Remarks on the State Water Plan 2007, Arlington Texas, September 20, 2006
My name is Bonnie Bowman. I am the president for the Tarrant Coalition for Environmental Awareness[TCEA] TCEA is a coalition of environmental groups and individuals in Tarrant County, including the Sierra Club of Greater Fort Worth, the Fort Worth Audubon Society, and the Arlington Conservation Council. Our goal is to facilitate our ability to work together when there are issues that are important to all of us.
I want to thank everyone who worked on this plan, volunteers and staff. It contains a lot of information and more technical data than most average citizens can digest. It seems also to have been done under conditions where there were unresolved policy issues and other interim task forces that are yet to report. This is a huge task. Thank you also for giving all of us a chance to comment on the document.
Firstly, we offer support for the concept that the state should be a financial contributor to the success of the plan. We cannot comment on the amount, but we do understand that communities have various abilities to raise the revenue to make the improvements that will be required on a time line that is necessary. The essential role of water in all our lives means we must be able to smooth out potentially harmful delays.
The report stresses the vital role of reservoirs in the plan. We are not convinced. We fail to understand why the average rate used to compute our water usage was about 130% of the target for the rest of the state. The region C usage with conservation measures was at 197 gal/day whereas the state target is 140 gal/day. This number is especially critical since the plan proposes to meet our higher need from other basins where residents will be asked to use less.
We believe that Region C can be as conservation minded as anywhere else. Did the Region C Planning Group believe that Region C residents and business cannot live without golf course style yards? Or, does the calculation include various industrial uses that purchase municipal water? In Tarrant County, much water is used by the gas well drilling industry. Do they need to use fresh water? Did the Region C Planning Group consult any of the major industrial users to determine if the untapped reservoirs of brackish water could be used for at least some of the industrial uses while saving the surface and fresh water sources for human and environmental consumption?
We are concerned with the report that several of the major reservoirs have now been downgraded to minor reservoirs due to sedimentation. What level of sedimentation control is implemented at current reservoirs, and what level is planned for those in the future? This report makes a clear case for dwindling areas available for building major reservoirs. Surely it is a better strategy to push the envelope on technology and maintenance to keep existing reservoirs operating at capacity.
According to the report, the Texas Water Development Board has contracted a study to review the potential viability of proposed reservoir sites and to designate areas that need to be protected. The plan mentions areas to be protected in regions E and H. We hope the study contract is for the entire state, because clearly, Region C failed to recognize the ecological significance of the area where the Fastrill reservoir is proposed. We think that the Marvin Nichols Reservoir will also intrude where protection of rare historical habitat is needed, a point Region D recognized but not Region C.
For the reasons listed above, we cannot support the reservoirs as proposed by the Region C Planning Group and we do not support the water plan recommendation that the water board be given any powers of eminent domain to implement these reservoirs.
In Part I of the proposed State Water Plan, there are 25 recommendations to the state legislature. We would like to single out two of these that we hope will get special attention. Number 2 reads: Create and fund a statewide water conservation public awareness program as a vital education program. Number 11 reads: Require water conservation as a criterion for state funding and provide for enforcement of entities that fail to adopt a water conservation plan or conduct required reporting on water conservation efforts.
Finally, the plan discusses water reuse at length. Although it sounds good, our support of reuse will require that the water use permit requirements will satisfy environmental flow as well as the needs of down stream users. For us, sufficient water must be available to meet the needs of downstream environments including the needs of wildlife and other vital wilderness and ecological habitats.
We look forward to following the progress of this plan as it moves through final revision followed by one more review prior to being readied for publication and submission to the state legislature for approval and eventual implementation.