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2012-11-22

Plateau Water Planning Group meets in Bandera

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

The Bandera Country River Authority and Groundwater District (BCRAGD) played host to a meeting of the Plateau Water Planning Group Thursday, Nov. 15. Regional water planning groups operate under the auspices of the Texas Water Development Board and are charged with developing long-range plans for water use and conservation in their districts.
The 22 members of the Plateau WPG include representatives from agricultural interests, county governments, environmental interests, industries, cities, river authorities, water districts, water utilities, representatives from three Groundwater Management Districts (GMA 7, GMA 9, GMA 10), and other interests important to the region, such as tourism.
Among the items on the agenda for Thursday's meeting was a discussion on potentially feasible water management strategies.
Several members bemoaned the fact that they could set policies, but had little or no way to enforce violations. Connie Townsend, with the Texas Water Development indicated there would be little support from the state agency. "The TWDB has no enforcement arm," she said. "If they come to us for funding, we can refuse until they submit their data."
Charlie Wiedenfeld, of Wiedenfeld Water Works in Kerr County, echoed a common feeling among the representatives when he commented on the difficulty of finding all the data that has been collected in order to use it for water planning. "We need a central clearing house for data," he said. "We submit our data to the state, to universities, all over and we keep getting the same requests." With a central collection site for all the data the WPGs are collecting across the state, everyone could easily access the data without a lot of duplicated effort.
Local hydro-geololgist Feather Wilson agreed. "The data is there. You have to go the TWDB and TCEQ (Texas Commission on Environmental Quality) and they use slightly different processes, so it's not easy," he said. "Unfortunately, [the various state agencies] don't talk to each other."
The board discussed the feasibility of re-using water as a key part of any water management strategy. Howard Jackson, from the City of Ingram Utilities said, "Water doesn't wear out, it just costs money to clean it."
Wilson reminded the board about the huge water demands for the hydro-fracking in the South Texas oil and gas play. He predicted that an even bigger play is in the offing. "If the oil and gas play comes into the (Plateau WPG) area, it could demand a lot of water," he said. Wilson said that the industry is currently looking into using gas for fracking instead of water.
Wilson said that the oil and gas industry is also looking at re-using water and desalinization.
Board chair Jonathan Letz from Kerr County concluded the discussion by saying, "About all we can do now is note the potential [for increased demand]. We almost can't make a plan until we're right in the middle of it and it's too late."
According to the TWDB's website, there are 16 WPGs in Texas basically accomplish seven tasks:
• Describing the regional water planning area
• Quantifying current and projected population and water demand
• Evaluating and quantifying current water supplies
• Identifying surpluses and needs
• Evalualting water management strategies and preparing plans to meet the needs
• Recommending regulatory, administrative, and legislative changes
• Adopting the plan, including the required level of public participation.
The Plateau WPG, aka Region J Planning Group, includes Bandera, Edwards, Kerr, Kinney, Real and Val Verde counties. It includes portions of the Colorado, Guadalupe, Nueces, Rio Grande and San Antonio river basins.
In addition to its 22 voting members, the Plateau WPG includes nine non-voting members, including representatives from other regional groups, the TWDB, Texas Parks and Wildlife and Texas Department of Agriculture. It has five staff members.