WHAT: Public hearing on state water plan
WHERE: Stephen F. Austin University, Regent's Suite A, 222 Vista Dr.
TIME: 6 p.m.
A public meeting on the recently-released draft 2007 State Water Plan will be held on Wednesday in Nacogdoches.
Staff from the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) will be at the meeting to present the controversial plan, which a coalition of conservation groups has described as "a wildly-expensive boondoggle that, if implemented as written, would leave the state with dry rivers and empty pockets."
The plan includes Fastrill Reservoir, located in the same area where the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service recently approved the creation of the Neches River National Wildlife Refuge.
The recently-released draft of the 2007 State Water Plan has a total price tag of $31 billion and calls for the creation of 14 major new reservoirs.
Myron Hess of the National Wildlife Federation explains that, even taking population growth into consideration, the plan recommends more projects than the state's demand projections show are necessary.
The price tag for the new state plan is almost double what was estimated five years ago. The 2002 State Water Plan had a total estimated capital cost of less than $18 billion and called for the creation of eight new reservoirs.
Much of the difference, according to Hess, has to do with the new plan includes projects for many regions that would produce supplies far in excess of projected demands.
Hess said, "We certainly need some new infrastructure, but some regions have included everything but the kitchen sink. What we should be doing is looking at cost-effective solutions with the least impact on our rivers and bays."
The Texas Water Development Board estimates total water demands in 2060 will be twenty-seven percent higher than today. The population of the state is projected to double over the same period, but agricultural irrigation is expected to decline.
The conservation groups also argue that the plan does not do enough to encourage water conservation and does not adequately incorporate drought management measures.
Mary Kelly, the Co-Director of Environmental Defense's Land, Water and Wildlife Program said, "We have to prepare ourselves for droughts like the one we are in today and that means being innovative about how we use water. Letting water sit out in a lake to evaporate during a hot Texas summer isn't a smart approach, especially as climate change could increase statewide temperatures. Using water efficiently is not just cheaper; it is also more reliable. This draft plan, unfortunately, is a 1950s-style solution to a 21st-century problem."
Jennifer Walker of the Lone Star chapter of the Sierra Club said, "Texas deserves a sensible water plan that meets the needs of our growing state. The Water Development Board, water suppliers and the legislature should focus on a balanced set of water management strategies with an increased emphasis on water conservation, the most affordable and secure strategy for the future."