Central Texas conference highlights water issues, legislation
By Kathy Wythe
State Sen. Kip Averitt listens as Dr. Allan Jones, TWRI director, talks about the state of Texas of water. During his talk, Averitt summarized provisions in Senate Bill 3.With Texas predicted to have twice as many people in 2060, planning for the state’s water is not a simple process, said State Sen. Kip Averitt at a water conference Aug. 23 in Westphalia in Central Texas. During the session that ended in May, however, the Legislature passed several pieces of legislation that will help meet those needs, he said.
Averitt along with Jason Fenton, legislative assistant to Rep. John Carter; Dr. Allan Jones, Texas Water Resources Institute director; Dr. Lonnie Jones, Texas A&M University Department of Agricultural Economics professor emeritus; and Mike Meyer, former Falls County judge; spoke to more than 50 people on state water legislation, water issues and the planned Brushy Creek Reservoir. Brushy Creek Reservoir in Falls County is one of 19 reservoirs designated in the state water plan as needed to meet the future water supply needs of Texas.
Averitt said the 80th Legislature approved and fully funded the state’s portion of the 2007 state water plan, allocating $762 million for water infrastructure projects identified in the plan.
“The water plan was only a concept on paper until this Legislature,” he said. “Now that the Legislature funded the state water plan, it will be fully implemented.”
Averitt said Senate Bill 3, which he authored in the Senate, is another step in the process of ensuring Texans have enough water. The bill includes provisions protecting environmental flows, encouraging water conservation and designating the 19 reservoirs as having unique value for the state’s water needs.
Dr. Allan Jones, in presenting an overview of possible solutions to water issues facing Texas, said Falls County is not the only community dealing with water issues. “Many communities are experiencing water issues,” he said. “Local leadership is extremely important in analyzing the solutions.”
Jones said although reservoirs are one answer, communities need to look at groundwater development, conservation, desalination and wastewater reuse as possible solutions. “Every community will go through the analysis for better solutions,” he said.
Fenton, speaking on behalf of Rep. Carter, told the crowd that Central Texas is growing at a historical rate and will see a 90 percent population growth in the next 30 years. “Falls County is right in the middle of all this growth,” he said, adding that the county is predicted to grow by 17 percent in the same period.
“The key to this growth is to maintain and expand the infrastructures we have,” Fenton said, noting that transportation and water are the two biggest needs. “Judge Carter is committed to helping out with economic development here.”
Giving an overview of possible economic impacts of building Brushy Creek Reservoir to the county, Dr. Lonnie Jones said the construction will stimulate new economic activity by possibly bringing in new businesses, real estate development and more people to enjoy the recreational aspects of the reservoir.
Meyer, who is president of the Falls County Water Improvement and Control District, gave a detailed overview and history of the Big Creek Watershed project, which includes 21 flood control lakes being constructed by the USDA Natural Resources Conservation Service and Brush Creek Reservoir.
He addressed audience concerns about sedimentation, saying that many of the lakes built in the past had a life span of 50 years. Many of these were built in the 1950s; that was the reason for their sedimentation. The proposed reservoir in Falls County would have a life span of 100 years, Meyer said.