Regional Water Resources
One of Mr. Howell’s most current efforts is his attempt to organize Central Texas Counties into a policy making body with the focus on water resources and distribution.
The prolonged drought and a growing population it is an urgent effort. With millions of new Central Texas residents expected within the next 25 years (Based on Census Bureau annual population projections, Florida, California and Texas will account for nearly one-half (46 percent) of total U.S. population growth between 2000 and 2030.), it is imperative that we start taking a greater regional approach to our most critical infrastructure. Water resources must be made available to the prime growth areas in the State. The Austin = San Antonio corridor will rival the Metroplex and Houston in the near future. International interest in Central Texas will bring the opportunity for significant investment, employment and tax base, but not without an apparent plan for water. More importantly, the Central Texas Triangle (Austin-San Antonio, Houston, Dallas-Ft.Worth) has become the focus of investment interest, making it necessary to identify how those resources and infrastructure can be integrated. The original Texas Water Plan in 1968, contemplated numerous new reservoirs which we know now to be too cumbersome and environmentally challenged to furnish our needs. It also included a number of nuclear power plants to provide the energy to pump water about the State. The 2012 Water Plan is handicapped by the plan development process which analyzes the options based on the desires of each river basin.
Texans need an approach which provides service where growth will occur and where there is the most potential to generate revenues necessary for a quality of life we have come to enjoy. Over the last decade or so (post Senate Bill One of the 75th Legislature 1997) there have been efforts to develop water supplies for sale to thirsty communities. The underground conservation districts have each adopted their own rules for controlling the pumping from such developments, some more restrictive than others. The very essence of this development and control issue makes the underground water sales seem more risky than a conservative municipality might be comfortable with. There have therefore been few large “deals”. Since the cost of this kind of infrastructure (i.e. pumps, long and large pipe, storage, valves, etc.) is daunting for most investors, water developments have asked for “take or pay” contracts where the purchaser starts paying for the estimated delivery of water before the delivery is in place. There has to be a better way to provide water to serve the growth. The days of large public sector projects have come to an end. The federal government, state government and local government have more entitlements and programs to fund than ever before which limits their capability to build the grid that will be ultimately necessary to serve a burgeoning population. A solution must include the capability for the private investor to see a reasonable return on their investment and with a public sector representative to perform the role of the “honest broker” that can maintain a transparent oversight function to assure the customers some certainty in their service and its associated cost. Diverse Planning and Development (DPD) is working with Hays County and others to formulate an entity that can influence and implement the first phase of a Central Texas Water System, a common carrier pipe that can assure rural and urban users access to water.