Tuesday, August 31, 2010

Texas' Desired Future Conditions?

Back in 1997 the Texas Legislature passed what was felt at the time to be a sweeping new, 50-year, water planning and management law.  It divided the state into 16 multi-County, Regional Water Planning Groups (RWPG) whose responsibility it was to coordinate all the stakeholders and make recommendations to the state on what their region's desired future conditions (DFC) should be 50 years out. The RWPGs had until September 1, 2010 to set DFC's.  According to one account:

"It's done," said Robert Mace, the deputy executive administrator of the Texas Water Development Board, the state's water development planning group, in an interview Monday afternoon. He had just received word that the last of the state's groundwater management areas had adopted 50-year plans...  But for Mace and his agency the groundwater-planning process  is not nearly done.  Over the next six months, they will study the paperwork from the management areas around Texas and confirm that the 50-year goals, called "desired future conditions," are physically possible. The board will then send back information to regional planners about how much water they can draw annually from the aquifers around Texas to meet 50-year goals.  Local officials then may adjust their water-use permitting requirements for cities and farmers based on those amounts.
Hummm. The state is to study the RWPG recommendations and see if they are physically possible. I wish I knew what actual guidance there was in the law regarding the legislative DFC expectations, because this description would support actual DFC ranges all the way from extremely aggressive to absurdly passive - any of which can be physically possible. I don't believe this can be the case, but who'd otherwise know?

The article also says the state will send back information on how much water they can draw annually from the aquifers to meet their 50-year goals.  What if this state-determined amount is less than what is being currently withdrawn?  Those wrting on the law have already interpreted it as not affecting current water rights or contracts, so I don't think this is a possible outcome, but you'd never know it from the writing.  And the bigger question is:  What if this scenario really was the DFC of that group?  Should it be allowed?

And then there is the state website that bullets the steps in preparing the plans.  It includes a specific task to develop a plan containing "..Identified needs with no feasible solutions".  What kind of a plan implies future limits and then allows the planners to identify and account for future needs for which there are no solutions?  Would identifying such needs make the future limitations more severe? or force the state to increase their annual allotments as a solution?  Lots of possibilities as usual.

I shouldn't be so hard on Texas. There are a lot of good products that have come out of this effort. The modeling alone is impressive.  I just think when the hard decisions need to be made for either shutting down new development or restricting existing development to achieve any state goal, they'll be able to justify just about any actions they want to within the framework of this plan - and that might not be a bad thing. It all depends on your point of view.

Sunday, August 29, 2010

Colorado Governor-speak

Judson Harmon

At the Summer meeting of the Colorado Water Congress, both Govenor candidates made remarks on the state's water issues.  Democrat candidate John Hickenlooper directed his comments mostly toward water conservation - suggesting that reducing current uses was the best way to extend current supplies.  But it was Republican candidate Dan Maes who took the additional storage position.  He said:  “If it starts in Colorado, it's our water. The question is how do we keep it here,” and “We need to store as much of our water in the state as possible.”

This mind-set harkens back to the old Harmon Doctrine that held water sovereignty for any state or country.  While Attorney General Judson Harmon, in 1895, did opine that waters of the Rio Grande were sovereign to the US, this doctrine was legally questioned as early as 1897, and has never really been held to by the U.S. Government.

As such, most would say that Colorado Governor candidate Maes' remarks are likely more rhetoric than an implementable state policy.  It's also possible that the comments were taken out of context, or not completely covered in the news article this post is based on.  In any event, Alex Basilevski (Environmental Department of Obermayer Rebmann Maxwell & Hippel in Philadelphia) did a blog on this doctrine earlier in regard to Georgia Governor Sonny Perdue's similar statements.  Link:  Harmon Doctrine.  As always, this will be an interesting issue to follow along on.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Right Answer - Wrong Cause

I ran across a May 13, 1855 letter that brand new Kansan Hiram Hill wrote to his brother back east.  Much of the content was concerning the water quality in the Missouri River they had just steamed up to reach Kansas City - Hiram's final destination being Lawrence, KS.  Just goes to show you, that some things never change.  Water quality and water quantity is always a challenge in Kansas.

Dear Brother

I take my pen to inform you of my Whareabouts and the state of my health I arived here friday Eve about 6 [o’clock] in good health and was very Glad to get on to Land onse more we had a pretty good passage for the State of the River the Water is very Low – it is said to be Lower than Ever before it is very drye in the vicinity We had 4 cases of colera aboard all which proved fatal Two young men of robust health about 12 one 4 [xxx] about So it was frightfull to see what Rapid Work Deth made of its victims from [xxx] Hours Laid them Low in death & Died in their State Rooms opposite to my Room & Down below Deck passengers all there causes wase brot on by imprudence in eating and drinking it is a grate wonder to Me that thare is not more die than does from drinking it is worse than I Ever Knew in any place in my Life – Drinking and Gambling and Swaring is the order of the day on this River Even when these men Wer sick & dying they wer playing cards at two tables but a few feet from Whare they Lay – it is a very common thing for boats to Bury from one to twenty going up this River We have to drink the River Water Which Looks at all times very much as the water from [xxx] Whites Bank, is very high Water I have no Doubt the Water is full of Diseaze from the Low prairie Land Whare there is so much Dead vegatble matter. I have Herd thare Has ben Some Sickness on the Misseupe River one boat going up to St Paul Lost sevrel of hur passengers thare is Diseaze in all this Western World arising from the Richnes of the Soil...
The entire letter can be seen at:  http://www.kansasmemory.org/item/3016.  Be sure to click on the Text version, because the handwritten letter is very difficult to read.

Monday, August 23, 2010

GMDA Enters Lawsuit

The Groundwater Management Districts Association (GMDA) has filed an Amicus brief to enter the on-going lawsuit between the Central Platte NRD and FSA.  The case began in 2007 when the YMD Joint Water Management District in Mississippi requested certain information from FSA via FOIA.  They wanted land ownership records for re-permitting issues and recognized that the FSA records, if provided, would save them considerable time, manpower and money because FSA already had all the data in electronic form.  YMD otherwise would have to do extensive courthouse visits (17 Counties) to amass the data.  YMD informed FSA that they too were a government entity, and agreed to maintain FSA privacy standards.  FSA denied their request.  YMD appealed the decision and sought a formal appeal hearing.  Following this hearing, FSA vacated the original FOIA denial and asked Mississippi FSA to consider the request again - presumably favorably.  However, in the meantime, FSA inserted language in the developing 2008 Farm Bill which strengthened the privacy criteria and closed the door again on YMD's request.

Then the Central Platte NRD requested the same information to undertake a very involved irrigation well and irrigated land registration process.  Unlike YMD, the CPNRD had just spent 2 years and $250,000 canvassing the courthouses and amassing the database they needed, which FSA already had. They also claimed to be a goverment entity and to protect the privacy of the data.  They too, were denied.

In 2009, GMDA passed a Resoultion which was submitted to FSA, which was never even acknowledged. (click here to view) The resolution was adopted unanimously by the association.

Seems a shame that state and local goverment entities cannot access and use federal data that is so easily available.  None of the data requested was sensitive - in terms of payments provided or other financial or operational items - it was all data that is publicly available from various, individual county sources, but not pulled together and organized like the FSA dataset.  So much for a more transparent federal government.

For more information on the suit, contact the Central Platte NRD or the YMD District.  

Thursday, August 19, 2010

Water Anagrams I've Collected

Recently Peter Gleick of the Pacific Institute posted on his blog a list of movies that had water themes. I enjoyed the listing very much. For those who like to see collections, it's an interesting and recommended read.

I have been maintaining a listing of water-related items on the GMD 4 webpage as well - including movies and television shows featuring water wells (a bit more focused than Peter's list, but none-the-less related), water quotes, poems, acronyms, and more.  I also collect and create water-related anagrams (an anagram being a new statement by simply rearranging the exact same letters).  Following are some of my favorite water anagrams:

artesian well = arisen all wet

bottled water = bold, wet treat

California water = canal ratifier, ow!  

capillary fringe = a panegyric frill

cellulosic ethanol = coalescent hull oil

chemigation = the magic ion

Clean Water Act = enact law - react

climate change = chemical agent?

Colorado River = cool river road

Contamination = action on it, man!

desalination = it's an ion deal

dewater = water Ed

divination (dowsing) = I nod it vain

drainage basin = I snag rain bead

eutrophications = I trace pooh units

Great Lakes water = reeks a law target

groundwater = our grand wet

groundwaters = God's water urn

groundwater law = lunge toward war

groundwater well = narrow dew gullet

hydraulic fracking = acrid chalking fury

hydrologist = do thy log, sir

hydroseism = my dish rose

infiltration = initial front

Kansas groundwater = ask a dowser an' grunt

Lake Mead water = a wet-keel drama

managed water = men wager data

Ogallala Aquifer = legal lair of aqua

peripheral canal = Help! Can repair LA

point of diversion = devine profit soon

reverse osmosis = o', severs isomers

riparian doctrine = periodic rain rant

Salton Sea = a neat loss

save water now = savor wet anew

static water level = vacillate erst wet

sustainable water = banal, tease-us writ

Twenty Thousand Leagues Under the Sea = huge water tale stuns. End had you tense.

watershed = earth's dew; (or) draws thee; (or) deer swath; (or) shared wet

water diversion = wet ions arrived

water management = get armament anew

water markets = wet, tsar maker

water policy = lawyer topic; (or) wiry ole pact; (or) try, wail, cope

water politics = capitols write

water rationing = wager it not rain

water resource = wet our careers

http://www.gmd4.org/Acronyms/acronyms.htm is the link to the GMD 4 webpage for movies, anagrams, acronyms, etc. As Peter asked, if you have others and don't mind sharing, please feel free to send them along. WAB