Monday, June 14, 2004

New Construction Leads to Destruction of Aquatic Habitats

Sediment runoff rates from construction sites are typically 10 to 20times greater than those of agricultural lands, and 1,000 to 2,000 times greater than those of forest lands. During a short period of time, construction sites can contribute more sediment to streams than can be deposited naturally during several decades. The resulting siltation, and the contribution of other pollutants from construction sites, can cause physical, chemical, and biological harm to our nation’s waters. For example, excess sediment can quickly fill rivers and lakes, requiring dredging and destroying aquatic habitats”

Go to Construction Site Runoff at http://www.dfwstormwater.com/tools/factsheets.html

Protecting Our Water Resources

Providing adequate environmental protection has become critical to the economic and environmental future of Texas. The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) has projected that by the year 2050 Texas is expected to have a water shortfall of more than five million acre-feet “even after existing supplies are fully considered.” The 2005 Texas legislature will be addressing a number of issues concerning environmental flows, surface water rights permitting, and environmental protection measures issued by the Texas Commission on Environmental quality (TCEQ).

Source: “Environmental Flows: Competing for Limited Resources,” by Martin C. Rochelle, Texas Bar Journal, (Vol 67, Num 31, March 2004).

What is an Acre-foot?

An acre-foot of water is 325,851 gallons, or one acre of land one-foot-deep in water.

Texas’ Coming Water Crisis

The growing reality in this state is that more and more water is being reallocated from agricultural to municipal (from rural to urban) usage. “Texans use nearly 17 million acre-feet of water each year. Groundwater provides about 60 percent of that water, with rivers and reservoirs providing the rest. About 80 percent of Texas’ groundwater is used for agricultural irrigation . . .”

“Texas population of 22 million is expected to double by 2050. . .By 2030, municipal water use is expected to exceed agricultural water use.” (The water shortfall of five million acre-feet expected by 2050 translates to a shortfall of almost 30% of available water based on current usage!!!) (Fn#10 “Planning studies conducted by the Texas Water Development Board indicate that seven percent of city and 20 percent of irrigation water needs would not be met by existing sources.”)

“While surface water is owned and managed by the state, groundwater is privately owned and may be regulated by a groundwater district. . .” In the past Texas landowners were allowed to pump as much ground water as they wanted from the land and to sell it “without regard to harming their neighbors.” There have been some modest changes to this “rule of capture” made over the years and more are expected to come. Still, there are big competing interests that will have to be addressed in the coming legislative session.

According to many experts “to provide water for their growing populations . . .many cities are aggressively seeking to transfer ground-water from rural areas. This practice has accelerated over the last five years.” . . .And “an increasing number involve private intermediaries who are negotiating with rural landowners to then sell the water to cities.”

“The specter of moving groundwater from rural areas to cities and their suburbs has polarized citizens in these rural areas. . . One thing is certain: if aquifers in rural areas are depleted and there is little surface water available, this will profoundly affect the future of rural Texas.”

Texas just began to recognize the importance of protecting the environment of river flows in 1985 when “lawmakers directed the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to consider the impacts on environmental flows when it issued permits to divert or impound state water. . . Ironically, Public support for keeping rivers flowing is rising at a time when municipal, industrial, and irrigation demands on water supplies are increasing.”

There are 11 senators sitting on the Texas Senate Select Committee on Water Policy and there are “at least nine standing committees of the Texas House of Representatives” that are examining a variety of water issues. Senate Committee members include (FN#1: “Senators Armbrister (chair), Averitt, Deuell, Duncan, Fraser, Lindsay, Lucio, Madla, Shapleigh, Staples, and Williams.”)

Source: “Water Concerns in Texas: A Problem In Search of a Solution,” by Ronald Kaiser, Texas Bar Journal, (Vol 67, Num 31, March 2004).

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