HOUSE AND SENATE COMMITTEES HOLD HEARINGS ON DROUGHT
The House and Senate Committees on Natural Resources held hearings in November on their interim charges related to drought conditions in the state. The charges are as follows:
- House: Monitor the ongoing statewide drought and the performance of state, regional, and local entities in addressing it. Examine the impact of the drought on the state water plan, including an evaluation of how well the state's existing water resources can meet demand, the need for additional funding sources to implement the plan, and the effectiveness of current drought planning and drought management policies. Identify short-term and long-term strategies to help the state better cope with drought and assess any obstacles, including state and federal regulations, to implementation of these strategies.
- Senate: Review water resources and conservation measures included in the State Water Plan to ensure that the appropriate entities are implementing the plans and that state and local authorities are enforcing requirements of the plans. In addition, the committee should evaluate methods to effectively enhance existing water resources and promote water conservation measures across the state at all times, not just in case of severe drought conditions.
The committees, in all-day sessions, each heard from a host of state and local officials. Of note, the following city officials testified at the hearing:
- Jackie Levingston, Mayor, City of Groesbeck (and on behalf of the Texas Municipal League)
- Webb Melder, Mayor, City of Conroe (and on behalf of the Texas Municipal League)
- Finley DeGraffenried, City Manager, City of Llano
- Greg Meszaros, City of Austin Water Utility
- Karen Guz, San Antonio Water System
Testimony focused on the fact that the current drought is one of the worst in Texas history. Couple that with aging infrastructure and a huge potential cost to meet the state’s current and future water demand, and the main points that emerged at the hearing were: (1) conservation is a means to extend the current water supply, including suggestions by some legislators that cities should do more in the area of water reuse; and (2) the legislature needs to find a dedicated funding source to meet infrastructure needs outlined in the State Water Plan.
City officials should expect to see a large amount of legislative activity in this area in 2013. A League position on those issues will be developed in the legislative policy process next year.