TEMPLE - The Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board requests that the public and affected stakeholders review and provide comment on the proposed revision of the State Water Supply Enhancement Plan. The State Plan serves as the State's comprehensive strategy for managing brush in all areas of the state where brush is contributing to a substantial water conservation problem. Comments must be received no later than January 9, 2017.
Scarcity and competition for water have made sound water planning and management increasingly important. According to the 2017 State Water Plan, the demand for water in Texas is expected to increase by over 17%, to a demand of about 21.6 million acre-feet in 2070; while existing water supplies are projected to decrease by nearly 11%, to about 13.6 million acre-feet. With Texas' population expected to grow by 73% over the next 50 years, the availability of water supplies is essential for not only the Texans of today but also for those of tomorrow.
The State Water Supply Enhancement Plan was last updated and approved by the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board in July 2014 and must now be revised in order to comply with statute. In order to help meet the State's critical water conservation needs and ensure availability of public water supplies, the State Plan is promulgated by the State Conservation Board under the authority of Texas Agriculture Code §203.051.
Over at least the last century, rangeland vegetation in the United States has undergone a large-scale conversion from grasslands to woodlands. Noxious brush, detrimental to water conservation, has invaded millions of acres of rangeland and riparian areas in Texas, reducing or eliminating stream flow and aquifer recharge through interception of rainfall and increased evapotranspiration. Brush control has the potential to enhance water yield by conserving water lost to evapotranspiration, recharge groundwater and aquifers, enhance spring and stream flows, restore native wildlife habitat by improving rangeland condition, improve livestock grazing distribution, aid in wildfire suppression by reducing hazardous fuels, and manage invasive species.
The State Water Supply Enhancement Plan also serves as the programmatic guidance for the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board's Water Supply Enhancement Program. The purpose of the Program is to increase available surface and ground water supplies through the targeted control of water-depleting brush in areas in need of water conservation. The State Conservation Board allocates Program cost-share incentive funding to landowners giving priority to projects that balance the most critical water conservation need of municipal water user groups with the highest projected water yield from brush control.
The State Water Supply Enhancement Plan documents the goals, processes, and results the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board has established for the Water Supply Enhancement Program, including goals describing the intended use of a water supply enhanced by the Program and the populations that the Program will target. The State Plan discusses the competitive grant process, the proposal ranking criteria, factors that must be considered in a feasibility study, the geospatial analysis methodology for prioritizing acreage for brush control, how the agency will allocate funding, priority watersheds across the state for water supply enhancement and brush control, how success for the Program will be assessed and reported, and how overall water yield will be projected and tracked.
"When private landowners ably manage our natural resources, we enhance and sustain the availability of water for everyone in the state, including those living in urban areas," said Johnny Oswald, Program Administrator for the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board. "Effective land stewardship, including brush management, increases the ability of open land to absorb rainfall, replenish aquifers, and ensure that water drains slowly and steadily into springs, streams, rivers, and lakes."
Notice of the availability of the proposed revision of the State Water Supply Enhancement Plan for public review and comment has been published in the Texas Register. The Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board is accepting written comments on the proposed document from December 2, 2016 through January 9, 2017. Written comments on the revised State Plan may be submitted by email to Aaron Wendt at awendt [at] tsswcb [dot] texas [dot] gov. The proposed document is available online at the agency's website http://www.tsswcb.texas.gov/brushcontrol#plan.
In accordance with statute, the proposed revision of the State Water Supply Enhancement Plan will be discussed at a public hearing scheduled for January 5, 2017 at 2:30 p.m. at the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board headquarters office located at 1497 Country View Lane, Temple, Texas, 76504. At the hearing, persons and entities may present information and suggestions for any changes to the proposed document.
After the public hearing and comment period, the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board will address comments received and incorporate them into a final State Water Supply Enhancement Plan document that will be considered for adoption by the agency in January 2017.
"Voluntary land stewardship, on a grand scale, is a cornerstone solution for water supply issues in Texas. The efforts of private landowners to control water-depleting brush are vitally important to the ecological health of productive rangelands across the state," said Rex Isom, Executive Director of the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board. "Many Texans today, especially those in urban areas, enjoy the public benefits, such as clean plentiful drinking water, they derive from the voluntary land stewardship provided by private landowners and agricultural producers throughout the state."
For more information about the Texas State Soil and Water Conservation Board's efforts to revise the State Water Supply Enhancement Plan, please contact Aaron Wendt at (254) 773-2250 ext. 232 or awendt [at] tsswcb [dot] texas [dot] gov. Additional information on the State Conservation Board's Water Supply Enhancement Program is available at http://www.tsswcb.texas.gov/brushcontrol.