Joint Committee Examines Water Resources
AUSTIN - Water has always been an issue of prime importance to Texans. During the legislative session that ended in May, the Lieutenant Governor and Speaker of the House ordered a study of how to best allocate Texas' scarce water resources. The committee charged with doing that, the Texas Joint Committee on Water Resources, held its first meeting today, Thursday, December 13, 2001.
Chaired by Senator J.E. "Buster" Brown and Representative David Counts, the committee reviewed its charges and heard invited testimony. Before the 78th Legislature convenes in January of 2003, the committee will examine subjects such as:
- environmental and wildlife concerns in water permitting and development
- increasing the efficient use of existing water resources
- water marketing
- improving water conveyance systems
- protection of state-owned riverbeds
- developing sufficient long-term financing strategies for water resources
Jeff Saitis, Executive Director of the Texas Natural Resource Conservation Commission, led off the invited testimony with a brief overview of Texas' surface water supplies and how they are managed. Dean Robbins, from the Texas Water Conservation Association briefed the members on the current laws that provide for protection of the environment and wildlife. Myron Hiss from the National Wildlife Federation, spoke about the necessary flows of water through the state's river system to maintain our current level of fish and wildlife.
Carole Baker from the Subsidence District spoke on increasing the efficient use of existing water resources. She discussed the difficulty of getting water conservation plans through the Legislature and then getting them implimented on the local level. Russell Johnson from the law firm of Bracewell and Patterson spoke on water marketing, saying that to make the most efficient use of limited water resources, there have to be transfers, and that each transaction is unique.
Ron Freeman of Texas Water Reserves testified that by investing in an efficient water transfer system, such as closing open canals, Texas could save millions of gallons of water yearly. Dr. Larry McKinney from the Texas Parks and Wildlife Department testified on how best to protect the riverbeds and the issues involved. Craig Pedersen from the Texas Water Development Board and Tom Duck, from the Texas Rural Water Association, then discussed ways that water conservation and management plans can be funded.
Besides co-chairman Brown and Counts, the Texas Joint Committee on Water Resources is made up of Senators David Bernsen and Teel Bivins, along with Representatives Robby Cook and Robert Puente. Also joining the committee today was recently sworn-in Senator Craig Estes of Wichita Falls. The committee recessed subject to call of the chair with its next meeting at a time and place to be announced at a later date.
You can access the archived video webcast from the web page of the Texas Joint Committee on Water Resources.