Subject Title: Protect Rural Lands and Sustainable Water Resources
I understand that SB 3 the omnibus water bill is set on the House calendar for debate.
Articles 1 and 2 of Senate Bill 3 are good provisions including consensus provisions on environmental flow protection, water conservation, and voluntary land stewardship that were negotiated by and are supported by a diversity of stakeholders on water issues.
HOWEVER, Article 3 of Senate Bill 3 would designate several sites in the state as unique reservoir sites for the building of future reservoirs that would be costly, environmentally destructive, and unneeded.
Future water needs are overestimated in the state water plan. Real water needs for the Texas of the future could be met through water conservation, better use of drought contingency planning, and more efficient use of existing water supplies. One analysis indicates that as much water could be made available through water conservation as would be provided by all of the reservoirs that are proposed in the state water plan.
If SB 3 is to be passed, it must be legislation that assures sustainable use of both groundwater and surface water and that protects highly valued rural lands as well as fish and wildlife while meeting essential human water needs. Therefore, we urge you to take the following positions on several of the amendments expected to be proposed to SB 3:
support the amendment by Rep. Frost to eliminate all reservoir site designations from the bill;
oppose the amendments by Rep. Hill and Rep. Hartnett to reinstate reservoir site designations for the proposed Marvin Nichols and Fastrill reservoirs (these designations were removed by a strong majority of the members in the House Natural Resources Committee);
support amendments by Rep. Frost and Rep. Phillips to enhance landowner protections in cases where any reservoir sites are designated;
support the amendment by Rep. Frost that would make designation of a reservoir site contingent upon customers for that water (such as cities and water districts) demonstrating first that they are practicing good water conservation;
oppose the amendment by Rep. Callegari to remove existing requirements (such as a demonstration of good water conservation) on applicants for interbasin transfers of surface water:
oppose each of the separate amendments by Reps. Puente, Hilderbran, and Morrison that would raise the current cap on annual pumping of groundwater from the Edwards Aquifer BUT support any amendments by Rep. Rose to these amendments that would seek to protect San Marcos Springs (a major discharge point for the aquifer).
If at the end of the debate on SB 3, the bill consists primarily of the current Article 1 (environmental flows protection) and Article 2 (water conservation and voluntary land stewardship), without reservoir site designations or other problematic provisions, then please vote for the bill on final passage.
The floor debate may result in a bill that is much more complicated. In that case please use your best judgment in determining whether the bill, on balance, promotes or detracts from sustainable management of groundwater and surface water and protection of rural lands and fish and wildlife.
Please let me know what actions you take on the bill and the amendments noted.