Texas on Tap - Q4 2021

Page 1


Q4 2021


Groundwater Conservation Districts (GCDs) and Texas Groundwater Supply



Is Texas Running Out of Water?

Preparing for the Next Winter Storm

My Water Footprint

TRWA Scholarship




The GROUNDWATER SUPPLY in Texas and our Groundwater Conservation Districts By Christy Sanchez, North Alamo Water Supply Corporation


roundwater conservation districts (GCDs) were first created in Texas in 1949 and there are 98 districts in Texas today. In many parts of the state, more groundwater is being used than is being refilled through natural means. If this continues, Texas water costs will rise, water quality could decline, and people in some areas could run out of water. To address this issue, the Texas Legislature created GCDs with a goal to manage, conserve, educate and protect local water supplies. In some instances, local landowners may petition the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) to form a GCD. The petition must be signed by a majority of the landowners

in the proposed district; or contain at least 50 signatures if the area has more than 50 landowners. In other cases, TCEQ can initiate the creation of a GCD.

What are a GCD’s legal duties? • Develop and adopt a management plan and coordinate planning with regional planning groups, state agencies and other GCDs. • Adopt the rules needed to implement the management plan. • Keep records of drilling, equipping and completing of water wells and the production and use of groundwater.


• Permit and register certain wells. • Adopt rules for governance and establish administrative and financial procedures.

What about landowners with private wells? Generally, Texas groundwater belongs to the landowners. Groundwater is governed by the rule of capture which grants landowners the right to pump as much water beneath their property as they choose, without liability to surrounding landowners who might claim that the pumping has dried up their wells. This includes selling groundwater or the rights to pump groundwater to a neighbor, a corporation or a city. Groundwater conservation districts may make and enforce rules, including limiting groundwater production based on tract size or the spacing of wells.

How much do we rely on groundwater? Of all the water we use in Texas, about 60 percent is groundwater, 80 percent of which is used for agriculture. Several major cities rely on groundwater, including San Antonio, Houston, Lubbock and El Paso, to supply water for homes, business and industries. In Texas, groundwater comes from 32 aquifers. According to the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB), nine aquifers supply about 97 percent of the groundwater that is being used today. By the 2040s, TWDB projects that more water will be used by cities and industry than by agriculture. Water levels are being monitored annually by the TWDB in nearly 2,000 wells, in 30 major and minor aquifers located throughout the state.


The TWDB’s Recorder Program provides hourly measurement information that allows cities and groundwater conservation districts to react quickly in mandating pumping limits during drought conditions.

IS TEXAS RUNNING OUT OF WATER? By Kimberly Zamora Sachs, Green Valley Special Utility District


ccording to the Texas Water Development Board (TWBD), if no additional water supplies are developed, approximately one-third of Texas’ population will have less than half of the municipal water supplies they will require in 2070. Municipal water users may face water shortages over six times greater in 2070 (approximately 3.4 million acre-feet) than in 2020 (about 511,000 acre-feet). Without additional water supplies, the annual economic losses from water shortages would range from roughly $75 billion in 2021 to $151 billion in 2070. Texas’s population has increased by 16%, according to the 2020 census, and our population is projected to double by 2050. While this is due in part to young adults between the ages of 20-34 moving to Texas each year, even if all migration to Texas ceases, the population would still rise to more than 31 million by 2050. How is your utility provider managing this growth? What are their plans to acquire additional water sources or secure water rights for the future? Most utility providers have a crisis plan in place, consisting of future planning, capital improvements, water


acquisition, etc. These plans are designed for 20+ years into the future. Water diversification is a crucial attribute to ensure the maintenance of the utility providers. Two Texas water utilities, over 500 miles apart and environmentally different, utilize similar water management strategies to supply enough water to their growing populations. At the furthest western tip of Texas, situated in the Chihuahuan Desert, El Paso began in the early 20th century to diversify its water portfolio. San Antonio Water System (SAWS), in south-central Texas, wasn’t faced with the need to expand until 20 years ago, when its sole source of water, the Edwards Aquifer, became regulated with limits to its withdrawal. Both are known in the water world as leaders in innovation strategies and aggressive conservation. For years, the Edwards Aquifer, one of the most productive aquifers in the United States, supplied the San Antonio area with water. Once the aquifer became regulated by the Edwards Aquifer Authority, water systems within the region began looking for new water sources to reduce their reliance on the Edwards Aquifer. Other sources include surface

water from Medina Lake, Lake Dunlap, and Canyon Lake, and groundwater from the Trinity Carrizo and Lower Wilcox aquifers. The opportunities for water diversification are at the forefront of most utility providers within the surrounding areas. El Paso Water also prides itself on its range of different water supplies and its water reuse. Currently, 40 percent of its drinking water supply comes from the Rio Grande, with 55 percent from Hueco Bolson and Mesilla Bolson aquifers and 5 percent from desalination. What makes El Paso Water one of the most progressive water utilities in the country, however, is how they use and reuse their water.

“ [...] even if all migration to Texas ceases, the population would still rise to more than 31 million by 2050.

In 1963, El Paso Water operated a wastewater treatment plant that took effluent or treated wastewater and distributed the nonpotable water to a local golf course for irrigation. Today, the utility uses four wastewater reclamation plants and supplies about 5.83 million gallons of reclaimed water a day to golf courses, sports fields, construction sites, and other uses. Currently, 32 percent of El Paso Water’s reclaimed water is used for irrigation, 33 percent for industrial processes, 34 percent for aquifer recharge, and a small percent for construction. Both El Paso and San Antonio have aggressive conservation programs that help extend the life of their water sources. Both utilities have ordinances that restrict landscape watering during certain times. The San Antonio area is tied to the water levels in the Edwards while El Paso Water has a year-round watering schedule with restrictions on what days residents can water. Karen Guz, SAWS director of conservation,


said SAWS relies on three strategies: education and outreach, reasonable regulation, and incentives for the utility’s conservation program. “The mix of programs offered has evolved over the years as we have completed some efforts such as eliminating high-flow plumbing fixtures,” Guz said. “Today, the utility has a wide range of programs to help residential and commercial customers be water efficient.” Guz explained that in the early 1990s, when their only source of water at the time was becoming heavily regulated, there was some shock about what they would have to do. But as a result, they were able to implement education and conservation programs, incentives, and ordinances to create conservation ethics in San Antonio, which is now really in their blood. Since the 1980s, El Paso Water customers have reduced their per-person water consumption by 35 percent. This savings was accomplished through a combination of conservation programs that emphasized educational outreach to schools, incentives to change how customers use water, and enforcement to ensure compliance with the city conservation ordinance. Communication with customers has also been a priority. Christina Montoya-Halter, the Communications and Marketing Manager at El Paso Water Utilities, said they have communicated to its customers about the reasons for diversification and the need to add nontraditional water supply sources, such as the desalination plant. “We’ve always talked to our customers about the need to diversify living in a desert,” Montoya-Halter said, “so we’d have their support.” With diversified solutions to its portfolio, El Paso Water helps ensure that if one water supply is unavailable, it will be able to supplement with another source. “For example, in 2013, when we had the drought, and our river water supply went from 40 percent to probably about 5 percent, we had to use the desalination plant at high capacity and pump a lot of our wells,” Montoya-Halter said. “Because we have those alternate sources, we were able to keep meeting demand.”

water H systems Preparing for the next winter storm

aving electricity available at our homes and businesses has become something of an expectation as long as the bill is being paid. We rely on electricity to turn the light on, set the furnace for colder weather, and turn on the television to enjoy an evening movie. What you may not realize is that having potable drinking water at your home also requires the use of electricity. The public water industry in Texas consumes around 5% of the state’s energy sources. By comparison, residential use is roughly 37% of the power consumption in the state. Though it sounds like a small piece of the overall impact on our power supply, pumping and treating water to provide to the community takes a toll on the power grid. In turn, electric utilities also rely on a steady source of water for cooling towers and processing.


In June of 2021, following the catastrophe of Winter Storm Uri, the Texas Legislature met to discuss the impacts of the storm. They passed Senate Bill 3 (SB3) which in addition to addressing the state’s electric utility issues, requires water systems to have an Emergency Preparedness Plan (EPP). A plan must ensure the emergency operation of the water system during an extended power outage at a required minimum water pressure, as soon as it’s safe and practicable following the occurrence of a natural disaster. The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), the agency that monitors the

Written by Jason Knobloch, Texas Rural Water Association compliance of water systems across the state, is required to accept and review the EPPs. These new requirements should go a long way to ensure continuous water supply during an extended power outage. However, during Winter Storm Uri, frozen or busted water lines

also impeded continuous water service, even for systems that already had backup power in place. Although there were extensive power and water outages, many water utilities across the state were not impacted by power outages or had back up power generation that kept the water flowing.

What does all this mean to the water customer? SB3 includes 14 different options for utilities to choose from to comply. Each utility must evaluate their water system to determine which option will best address any future power outages. Most of the options include updates to infrastructure or assets. Whether a system decides to purchase a fixed or mobile generator, upgrade their storage facilities to contain excess water, install a backup source of power generation such as solar or wind, or rely on mutual aid and contracts from surrounding utilities or rental companies, your

water utility is working to comply with these requirements and provide the best possible service to its customers. Water utilities across Texas are researching options for funding and grant opportunities to offset these new expenses, but time is of the essence. The EPP must be submitted to TCEQ by March 1, 2022, with an implementation date of July 1, 2022. Your water system understands how important it is to keep the water flowing during emergencies and they are doing everything they can to accomplish that.

What can customers do to help? One thing to consider as a water utility customer is how you will prepare in the case of an outage. Making sure you are ready for the next event, whether that is a tornado, hurricane, ice storm, or other weather emergency, requires knowing steps and procedures to prepare and protect your family, your home, and/or your business. By being prepared yourself, you will also help your water utility keep the water flowing. Information on general emergency preparedness is available online and tips for preparing for another winter event is also featured in this issue.

Many water systems have communication plans in place to reach out to their customers during emergencies to inform them about outages, restrictions, or boil water notices during an event such as through phone calls, text messages, or emails. Be sure that your local water utility has updated information to contact you timely during these events.

You may also reach out to your water utility to find out what steps they are taking to comply with SB3 and what costs are involved. Compliance with SB3 may impact your water bill because of the added costs to implement It’s important to find out how to contact your the new requirements. It’s important water utility during an emergency to report for customers to understand that these outages and other issues. Customers are investments are needed to keep the system the eyes in the field and serve as a resource up and running during emergencies. by making the utility aware of things that may be an issue. Being in contact with your We all strive to learn from the past and do water system and reporting problems has better moving forward. Your water system the potential to save time, money, and water is doing its best to not only comply with the new SB3 requirements, but also to provide an resources if caught early. overall better level of service to its customers. 7


During the fall is a great time to start thinking about getting your home ready for the upcoming winter weather. Winterizing your home will protect your water supply, reduce energy consumption, keep you warmer, eliminate safety hazards, and save money during the winter months. Here are some ways to winterize your Texas home.

Protect Water Pipes Preparing your outdoor water pipes early will save you time and money. Dealing with a burst water pipe is every homeowner’s fear. Make sure your sprinkler system is properly shut down for the season. Preparing your outdoor water faucet is important because it is unprotected from the elements. If it freezes it can often times crack and cause major water loss. Always disconnect outdoor hoses and shut the water valve off to your outside spigot if you have one in place. Be sure to also insulate outside faucets.

Trim Dangerous Limbs A little landscaping goes a long way. Before all of the leaves fall, take a look at your trees and make sure they’re still healthy, especially trees that could fall on your home or a neighbor’s home. If there are branches up against your house, it’s a good idea to trim them away before winter, so you don’t have ice-coated branches against your siding or windows. 8

HVAC Inspections Inspect your home’s heating and AC system before sever weather hits. Having a reputable HVAC contractor regularly service your system helps catch problems before expensive breakdowns occur. This can also prolong the system’s life and keep it running more efficiently. Being proactive and catching potential problems early is the best practice.

Chimney Sweep If you plan on using your fireplace, it’s also a good practice to have it inspected. There’s nothing better on a cool night than to light the fire in your fireplace, but you want to make sure your fireplace is ready. The National Fire Protection Association found that failure to clean creosote from solid-fueled heating equipment, primarily chimneys, was the main cause of home heating fires. Now is a great time to have your chimney professionally cleaned and inspected. If you don’t plan on using your fireplace, seal it off to prevent cold air from getting through.

Make A Family Plan and Stork Prep Kit Prepare yourself now for a power outage. Put together a storm prep kit. This kit should include flashlights with fresh batteries, extra blankets, multiple cases of bottled water and plenty of non-perishable food items. It’s also a good idea to talk with your family and make a plan of action in case you lose power. Being proactive before an event happens can often save you from undo stress and costly repairs.


My water footprint A water footprint is an indicator that looks at the direct and indirect water use of an individual, business, community, city, or country. A water footprint is an indicator that looks at the direct and indirect water use of an individual, business, community, city, or country. Direct water use is the water we see coming out of the tap: drinking, cooking, showering, gardening, washing clothes and dishes, etc. Indirect water use is the water used for manufacturing goods that we consume or produce, making clothes, books, paper, furniture – water used to grow the food we eat, and the water needed to produce the energy we use. On average, about 2.3 billion gallons of water is withdrawn and delivered every day for direct water use. The moderate Texas residence uses about 92 gallons per day in and around their home. Did you know? If every Texas resident reduced their shower duration by 1 minute, about 14 billion gallons of water would be


saved every year – that is enough water to fill 21,000 Olympic-sized pools! To see your family’s water footprint, you can visit Your Water Footprint or https://www.watercalculator. org/wfc2/q/household/. In a 2010 report, Drop by Drop, The Texas Living Waters Project reviewed conservation programs in 19 cities around Texas to determine the extent to which municipalities were using water conservation measures to increase efficiency. The findings indicate that the quality and size of water conservation programs vary considerably across Texas and that not all cities are pursuing conservation as aggressively as they could. Public education about using water efficiently can reduce water use and build public support for additional conservation measures.

Apply today for a TRWF Student Scholarship!

The application window for the 2022-23 Texas Rural Water Foundation (TRWF) Student Scholarships is now open! Every year, high school seniors, college students and even graduate students across the state submit applications for one of our TRWF scholarships, which are intended to recognize and assist qualified individuals in their pursuit of a higher education in a field that supports rural Texas.

industry leaders. The Legacy Scholarship will be awarded to a student who exhibits exceptional leadership skills and potential. Applicants wishing to be considered for this scholarship will need to meet additional criteria and complete an additional writing prompt focusing on leadership or volunteerism.

This Student Scholarship Program is designed to help offset the cost of tuition, fees, books and/or room and board by awarding funds directly to the student upon proof of enrollment. The number of annual scholarships and the amount awarded is based upon the number of qualified applicants and the amount of funds available. In the 2021-22 award year, six scholarships were awarded in varying amounts, from $1,000 to $3,000, totaling $12,500.

The TRWF scholarship committee is particularly interested in supporting students who seek a career relating to the water and/or wastewater industry or a career that will support rural Texas. They also encourage applications from veterans seeking higher education in an area that will benefit rural Texas. Former student scholarship recipients are invited to apply for a continued scholarship. To be eligible to reapply, the applicant must provide transcripts to demonstrate that they are in good academic standing.

Each year, the Dwayne Jekel Student Scholarship is awarded to the highest scoring applicant, and in the 2021-22 award year, this recipient was awarded $3,000. Thanks to an endowment set up by the Jekel family, the Dwayne Jekel Student Scholarship will continue to benefit students who are interested in the water and wastewater industry.

Who should apply?

All recipients of student scholarships will be required to provide proof of full-time enrollment each semester for which the scholarship is awarded at an accredited institution of higher learning. Payment will be dispersed directly to the student immediately upon proof of enrollment. Scholarships are dispersed in two installments over the course of the school year.

Mr. Frank Dwayne Jekel served on TRWA’s Board of Directors for 30 years from 1982–2012. He was a water industry leader who owned and operated D&L Service Company in Cameron, Texas. He earned his bachelor’s Applications and full eligibility requirements are being degree and Master of Education Degree in Agricultural mailed to the offices of all TRWA member systems. They are also currently available on our website. If you Education from Texas A&M University. know someone who is interested in applying, please Mr. Jekel’s dedication to water and his community will direct them to www.trwa.org/StudentScholarships. You never be forgotten. His legacy and mission will continue can also get to the page by visiting www.trwa.org and thanks to the generosity of his family. clicking on the TRWF tab in the navigation pane.

How do I apply?

INTRODUCING THE NEW TRWF Legacy scholarship Funded by past and current board members of the Texas Rural Water Association, we are pleased to introduce a new endowed student scholarship, the Legacy Scholarship! Founders Kent Watson, Leahmon Bryant, and Chris Boyd, and contributing member Charles Beseda, conceived of this scholarship to help support the education of future water/wastewater


All applications must be received by 5 p.m. ofn February 7, 2022. You can mail it to: ATTN: TRWF Scholarship Committee, Texas Rural Water Association, 1616 Rio Grande, Austin, Texas 78701. You may also send applications by email to editor@trwa.org. Please share this opportunity with your peers and community members who may benefit from one of these scholarships. If you have any questions, please contact us at 512-472-8591 or email editor@trwa.org.

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Created using the Crossword Maker on TheTeachersCorner.net



1. an ingredient in the recipe 3. How many gallons of water does an average Texan use per day? 5. $75 ____ were the annual economic losses from water shortages in 2021. 8. One method El Paso utilized to reclaim and therefore reuse their water. 9. What city that the author of this issue's recipe is highlighting located? (2 words, with space) 10. Created with a goal to educate and protect local water supplies. (acronym)

2. Another city that has aggressive conservation programs. (2 words, with space) 4. These places of recreation among other sports fields and construction sites in El Paso use 5.83 million gallons of reclaimed water per day. (2 words, with space) 6. Texas has 32 of these natural reservoirs. 7. How many Groundwater Conservation Districts were there when the Texas Legislature first created them?

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