In Texas Drought, “Who Holds the Hammer?”
It was hammer time this week at a joint meeting of the Texas Senate Committee of Agricultural and Rural Affairs and the Committee on Natural Resources.
Lawmakers were there to hear about the impact of the ongoing drought on the state. It’s already the worst single-year drought in Texas history, and could become a new drought of record if the dry weather continues.That prompted state Senator Troy Fraser (R-Horseshoe Bay), who chairs the panel, to wonder how the state can enforce water conservation if it needs to.
“The accusation has been made… [that] in some cases there’s a disinsentive to conserve, because the people that are selling the water have gotten dependent on the revenue stream coming in for the paying of the salaries of the administration. We’ve had that claim made against cities… or a river authority because they needed the revenue stream,” Frasier said.”How are we going to police it? Who is the one holding the hammer that is going to make the city of Horseshoe Bay, if they’re supposed to be conserving, who’s gonna make them conserve?”
The answer, apparently, is no one.
Carolyn Brittin, Deputy Executive Administrator of the Texas Water Development Board, told Frasier that “according to the Texas Statue, conservation is voluntary in the state. It is the water provider’s or the city’s voluntary decision to go into drought conservation.”
While agreeing with Brittin, TCEQ Commissioner Carlos Rubenstein added that TCEQ could suggest that some junior water rights holders move into stricter conservation in some cases.
“Does that mean you can order them to do so?” Sen. Kel Seliger (R-Amarillo) followed up.
“No, it does not,” Rubenstein replied.