Selected tags: Water Planning

Understanding Water Tradeoffs for Hydraulic Fracturing

Talk of the impacts of hydraulic fracturing (fracing) is nothing new, but some new developments regarding where gas companies are seeking their water requires another conversation.  We have already explained the quantities of water that are needed to effectively frac a well, but where does all that water come from?  The easy answer is anywhere they can get it.  In some locations, it is primarily ground water that is often purchased from the surface owner. In other areas, water is purchased from a municipality, which sometimes mean that energy is used to treat the water to drinking water quality standards just to be mixed with chemical and sand before being injected deep underground. A newer trend is the purchase of a city's waste water effluent. Here are some thoughts to consider on a couple of these sources.

Groundwater

One of the biggest challenges for supplying frac water occurs in areas with little to no surface water available.  Perhaps, the most controversial of these is the Eagle Ford Shale in Southeast Texas.  To say this area is booming is the understatement of the year.  Each of these wells and all of the people flocking to this area need water. Lots of water.  Most of that water is coming from the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer.

Under Texas law, drillers are allowed to use water owned by the surface owner for their drilling operations which sometimes causes friction between these two parties, particularly if the surface owner doesn't hold the mineral interests. In other words, the surface owner may be receiving very little benefit for a lot of burden.  To bridge this gap, many new surface use agreements include payments for water used, which gives the surface owner a financial interest in the well that may not have previously been present.  Unfortunately, many of these contracts obligate the driller to use water only from the landowner's well which discourages or outright prohibits recycling.  More importantly, it is literally placing landowners against one another for this precious resource.

Another twist to this story involves another part of the aquifer.  Although much of the aquifer produces fresh water, other areas are more brackish in quality.  While the gas companies pull tremendous amounts of fresh water from the aquifer, the city of San Antonio is launching a project to treat the brackish water and transport it to town for municipal use.  This is an extremely expensive project that is part of their new supply portfolio.  Why are oil companies adding chemicals to fresh water that will then be permanently stored in a disposal well while the citizens of San Antonio will pay to clean brackish water from the same area? Why aren't the gas companies compelled to use the brackish resources or help pay for San Antonio to use it?

To be clear, this is no fault of San Antonio's.  The city went after the water that they could acquire and currently, there are no regulations to prevent this from happening and water used for gas production is exempt from groundwater districts' regulations, but the result seems absurd and is not the best use of resources.

City Effluent

A more recent sought source of frac water is city sewer effluent.  The city of Bandera recently voted to sell the city's effluent to Alpha Reclaim Technology, who will transport the water from the sewer plant to drilling sites. At first blush, one might think this is a great solution and in some areas it may be.  Using sewer effluent is generally better than pumping fresh water needed by other users.  So what is the problem? Well, this water used to go down the Medina River and provide flows for the environment as well as for downstream users and now it is being intercepted before that can occur.  Again, Bandera isn't prohibited from making this deal and there is no regulation that requires them to continue to put their effluent in the river, but a change in this current practice will definitely have an impact.

The Future?

Both of these listed practices are legal, but neither may be wise.  The problem is that Texas doesn't always consider the big picture of water and how one user can impact another even in an accidental way.

As a recent conference, I was on a panel discussing these issues and a member of the audience asked why gas companies aren't being compelled to build water infrastructure, such as desalination plants, either for their own use or to save the citizens from having to pay for it in the future.  It was a reasonable point in my opinion.  There is a potential for these companies to make almost unimaginable amounts of money using local resources, such as water and then leave those who remain to pay the price.

It is clear that there are large economic benefits to fracing, both to individuals lucky enough to have mineral rights, and also to communities, but there is also a cost.  Unfortunately, we don't know how much or what this cost might entail, but ignoring it will not make it go away.  These areas need to start discussions about how to ensure longevity after the boom and how companies can contribute to that vision.

Posted in Austin, Drought, Environmental Flows, Groundwater, Hydraulic Fracturing, Water Planning | Also tagged , , , | 1 Response

Did We Miss Our Teachable Moment on Water?

Well blog readers, the blog is  back after a long hiatus and there is A LOT to talk about.  This summer may not have been as dry as last summer, but that doesn't mean there aren't lots of water issues to discuss.  We are not out of a drought and there still isn't enough to go around.  First, a tad about me.  I have changed positions and shifted into academia full time, while still doing some work for EDF so for now this blog will still be up and running in its current location. Unless you hear differently, please keep tuning in.

As the title indicates, I have been a bit disappointed in what I have been seeing in cities lately regarding water planning. One would think that after such a severe drought we would reevaluate our practices to be able to withstand another drought or just live more sustainably. Sadly that isn't the case. Here are some examples.

Austin

If you live in Austin you might have been confused this summer about when you can water and when you can't.  This might be in part because the city changed briefly back to 2x/week watering (even though the lakes were still far from full) in July and then they quickly got changed back to 1x/week in September.  The reason given for relaxing the standards was the trees, but hose watering was never restricted so that doesn't make sense.  The mayor said he didn't see a problem going back and forth, but some citizens might disagree particularly when it is within a 2-month time frame.  To successfully create a conservation culture you need a consistent message.  Perhaps a permanent ordinance change can be crafted that protects trees and provides consistency for residents.

Some Austin residents have all the consistency they need by having no watering rules apply to the wells they have drilled.  They argue that their use of groundwater alleviates the lakes for other uses, but that argument has very little do to with the issue.  First, that water they are happily removing is needed somewhere else, whether it be by springs and the environment or communities that don't have access to surface water.

Second, people shouldn't have the right to do things their neighbors aren't allowed just because they  can afford it especially when it is wasteful and not beneficial to the greater good of the community.  If anything, this could lead to local disputes and discord.  It is also looking for a solution in the wrong direction.  Central Texas is dry.  That is the reality. Instead of spending all that money on a well, the whole lawn could be revamped to require less water.  The City of Austin recently passed a resolution to require an owner register a well, but didn't prohibit the wells as other cities have done.

San Antonio

Last night in San Antonio, I attended one of San Antonio Water System's (SAWS) two public meetings on a proposed new Water Management Plan and Conversation ordinance.  What? You didn't know about these?  Perhaps that it because the events weren't listed on the SAWS website or in their newsletter.  In fact, I had to call SAWS to get time, date, and location the afternoon of the meeting, at which point it was added to the website.  Why does this matter?  Well, it matters because this will define the water future for San Antonio and people need to be aware of it.  It will also greatly impact water rates, although we don't know how much yet because that wasn't part of the presentation even though the board vote is scheduled for October 2, a mere two weeks away.  It is unclear when citizens will have the opportunity to learn about and comment on their future water rate increase.

Although I have many questions and concerns about the plan, right now I am more concerned about the process.  SAWS has a nationwide reputation for their leadership in conservation and water innovation. Part of the reason they have been so successful is their willingness to partner with community stakeholders.  However, in this biggest roll out since 2009, hardly anyone knows it is happening.  I hope this doesn't indicate a shift in SAWS culture.  The best thing SAWS can do in this situation is delay the vote on this plan and allow people time to review the draft document once it is complete and submit comments.

I have heard from various water managers that customers are experiencing drought or conservation fatigue. I am not sure how to respond to that.  We can't make it rain, we can't change our climate, we can only live within its bounds. Didn't the drought teach us that if nothing else? Perhaps the fatigue is coming from fighting reality whereas accepting it would not only make folks feel better, it would enable us to live here longer.

Posted in Austin, Central Texas, Drought, Edwards Aquifer, Groundwater, san antonio, Water Conservation, Water Planning | Also tagged , , , | 2 Responses

Upcoming Conference on Water

The drought of 2011 highlighted the challenges facing Texas in meeting the water needs of Texans and the environmental upon which they depend. On April 27th from 9-4, the Texas Living Waters Project will host the “Water for People and the Environment: Managing Texas Water Demands in the 21st Century” conference, which will explore some of the key ways in which Texas may meet those challenges through more efficient use and more effective management of our water resources.   This conference is open to the public and provides the opportunity to learn more and participate in the conversation about water and our future.

Keynote speaker for the conference will be Brian Richter, an international authority on river conservation and director of The Nature Conservancy’s Global Freshwater Program. Richter’s program promotes sustainable water management with governments, business, and local communities. He has consulted on more than 120 river projects worldwide, focusing on the challenge of sustaining healthy rivers and lakes while meeting human needs for water and energy. Richter is the co-author (with water policy expert Sandra Postel) of the book Rivers for Life: Managing Water for People and Nature. He will bring his knowledge and experience from around the world to address Texas water challenges.

Conference sessions will focus on how Texas state agencies, regional water authorities, and communities may enhance drought management and response, water conservation, water reuse, and other tools to assure that our state has adequate water resources to sustain our people and the rivers, wetlands, and coastal bays and estuaries so critical to our economy as well as our ecology.  Hope to see you there!

Conference Information:

Conference check-in and on-site registration: 8 – 9 AM; conference sessions: 9 AM to 4 PM

Pre-registration fee: $55 regular, $25 student, deadline for pre-registration: April 23;

Registration fee at the door: $75 regular, $35 student; student ID required at check-in;

Registration fee includes refreshments, lunch, and all materials; vegetarian and gluten-free options will be available at the buffet lunch.

Conference will be held at the AT&T Executive & Conference Center, on The University of Texas campus at 1900 University Avenue, Austin.

Posted in Austin, Drought, Legislature, Water Planning | Also tagged , | Leave a comment

TCEQ Proposed Rules Fail to Protect Central and South Central Texas Rivers and Bays

This post was guest written by Joanna Wolaver, Water Policy Associate, National Wildlife Federation

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) proposed a rule on Friday, April 13th that will determine the amount of water that must remain flowing in Central and South Central Texas rivers and into the region’s bays to sustain fish and wildlife populations. Unfortunately, this rule fails to include many of the protections recommended by the region’s stakeholder committees, leaving fish, oysters, whooping cranes and other wildlife high and dry. The good news is that there is still time to improve the rule by voicing support for stronger flow protections to Commissioners during the public comment period, which runs from now until May 14, 2012.

A Little Background

In 2007, the Texas Legislature acknowledged the need to protect water for fish and wildlife with the passage of Senate Bill 3. This landmark bill recognized the critical role environmental flows play in maintaining the ecological health and productivity of Texas rivers and estuaries and all the economic factors associated with them. It set in motion a stakeholder process to create flow standards for each of Texas’s major river basins and associated bays that would be applied to any new water permits that are granted.

Under this law, the state appoints a committee of stakeholders for each region that includes representatives from a diverse set of interests including river authorities, municipalities, industries, environmental interests, regional water planning groups, commercial and recreational fishermen, agricultural interests and others. Each  committee, with assistance from their science advisors, is to develop consensus-based recommendations for flow standards that find an appropriate balance between protecting the environment and providing for human water needs in the basin. These recommendations are then submitted to TCEQ, which has one year to consider them and adopt rules for the region.

Stakeholders Recommend Balanced Protections

In September 2011, the stakeholder groups for the Central and South Central Texas regions–the Colorado and Lavaca Rivers/Matagorda and Lavaca Bays committee and Guadalupe and San Antonio Rivers/San Antonio Bay System committee – submitted  flow recommendations to TCEQ that provide a reasonable level of protection for fish and wildlife while also allowing for future uses of water to provide for human needs.

Developing these recommendations was no small feat, as noted in a recent San Antonio-Express News opinion piece. For one, striking a balance between the needs of fish and wildlife and future human water supply demands is never an easy task. Making matters more difficult, these committees were faced with the reality that much of the water flowing in these region’s rivers has already been permitted for use with little or no consideration of the impacts on fish and wildlife.

Despite these challenges, after months of deliberation and compromise, the Colorado/Lavaca stakeholder committee unanimously approved flow recommendations that struck a reasonable balance. The Guadalupe/San Antonio comittee also developed comprehensive recommendations, endorsed by a super-majority vote of 21 to 3.

Proposed Rules Beg for Improvement

To the frustration of the vast majority of the stakeholders, the rule proposed by TCEQ for Central and South Central Texas rivers and bays fails to incorporate key aspects of the stakeholder recommendations with insufficient explanation from agency staff as to why those key aspects where left out. This leaves the region’s fish and wildlife populations at risk. Fortunately, the public comment process provides an opportunity to improve these flow standards before they are adopted by the three TCEQ Commissioners in August.

We urge you to join the National Wildlife Federation and our Texas Living Waters Project partners in asking the Commissioners to safeguard Central Texas’s fish and wildlife populations – and the jobs that depend on them – by strengthening the proposed rule. Please consider submitting comments on the rule by May 14, 2012.

For more information on environmental flows and other Texas water issues, visit www.TexasWaterMatters.org.

Posted in Austin, Central Texas, Drought, Environmental Flows, Texas Rivers, Water Quality | Also tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Big City Water Problems Call for Big Solutions

It is no secret that more Texans are moving to urban areas. More people mean more water demands. More water demand means more infrastructure and all of this requires more money.  It doesn't help that all of this increased demand is taking place during a serious drought, forcing city and state governments to explore new solutions.  The good news is that most large Texas cities are not located in a desert like Las Vegas or Phoenix, at least not yet.  That aside, the current crisis necessitates action and that seems to be starting.

What to Do?

A couple of weeks ago, Texas lawmakers on the House Natural Resources Committee came together to talk water.  One of the interesting aspects of the hearing was the focus on the need for water to preserve our economy.  Water is often discussed from an environmental or even personal lifestyle perspective, but it is also a critical part of Texas industry.  In many ways, Texas has weathered the national economic turmoil fairly well.  This cannot continue without sustainable water resources.  Cities can't grow and industry can't run.  Unfortunately, even within this reality some Texas cities, such as Corpus Christi, seem to be ignoring this harsh reality.

On the other hand, the DFW area, often vilified for its water usage, is seeking to make twice-a-week watering restrictions a permanent way of life for local citizens thanks to the banding together of four North Texas city mayors.  Whether or not this particular rule is the key to all the metroplex problems, this move towards a regional approach is most certainly a huge improvement.  As we all know, water doesn't respect physical boundaries so group planning in an important part of any water solution, particularly in areas where people work in one area and live in another.  Unified metroplex rules can solve many points of confusion that might arise.

Austin is also discussing new approaches to watering and restrictions.  Often, strict watering restrictions don't take nature into account.  It can be perfectly legal to water the day after (or during) a rainstorm even if it isn't logical.  The real key to efficient watering is a combination of when and how much. Austin is considering a pilot project that gives discretion to users regarding when they water as long as they don't exceed a monthly water budget.  Smarter technologies may be a key to helping the ground "decide" when some water is needed and when it isn't.

The Natural Resources Committee hearing also turned to infrastructure and technology.  The perceived silver bullet of desalination was again raised with references to what has been done in Australia.  It is important to note that the use of increased technology in Australia was paired with customer behavior changes.  Conservation in all aspects of life was a critical component of the overall water plan.  That being said, infrastructure is an important aspect of sustainability.

Who Should Supply Water?

Interestingly the gap between need and supply has created an opportunity for private companies to replace local agencies as water providers.  Traditionally, water supply and infrastructure has been the exclusive purview of the municipal provider, but as city to-do lists get longer, they are more willing to contract out the work.  The basic reasoning is that a private company has a financial incentive to replace old, leaking infrastructure because lost product means lost revenue.  Many criticize this shift because it changes a public service to a private, money-making enterprise and is seen as the commoditization of water, which should be a public good.  Unfortunately, a frequent side effect of privitization is exorbitant increases in water bills.  After all, these companies are here to make a profit.  On the other side of the coin, many cities simply do not have the revenue to replace pipes responsible for thousands of gallons of leaking water.

In some ways, it is hard to argue against paying higher prices for water. Many feel that we don't pay what water is worth; however, commoditizing water can be a dangerous game.  If cities are going to contract with companies, a balance must be struck.  Water is necessary for life so no one should be priced out of the market for their basic water needs.  High, punitive pricing should be reserved for large, discretionary users who may decide the price of a large lawn is worth it.  Additional issues arise if users in comparable urban areas are paying significantly different rates simply because of a local government choice.  If privitization is going to be continuing trend, state legislators need to consider putting some basic rules in place to limit what people can be forced to pay, particularly for basic amounts as well as other limitations on corporate actions as they affect water supply.

It isn't news that there isn't one answer to this issue.  Group efforts with diverse approaches are necessary, but it's good to see some important conversations taking place.  We will keep letting you know what we hear.

Posted in Austin, Central Texas, Climate Change, Dallas, Drought, Legislature, san antonio, Water Planning | Also tagged , , , | Leave a comment

Biggest Decision in TX Groundwater Since 1904!

Almost 2 years ago, in one of our first blogs, we posted about a groundwater case pending in front of the Texas Supreme Court.  At the time, none of us predicted that we would have to wait over 2 years for a decision, but wait we did — until Friday.  On February 17th, the Texas Supreme Court issued perhaps the most important decision governing groundwater since the 1904 East case declared that right of capture was Texas' official system of allocation.  While we were awaiting a ruling, the Texas legislature tried to answer the same question posed to the court with SB 332.  After enacted legislation and a 50-page opinion, the only thing that we can be certain about is more uncertainty.

Some background

Although Texas recognizes right of capture, there was a question regarding when the property right is perfected. The fundamental issue in the Edwards Aquifer Authority (EAA) v. Day case is whether an overlying landowner owns the groundwater beneath her property “in place” or whether ownership of the groundwater only vests once the groundwater has been captured through pumping.   If the property right is held in place, regulations promulgated by groundwater districts limiting pumping by a landowner may constitute a constitutional taking requiring compensation. Consequently, imposing regulations to ensure groundwater sustainability may be become difficult if not impossible.

The ruling

The Day case was initiated when the plaintiff landowners requested 700 acre-feet from the EAA and were granted a permit for 14 acre-feet so they brought a claim alleging a taking.   The EAA grants permits based on proven historic use of the water between 1972 and 1993.  The court explicitly held that landowners have a vested right in water in place; however, the court remanded the case to determine if a takings had occurred in this individual case.  In defining the rule of capture, the court defined it as right of capture for oil and gas has been classified in the state.

The impact

While the ruling is being hailed as a victory by landowners, its true implications will not be known without further litigation.    This means that future court decisions will be responsible for filling in the factual details of what constitutes a taking and what does not.  Meanwhile, while that is getting sorted out around the state, groundwater pumping may be left unchecked during a critical time and a continuing drought will only exacerbate this problem.  In addition to creating some uncertainty across the state, the ruling may put the legitimacy of multi-year, stakeholder driven Edwards Aquifer Recovery Implementation Program (RIP) into question.  This is particularly unfortunate because it was a consensus-based approach to maintaining flow in the springs while still adhering to pumping limits.  While only time will tell, it is alarming to think that this ruling may have created more questions than answers thus putting our already fragile groundwater resources at further risk.

Posted in Austin, Central Texas, Edwards Aquifer, Groundwater, Groundwater Conservation Districts, Legislature, Litigation, san antonio, Water Planning | Also tagged , , , , | 2 Responses

Where do Water Rights Go when the Water Runs Dry?

Lately, there has been a lot of talk about the lack of water and how best to use water, but not a lot of attention has been paid to how Texas allocates water and what happens when that water is no longer available.  Although Central Texas recently received some much needed rain, the state is still well behind in average precipitation.  This continues to raise concerns among water rights holders.   In light of the current drought, many water rights are being reduced or withheld, but what does this really mean?  To understand, we must first review the law. 

Prior Appropriation

Surface water in the State of Texas is held by the state in trust for the people.   Surface water is allocated through permits issued by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) using the prior appropriation system.  The doctrine of prior appropriation is common in western states and simply put means first in time, first in right.    Under this system, anyone can potentially obtain a permit for a beneficial use (as defined by statute) so long as water is available and other statutory requirements are met.  A water right  is treated as real property and can be bought or sold.  Older rights,  which can date back to the 18th century are more protected and can be very valuable.   As water becomes more scarce and can no longer fulfill the needs of all permit holders, senior users can make a "call" requiring junior users to limit or cease their use so that the senior user can receive her full amount.   

Getting the "call"

Under normal conditions, everyone should be able to draw their complete permitted amount, but these aren't normal conditions.  In November 2011, TCEQ was forced to curtail several junior water rights in the Neches River Basin.  Similar calls were made througout the year in the Sabine, Brazos, Colorado, and Guadalupe River Basins.  In total, 15 calls were made by the TCEQ  in 2011, affecting 1,200 water permits across Texas and surpassing all previous years by a long shot.  Some of the effected junior rights dated back to the early 1900s.  While some of these rights were only partially curtailed, others were completely suspended effecting a suite of sectors including recreational uses, agriculture, industrial and mining.  Water rights for municipal or power generation were not suspended due to public welfare concerns.

What now?

Yesterday, TCEQ lifted 160 restrictions in the Neches River Basin allowing junior users to again access their permitted water; however, many water users across the state are still curtailed and many others are at risk, particularly if it doesn't rain. It is critical that existing users ensure they are using water in the most efficient way possible to protect from other reductions.   A review of Texas water rights in another reminder that we are all sharing these precious resources and our actions can directly effect others.  Without vigilance now, many more rights will be curtailed later.

Posted in Austin, Central Texas, Drought, Environmental Flows, TCEQ, Water Planning, Water Rights | Also tagged , , | Leave a comment

Is Desal the Answer?

As concerns about water supply continue, more and more stories seem to point to desalination as the answer.  Until now, most Texas desal plants are small and regionally located, but a seawater desalination plant will open on South Padre Island in 2014 again opening conversations about importing water from the coast to Central Texas.  El Paso is the largest municipal user of desal technology in Texas.  The plant on Fort Bliss is capable of treating 27.5 million gallons of water a day for regional users.  Like other technologies, desalination can be a useful tool for water resources, but there are other important considerations to be made before it is hailed as the final solution. 

Price

To date, one of the stopping points for using desal as a water supply alternative is it's price.  Treatment of brackish groundwater can be 4 times as expensive as freshwater supply and the price increases considerably for salt water.  Of course price is also contingent on location.  Brackish groundwater often has the advantage of being local without additional pipeline costs, whereas some discussed projects such as hauling treated Gulf water instate would have exponential costs added for pipeline construction and transport.  Property owners along the way might also wonder where that pipeline is going to be located and through what legal means will it be placed there.

Energy

As we have mentioned here before, it takes energy to move and treat water.  This needs to be considered for these larger projects.  A city can increase its water sustainability while inadvertently decreasing energy sustainability.  Proposals for these projects need to include calculations of the associated energy footprint so that the big picture is considered.  Energy needs also increase based on the salinity of the water because additional treatment is required.  Long-haul projects also require large amounts of energy.  To bring water from the coast to San Antonio, 140 miles of pipelines would need to be installed with large amounts of power to push the water uphill.  

The key to desalination is to see it is as a part of a suite of solutions like El Paso has.  The city employed the new technology along with a host of other conservation, efficiency and water supply projects.  Because of the pricing and energy drawbacks of desalination, other supply options such as water efficiency programs should be fully implemented before additional treatment plants are built.  Regional brackish water treatment makes more sense, where possible, than piping treated water long distances.  Technology can provide some great solutions, but it is not a magic cure. It must be paired with common sense and evaluated with all the data to ensure a well rounded sustainable system.

Posted in Central Texas, Corpus Christi, Energy-Water Nexus, Water Planning | Also tagged , | 1 Response

Make a Water Resolution

Happy New Year!  2011 was not a good year for Texas water lovers and despite some recent rains we are still in a serious drought that isn't likely to end soon.  As we all enter into another potentially challenging water year, the blog suggests that you make a water resolution.  January is the time for fresh starts, so why not start here?  Here are some suggestions. 

1) Limit buying bottled water – A few years ago I set a goal for myself that I would only buy 25 bottles of water all year including international travel.  I went out a bought a good refillable Nalgene and wrote down every I bought a bottle.  When I did buy one, I bought a big one to reduce waste.  I finished the year well beneath my goal so each year I lower the number.  If you don't like the way your local water tastes, try a filtering bottle

2) Shorten shower time — Many of us have no idea how long we are in the shower.  Becoming aware of how much water we are using is the first step in reducing and changing our relationship with water.  Just take a look at the clock when you get in and when you get out and see how you fare. If you were in there a long time, see if you can reduce it.  You can also buy a timer just for this purpose to help you limit showers to 5 minutes.

3) Replace plumbing — If you have an old toilet, shower head or faucet, make this the year to change those.  Check with your city because there might be a rebate or incentive program that will reduce costs. You might even get it for free!!

4) Do a little landscaping — If you are like me, your yard may look a little pitiful right now.  This might be a good time to survey what high water usage plants can be removed and/or replaced with something more fitting to the local environment.  If you do decide to replant, be sure you can ensure survival while still adhering to any watering restrictions in your area.

5) Tell a friend — We are all in this together so, although individual action is certainly important, we need to work together to ensure there is enough water to go around.  If you see someone wasting water, stranger or friend, say something.  It doesn't have to be confrontational, just give them a little information, make a joke or direct them to the blog. 

Of course this is only a starter list.  If you thought of one that we haven't mentioned, please submit a comment with your idea.  Welcome to 2012.

 

Posted in Austin, Central Texas, Drought, Water Conservation, Water Cooler, Water Planning | Also tagged , , | 1 Response

Energy and Water Continue to Collide

As the drought drones on, energy is a growing topic.  Of course, this isn't new to our readers, but it is definitely interesting to see the conversation getting more coverage and with some good results.  Texas is often touted as the energy state. While this is a title we wear with pride, the reality is that we can't maintain it if there isn't enough water.  Texas currently has 19 water guzzling coal-fired plants and 9 more in the planning stage.  Sadly, almost none of these utilize water saving cooling technologies.  In the past, the decision of cooling technology has been up to the company building the plant, but necessity and reality are changing all that.

LCRA says NO to White Stallion

After months of debate, the White Stallion power plant has finally been denied a water contract by the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA).  You may recall in August White Stallion significantly changed the terms of the contract and sent the negotiations into purgatory.  Even after White Stallion announced they would reduce their water usage to "only" 1 billion gallons  of water a year (something proponents advocated from the beginning), it seems that reason, and perhaps the law, prevailed.  It turns out, that Texans agree that there are some places where there just isn't enough water for a coal plant.

More Problems to Come

A new report from the Union of Concerned Scientists echoes this sentiment.  The report warns of possible rolling brown or blackouts due to either lack of water or water returning to waterways at a temperature higher than that permitted by the EPA.  It also highlights the fact significant data gaps in water use by power plants.  This lack of reporting by plants of their actual water withdrawals and consumption makes it impossible to effectively plan for all water needs.  Legislation at state and/or federal levels need to require better data collection and reporting to state agencies.

The drought has started a bigger conversation on the how energy relates to water.  It is important that we use this to make important policy changes for the next time it stops raining.

Posted in Austin, Climate Change, Drought, Energy-Water Nexus, Texas Rivers, Water Conservation | Also tagged , , | 2 Responses