State Water Plan needs com­pre­hen­sive changes

Austin American-Statesman - - VIEWPOINTS - Walker is water re­sources co­or­di­na­tor and Kramer is water re­sources chair of the Sierra Club, Lone Star Chap­ter. Hess is Texas water pro­grams man­ager of the Na­tional Wildlife Fed­er­a­tion.

Texas

faces se­ri­ous chal­lenges in meet­ing water sup­ply needs while also main­tain­ing the jobs and busi­nesses de­pen­dent upon our fish and wildlife re­sources and pro­tect­ing our state’s price­less nat­u­ral her­itage.

At a time when our state faces many com­pet­ing fi­nan­cial needs — for ed­u­ca­tion, trans­porta­tion and other vi­tal ser­vices — pru­dent choices must be made to de­ter­mine the ap­pro­pri­ate role for state fund­ing for any water sup­ply project or strat­egy. Lo­cal and re­gional water sup­pli­ers say that state fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance is needed to fund about half of the $53 bil­lion price tag for water in­fra­struc­ture projects in the cur­rent State Water Plan. How­ever, sim­ply pro­vid­ing fund­ing with­out im­prov­ing the plan and care­fully pri­or­i­tiz­ing projects to be funded would not be an ef­fi­cient use of tax­payer funds.

Texas needs a com­pre­hen­sive State Water Plan that in­cor­po­rates drought re­sponse mea­sures and ad­dresses in-stream flow and fresh­wa­ter in­flow needs. We also need clear met­rics for de­ter­min­ing which projects merit state fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance. Only with those changes can Texas re­al­is­ti­cally meet fu­ture water sup­ply needs af­ford­ably while pro­tect­ing our nat­u­ral her­itage. The State Water Plan as cur­rently writ­ten will not achieve those ob­jec­tives.

We rec­om­mend that the state em­brace a strate­gic and cost-ef­fec­tive ap­proach to meet­ing Texas water needs by:

Im­prov­ing the State Water Plan: The plan should be re­vised to show pro­jec­tions for ac­tual water needs rather than water “de­mands,” which may be un­re­al­is­tic to meet in fu­ture drought years. Ef­fec­tive drought re­sponse mea­sures in very dry years to re­duce nonessen­tial water uses should be broadly in­cor­po­rated into the plan. The plan should also be re­vised to in­clude all water needs — in­clud­ing water to sup­port the health of our rivers and bays — as well as com­mer­cial and recre­ational fish­ing, river and coastal tourism, and other in­dus­tries that de­pend on ad­e­quate river flows and fresh­wa­ter in­flows for their sur­vival.

Fund­ing for in-stream flow and fresh­wa­ter in­flow pro­tec­tion: Any state water fund­ing mech­a­nism should ded­i­cate a rea­son­able amount of funds — at least 5 per­cent — to im­ple­ment vol­un­tary mea­sures to help keep rivers flow­ing and pro­vide fresh­wa­ter in­flows to bays and es­tu­ar­ies. This should in­clude in­cen­tives for en­hanced land ste­ward­ship and sup­port for re­search to help re­fine flow re­quire­ments.

Fund­ing for water con­ser­va­tion and water re­use: Any new mech­a­nism for fi­nanc­ing water man­age­ment strate­gies in the plan should set aside at least one-third of avail­able funds for the im­ple­men­ta­tion of ef­fec­tive water con­ser­va­tion pro­grams and water re­use projects, with no more than half of that money al­lo­cated to re­use. Qual­i­fy­ing ac­tiv­i­ties must be clearly de­fined. Pri­or­i­tiz­ing con­ser­va­tion is the most cost-ef­fec­tive way to meet fu­ture water needs in Texas.

Fund­ing for water in­fra­struc­ture projects: The state should es­tab­lish clear met­rics for de­ter­min­ing which water in­fra­struc­ture projects in the plan merit state fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance. The met­rics should re­flect the fol­low­ing prin­ci­ples:

Pri­or­ity con­sid­er­a­tion should go to water sup­ply projects de­signed to meet neart­erm needs that can­not rea­son­ably be met through water ef­fi­ciency mea­sures.

Pri­or­i­ti­za­tion cri­te­ria should re­ward projects that are highly cost ef­fec­tive, in­clude mea­sures to en­sure the new water sup­ply will be used ef­fi­ciently, and re­sult in low en­vi­ron­men­tal im­pact.

There must be a firm com­mit­ment for sub­stan­tial fund­ing from lo­cal and re­gional water sup­ply in­ter­ests and a demon­stra­tion that full fund­ing from those in­ter­ests is not fea­si­ble (ab­sent ex­ten­u­at­ing cir­cum­stances).

With ground­wa­ter projects, as­sis­tance should only be pro­vided to projects clearly shown not to in­di­rectly im­pair ex­ist­ing water sup­ply sources, in­clud­ing spring flows or river flows.

As we move for­ward in the 21st cen­tury, Texas clearly needs a com­pre­hen­sive and fis­cally re­spon­si­ble ap­proach to pro­vid­ing water to sus­tain the peo­ple and the en­vi­ron­ment of Texas. We can ac­com­plish that goal by re­fin­ing the State Water Plan to bet­ter de­fine our true water needs and by de­vel­op­ing a state fund­ing mech­a­nism that pro­vides for more ef­fi­cient use of al­ready-devel­oped water re­sources and for pro­tec­tion of fish and wildlife while strate­gi­cally tar­get­ing state fi­nan­cial as­sis­tance for crit­i­cal in­fra­struc­ture projects to ad­dress un­met needs.

Newspapers in English

Newspapers from USA

© PressReader. All rights reserved.