In the last legislative session, a proposal to study a statewide water grid got stuck in the pipes (forgive the pun). House Bill 3289 sailed through committee and passed the House by a wide margin, but was backed up in the Senate where it died when the 84th Legislative Session came to a close. This defeat was spurred in part by a large coalition of rural communities and environmental activists who believe a state-wide water grid would destroy the water supply that supports their rural towns and landscapes.
On Tuesday, February, 2, 2016, the House Committee on Natural Resources met to re-examine the prospect of creating a statewide grid. Chairman Jim Keffer, R-Eastland, stated that with increased Texan urban and suburban growth, there must be infrastructure implemented to support it. This is the heart of the conflict; rural Texans with enough water to meet their needs, and urban and suburban Texans without enough to support their communities.
Representative John Cyrier, R-Lockhart is on another side of the spectrum, stating that it is understandable that rural voters are concerned. Last session Cyrier wrote a law that insulates groundwater district members from lawsuits by water marketers unhappy with district actions. And largely due to its success, Lost Pines Groundwater
Conservation District created a settlement deal that ended a dispute between the groundwater district and the
groundwater marketing company Forestar.
Representative Tracy King, D-Batesville, brought up the important issue of water’s role in shale gas extraction. Shale gas is growing more and more important as the decreasing price of oil continues affecting Texas’s energy industry. Newly discovered shale sites may remain unused if there isn’t access to water in rural areas for extraction.
by John R. Pitts and David Bemporad