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April 2, 1998     (512) 463-0300

LEGISLATORS MEET TO DISCUSS WATER

CORPUS CHRISTI - The Legislative Joint Committee on Water Resources Development and Management held a public hearing Thursday, April 2, in the Corpus Christi City Council Chambers. The members of the committee include Senators J.E. "Buster" Brown of Lake Jackson (co-chair), Ken Armbrister of Victoria, Eddie Lucio of Brownsville, Carlos F. Truan of Corpus Christi, Jeff Wentworth of San Antonio and Representatives Ron Lewis of Mauriceville (co-chair), Robert Cook of Eagle Lake, David Counts of Knox City, Robert Puente of San Antonio, and Gary Walker of Plains.

The committee is conducting hearings around the state to gather information on the implementation of Senate Bill 1 (SB1), the Brown-Lewis water management plan. SB1 is a comprehensive water plan that provides Texas with its first statewide drought management plan.

The hearing began with invited testimony from Meir Ben Meir, water commissioner of Israel, on Israel's water management practices. South Texas has had a long-standing relationship with Israel due to the similarities in climate. In Meir's testimony he stated the problem is not technology, the problem is policy making. The greatest policy issue is whether water is a public resource for survival, a commodity, or something in between. He stated that central planning and central pricing, something people in the U.S. do not like to hear, is necessary for true management of water. The current debate in Israel is whether to begin developing desalination over the next five years or delay until absolutely necessary because of cost. Meir paraphrased the debate between Israel's commissioner of water and commissioner of the treasury as "the price for being early is only money, but the price for being late is irreversible". Meir left retirement to serve a second term as water commissioner.

Other testimony consisted of presentations from local area water providers and industry representatives on their methods used and experiences in implementing the new water plan. This included a presentation by the City of Corpus Christi concerning management of their water resources and their future plans including interbasin transfers, underground storage, and desalination.

The committee will report their findings to the 76th Legislature which convenes in January of 1999.

The next hearing is planned for April 23 in Brownsville.

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