pronounced. And true to our solution-oriented roots, it offers some recommendations for consumers and public officials that will help Texas prepare for and reduce the impacts of global warming on the Lone Star State.

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Engineers and engineering firms and the potential for conflicts of interest in the Texas regional water planning process

September 2005

Among the potential impediments to achieving the full intent of the Texas Senate Bill 1 regional water planning process are conflicts of interest held by the planning consultants, primarily large engineering firms. The regional water planning process was designed as a much-publicized “bottom up” approach to serve diverse interest groups representing the citizenry of the region at large.

There appear to be two principal types of conflicts of interest which can impede the delivery of such unbiased information. I label these a) the “big ticket payoff” conflict of interest, and b) the “favored client” conflict of interest.

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