Tuesday evening the Texas Water Development Board hosted a meeting at San Angelo's Convention Center to present its current plans for long range water planning and to take public comment on the subject. While the Standard-Times did a front page report on the meeting, there was precious little advance notice, two Community Calendar notices, and attendance was sparse. In that this Board is considering water development proposals for the next fifty years, this was disappointing. I will say those who noticed and attended, including one gentleman all the way from Midland, were remarkably well informed. Between the books provided gratis by TWDB and the comments, this meeting was well worth the time.
This is the Texas Board responsible for the Region F Water Study Report, which I have referenced in earlier articles here. I did comment, suggesting we at least actively explore a regional water “grid”, not unlike the connectivity familiar to us in electric power distribution. The Region F study in Chapter 4.3.11. “Strategies for Hickory Aquifer Users” has been advanced by the Region F group since the 2001 edition, but has not gained traction due to the expense to the under-populated smaller users. It is not something that will generate a positive economic return in the short term, but the planning being discussed is for a fifty year term.
In my opinion as expressed earlier here, here and here. San Angelo would be remiss if we let this opportunity pass to explore seriously a regional water supply/use solution for the long term. Too often in the past we have cost ourselves money and options by waiting until the crisis was upon us.
Central to my thinking on this is recognizing that water mains, like electric lines, flow in either direction. Thanks to Representative Campbell's work in the Legislature, we have a jump start on developing a desalination/brackish water field nearby with nearly unlimited long term supply potential. At this point in time, neither that source nor a regional grid is economically competitive with current local water rates, but again, we are looking 50 years out. I make a living servicing oil wells that were were not very attractive at $30 Bbl crude prices.
San Angelo was well represented in the Region F Group, and our incoming State Representative Drew Darby has chaired our local Water Advisory Board. The issue is obviously taken seriously.
My vision here is a water grid centered on San Angelo and going west until we bump into Midland/Ector County region and going east to Eden and Brady. If that seems expansive, this is all area with economic impact on San Angelo. These people trade with us, shop here, and we contribute in both directions to one another. In many ways our water future is already inextricably bound together, like it or not. Absent a regional plan, the Region F recommendation for many of these smaller users is, and I quote, “bottled water”. In municipal terms this means central kiosks where residents would fill 5 gallon containers of water, water most likely bought and trucked from San Angelo.
Better we should plan to make lemonade from lemons than to wait until circumstances leave us fewer and poorer options. San Angelo would have to overcome its deserved image as a “water bully” and make nice with our smaller partners, bargain in good faith rather than throw our weight around.
If a water distribution system sounds unreasonably expensive for any potential return, think of the old Tennessee Valley Authority or the now renamed REA electric grid. Long before anyone saw commercial viability in extending power to these blighted areas, these quasi-governmental creations lit up the night and created economic growth beyond their own dreams. Even the federal government gets it right once in a while, and water is at least as critical to growth as electricity.
To conclude, like my idea or hate it, the public comment period on TWDB's plan is open until October 6. Comments to this Blog will be forwarded or you can send them directly to firstname.lastname@example.org. I can think of nothing more important to the future of San Angelo and our part of West Texas. Please take the time to share your thoughts on this vital issue.