Over 65 members and citizens attended the February DRHCC membership meeting. The “Let’s Talk Water- One Voice for Val Verde County” panel included Mayor Roberto Fernandez and City Public Works Director Hector Canales, Val Verde County Judge Laura Allen and Commissioner Beau Nettleon, Plateau Water Group Vice Chair Jerry Simpton, Uvalde County Water District General Manager Vic Hilderbran, State Representative Poncho Nevarez, and for Senator Carlos Uresti – Ms. Hellen Martinez.
The meeting was moderated by Annalisa Peace, Executive Director of the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance – a nonprofit which unites fifty-one organizations throughout a 21 county region in Central and South Texas behind a plan to protect the Edwards Aquifer and its contributing watersheds. When asked, all local elected officials noted they are in support of the creation of a Groundwater Conservation District for Val Verde County. Several also stated that initially they did not support the creation of the Water District, yet with continued drought concerns and the water needs of neighboring urban cities or communities, the elected officials recognized the urgency to partner in protecting the rights of the property owners and the local community – both stakeholders in this issue.
Ms. Martinez shared Senator Uresti’s views on ensuring all stakeholders, especially elected officials, are in agreement with the enabling legislation in order to expedite the process through the legislature. State Representative Poncho Nevarez noted his office is available and ready to assist in filing the bill early so it can be placed on the schedule, cautioning however that there are times that a bill can become a victim of a colleague’s plan to further their own agenda. Vic Hilderbran, Uvalde Water Conservation District, explained how the Water Conservation District is funded as a taxing entity. Uvalde voters approved the District and were assessed 2 cents and later 1 cent per $100,000 property valuation. Hilderbran also suggested a tax on water being transported out would help fund the Water District.
Hilderbran also affirmed the importance of having the stakeholders (property owners, elected officials, citizens) on the enabling legislation table to ensure consensus needed for the bill to pass through the legislature and ultimately to the voters. Several panel members noted the Water District Board would be comprised of appointed – not elected positions. Nevarez, speaking as a lawyer, stated that nothing would ensure lawsuits would be avoided. Simpton of the Plateau Water Group and who has been working on the this issue with Commissioner Beau Nettleton since before 2003 stated the joint hydrologist study being received in about a month would provide the information needed for the County and the City to proceed with drafting the enabling legislation. Mayor Roberto Fernandez stated that although San Antonio Water System (SAWS) recently agreed to the recommendation to pursue desalination of water and not purchase water from Val Verde County, there are many other communities and companies, interested in Val Verde water and SAWS decision only gives us a little more time to accomplish what we need to do.
Simpton noted that no contracts have been signed for the sale of Val Verde water. The panel expects enabling legislation will be ready for the 2015 legislature. When asked, Mayor Fernandez and Public Works Director Canales noted measures to conserve water are being included in the City’s water conservation plans. In a very special way, DRHCC thanks all panel participants for providing clarification and pertinent information on the creation of a Groundwater Conservation District for Val Verde County.