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June 12, 2002     (512) 463-0300

Joint Commission Examines Drought

The Texas Joint Committee on Water Resources today heard that the current drought in Texas has hurt not only agriculture and water supplies, but also the state's economy as a whole.

Jack Colley, from the Division of Emergency Management, reported that we will be in a severe fire season this summer. There have already been more than one thousand wildfires since January 1, and summer hasn't even begun. He said overall economic impact has not been calculated, but it could be several billion dollars, similar to the 1998 drought.

One of the committee's duties is to study the efficient use of existing water resources. Addressing that topic, the committee heard Dale Beebe-Farrow. from the Texas Natural Resources Conservation Commission, who reported that the commission is investigating water systems that conserve resources. Texas Parks & Wildlife representatives testified on problems that aquatic plants are causing in the Rio Grande. Martin Hubert from the Texas Department of Agriculture said that the demand for irrigation water should decrease over the next few years as water supply equipment becomes more efficient. Allan Jones from the Texas Water Resources Institute at Texas A&M described how the Extension Service is researching better ways to use water. Carole Baker, from the Texas Section of the American Water Works Association, spoke about the association's strategy for reducing water usage in urban areas. Paul Thornhill, from the Lower Colorado River Authority, spoke on that agency*s management of surface and groundwater.

Kevin Ward of the Texas Water Development Board offered ideas about how the state can help fund new water conservation projects through the Texas Water Infrastructure Fund. Monte Akers from the Texas Municipal League addressed water financing options. Jeff Taylor from the City of Houston said his city is working with the private sector on water projects, and Tom Ray spoke on how to get additional federal funds for Texas water projects.

The Texas Joint Committee on Water Resources is made up of Legislators from both houses. Co-Chairmen are Senator J.E. "Buster" Brown and Representative David Counts. Members include Senators David Bernsen and Teel Bivins, along with Representatives Robby Cook and Robert Puente. Also attending the committee meeting was Senator Kip Averitt. This was the last meeting of this committee, adjourned by Chairman Brown.

You can access the archived video webcast from the Senate's web page of the Joint Committee on Water Resources.

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