By Billy Howe
TFB State Legislative Director
During the 2013 session of the Texas Legislature, funding the State Water Plan was at center stage. And rightfully so, considering this drought has brought into focus how unprepared our state is for a record drought with a growing population.
However, behind the scenes there were several contentious groundwater issues as well. Legislation was debated on reporting groundwater usage to the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB), providing the TWDB with more oversight of local groundwater conservation districts, mandating criteria for local districts to use in permitting the production of brackish groundwater, and requiring local districts to issue long-term permits to produce groundwater.
It seems the common theme among all these pieces of legislation was a lack of confidence in local groundwater conservation districts. There is concern that some districts aren’t doing enough to manage and conserve groundwater resources. Others believe local politics, rather than good science, is driving the decisions being made on permits and rules.
Regardless of whether all these concerns are justified, at the legislature perception can be reality. And, the reality is, these groundwater issues will take their turn at center stage in 2015. Both the Texas House and Senate have said they will be studying these issues over the next year. And, the largest water association in the state has formed a stakeholder committee to address these issues.
As an organization with strong policy in support of local groundwater conservation districts, our members need to be engaged.
Texas Farm Bureau will be expected to take a stand, if not the lead, on these issues. Our members must ensure our policy positions are ones our members will get behind and support in 2015.
It is easy to simply say “we support local control,” but what if it was your groundwater district that was the bad actor? What can Texas Farm Bureau support to protect your rights to your groundwater?
These issues are much more complex than simply local versus state control of groundwater. We will need policy that recognizes this reality, or we risking losing our effectiveness to lead on these issues.
The quickest way to be “uninvited” from a policy discussion is to be the one who can never agree to anything. There is nothing wrong with saying “no,” but you have to be sure it is with a lot of thought and good reasoning. Our members need to give these groundwater issues a lot of thought and discussion over the next year to be ready for the debate in 2015.