Issues Facing the 80th Legislature - SENATE NATURAL RESOURCES
AUSTIN -- This session, I will be serving for the first time on the Senate Natural Resources Committee. While I will be new to the committee, I am not new to the issues that we will face. Having previously been appointed by Lt. Governor David Dewhurst to serve on the Select Committee on Water Policy, I look forward to continuing the work on these important issues that face Texas and Senate District Two.
One of the most important issues the committee will focus on is water policy. Recently, the Senate Research Center published a document entitled "Issues Facing the 80th Legislature." This document outlines several issues that will be taken up by the Senate this session, and this Capitol Update will focus on water. If you would like to view the entire document, please visit www.senate.state.tx.us or call my office for a copy.
The State of Texas has jurisdiction over all surface water in the state with oversight by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ). Texas groundwater is regulated regionally by regional and local groundwater districts with some uniform procedures set forth by the 79th Legislature.
The 80th Legislature may evaluate and monitor the effect of legislation enacted in the 79th Regular Session that requires joint planning among groundwater conservation districts within groundwater management areas. The 80th Legislature may assess all issues related to groundwater law, policy, and management, including the jurisdiction and authority of groundwater conservation districts and river authorities and the coordination of consistent and nondiscriminatory water policies.
Terminology of water issues:
Conjunctive Use: The conjunctive use of surface and groundwater consists of harmoniously combining the use of both sources of water in order to minimize the undesirable physical, environmental, and economical effects of each solution and to optimize the water demand/supply balance. Usually conjunctive use of surface and groundwater is considered within a river basin management program when the river and aquifer belong to the same basin.
Rule of Capture: The rule of capture which allows landowners to pump as much water beneath their land as they want without regard for the impact on their neighbors' supply was established in Texas in 1904 and still prevails.
Junior Water Rights: Junior water rights are granted subsequent in time to other water rights in the same basin. These rights are "junior" in time priority to all such rights that were previously granted or recognized by the state. No part of the junior water right can be impounded, diverted, or beneficially used and recognized until the senior right is satisfied in its entirety.
Interbasin Transfers: Interbasin transfers (IBTs) are movement of surface water from one basin to another, subject to approval and regulation in Texas by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality.
Reuse: Water reuse is the use of surface water that has already been beneficially used once under a water right or the use of groundwater that has already been used. For example, treating wastewater and piping it to a golf course for irrigation is water reuse. There are two types of water reuse: direct reuse and indirect reuse. Direct reuse is the use of effluent from a wastewater treatment plant that is piped directly from the plant to the place where it is used, such as a golf course. Indirect reuse is the use of water, usually treated effluent, which is placed back into a river or stream and then diverted further downstream to be used again.
Desalination: Desalination is the removal of dissolved salts from seawater and from the salty waters of inland seas, highly mineralized groundwaters, and municipal wastewaters. Desalination makes such otherwise unusable waters fit for human consumption, irrigation, industrial applications, and other purposes.
Environmental Flow: Environmental flow is the amount of water needed in rivers, streams, and coastal bays to support fish and wildlife populations.
The 80th Legislature may consider policy regarding conjunctive use of ground and surface water; rule of capture; water rights; water marketing; reuse; and interbasin transfers, to ensure that communities can implement critical water supply projects.
With the increasing Texas population and water demand, particularly transitioning from agricultural to municipal and industrial uses, the 80th Legislature may again consider legislation facilitating desalination projects, environmental flow protection, and drought preparedness.
To contact Sen. Deuell about the legislative process, contact the Capitol Office at (512) 463-0102 or mail to Sen. Bob Deuell, Texas Senate, P.O. Box 12068, Austin, TX 78711. The website for the Texas Senate is www.Senate.state.tx.us. The e-mail address for Sen. Deuell is: firstname.lastname@example.org