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March 27, 2007 (512) 463-0300

SENATE MOVES AHEAD ON STATE WATER PLAN

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Sen. Kip Averitt of Waco discusses his bill that would move the state toward a comprehensive water plan.

(AUSTIN) -- The Senate passed a bill Tuesday aimed at preparing the state for increased water demand as the Texas population continues to grow. Lt. Governor David Dewhurst has said that if the state doesn't prepare, it could be left without adequate water resources when the state population doubles in a few decades. Senate Bill 3 begins the process of that preparation. Bill author Senator Kip Averitt of Waco says this bill is a comprehensive approach to water policy in the state. "We stress conservation, we provide for future sources of water, and we're maintaining the ecological balances in our state," he said.

SB 3 seeks to increase water supply by addressing conservation as well as new supplies of water in the form of reservoirs. The bill designates 18 locales as future reservoir sites. While the bill does not permit licensing or construction at these sites, some lawmakers have expressed reservations about the effect these designations could have on private property owners. Senator Kevin Eltife, who has shown concern that the designation process could drive down property values, amended the bill to create a study commission to look at the problem of water demand in some areas of the state, primarily north and east Texas. This commission would look at other ways, besides creating a reservoir, that these areas could plan for increasing water demand, including conservation efforts, as well as determining exactly whose property would be affected by the proposed sites.

The bill also contains provisions for environmental concerns. It would create a science-based approach to freshwater flows, which are a vital component of the state's bays and estuaries. It would also stress conservation, requiring water utility providers to formulate and submit plans to decrease water use through conservation. It would also enhance conservation education for the public. Averitt said that most people want to conserve water, they just don't know the best way to do it. "I believe the mood of the public is green these days, and I think people are ready, willing and able to conserve if they just knew how."

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Arlington Sen. Chris Harris listens to testimony from TYC acting director Ed Owens at today's meeting of the Joint Committee on the Operation and Management of the TYC.

The Joint Committee on Management and Operation of the Texas Youth Commission, the committee tasked with fixing problems at the TYC, held a meeting Tuesday to hear from Acting Director Ed Owens on the progress of reforms at his agency. Owens testified that he and his team are still looking at many problems to try and find out the best way to proceed. Senate Chairman John Whitmire said that agency heads need to stop studying the issues and start acting. "We're not seeing the radical changes that we expected in terms of reform, protection of the youth, and the good employees," he said. "We're studying this to death." Committee members told Owens that they expect to see at least some action in terms of implementing reforms in time for the committee's scheduled Thursday meeting.

The Senate will reconvene Wednesday, March 28, at 11 a.m.


Session video and all other webcast recordings can be accessed from the Senate website's audio and video archive pages.

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