U.S. Water News Online
SAN ANTONIO -- The board of the Edwards Aquifer Authority
has voted to move ahead next year with drafting rules to better
protect water quality -- including controversial measures that could
limit the extent of development atop the recharge zone.
"You're looking at a happy face," Bexar County board member and
hydrologist George Rice said after the vote on his motion to amend
the board's strategic plan for next year to include development of
the water quality rules.
"We haven't said anything yet about what the rules will contain,
but we've said we're going to move forward with developing hazardous
materials rules and impervious cover rules," said Rice, an
environmentalist who has been pushing for the rules for several
Impervious cover refers to roofs, sidewalks, streets and driveways
-- any material that prevents water from filtering into the ground
and being added to the aquifer.
"That's a big step, and it's a step we have to take before we can
do anything else," he said of drafting the rules. "The staff will
come up with a concept paper laying out their general thoughts on how
we ought to proceed."
Rice would not predict how tough the proposed rules might be or
how the board might vote.
A motion to draft rules regarding the storage, use and
transportation of hazardous materials on the recharge zone passed
without opposition, but another on impervious cover drew significant
debate before it was approved 11-3.
"The impervious cover question somehow brings out the challenge to
our water quality authority," said Carol Patterson, a Bexar County
director who opposed drafting those rules.
She said she fears land use controls might anger some legislators.
State Sen. Kenneth Armbrister, D-Victoria, two years ago tried to
strip all power from the authority to address water quality issues,
saying that when he co-authored a bill that created the authority, he
intended to leave that issue for the Texas Natural Resource
Conservation Commission, now called the Texas Commission on
But in annual hearings held by that state agency, it has been
criticized by local residents and agencies for doing too little.
Luana Buckner, a Medina County representative, also opposed
drafting impervious cover rules, saying they'd have more impact on
her developing county than on Bexar, where she said most of the
recharge zone already is developed or has grandfathered rights.
In other action, the board sent out for public comment a $17.9
million proposed budget for 2006. That includes $10.4 million in
operating expenses -- a $2.4 million reduction from this year's
The budget also proposes a management fee of $37 per acre-foot of
water for municipal and industrial pumpers, down from $38 this year.
The fee for irrigation farmers would remain at $2.
The budget also includes a $5.9 million transfer of funds left
over from this year's budget to a new conservation fund to begin
giving rebates to municipal and industrial permit holders who do not
use all their allocated water rights.
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