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Groundwater Bill Seeks to Protect Water Supplies for Rural Communities

Posted By Administration, Friday, February 17, 2017

The Texas Farm Bureau published an article in its newsletter last week opposing HB 645 and HB 1318, bills filed by Representative Eddie Lucio III aimed at ensuring that rural economies thrive by continuing to be allocated a fair share of their local groundwater supply. The Farm Bureau’s arguments for opposing these bills address issues that are not included in these bills. The bills do not transfer any private property rights or water rights. These bills strengthen current law, while still providing districts with the discretion they need to balance local needs with market demands.  


There is a growing trend of groundwater districts changing the rules of the game for rural utilities, threatening their supply of water by restricting the amount of water they can pump based on the amount of surface acreage they own. These bills are a response to that trend. The practice of basing the amount of water a utility can pump on the amount of acreage owned at the well site, which the Farm Bureau is advocating, is not required by law, and most groundwater districts do not currently employ this practice. Historically, groundwater districts have taken into account the needs and rights of rural communities to their local supply of groundwater, and these bills seek to preserve these rights.


The Farm Bureau asserts that the property rights of utility customers are being threatened by these bills, but their interest is to maximize profits for large landowners who are working with water marketers to pump water out of the rural areas to sell to the highest bidders — the big cities. This practice will force local utilities to compete for the purchase of water to serve their communities, driving up the cost for their customers. House Bills 645 and 1318 will preserve access to a sufficient supply of affordable water before it is sold to the highest bidder and piped out of their area. Ninety-five percent of rural utilities serve 4,000 connections or less, and these communities already pay higher water rates than the big cities, because they do not benefit from the same economies of scale.


Rural utility customers benefit from having access to an affordable supply of water, which adds value to their property and makes the rural economy possible. Rural water utilities are not large landowners, but are required by law to serve communities of landowners who are relying on the local utility to pump, treat, test and deliver their groundwater for their household needs. Representative Lucio’s bills allow groundwater districts to balance the rights and needs of local communities with the rights of landowners to sell their groundwater.


Some groundwater districts are not only requiring rural systems to purchase land in order to pump sufficient supplies to serve their communities, but are requiring that the land be adjacent to the well site where they are pumping. In these districts, utilities are held hostage to whatever price the adjacent landowner seeks to charge, driving up costs to customers even further.


In northeast Texas, rural utility customers are being approached by for-profit business enterprises represented by big Austin law firms seeking to purchase water from every customer. With a for-profit business purchasing all the groundwater in a community, where will the local utility obtain the supply to serve that community? Will they be competing with Dallas to purchase that supply, perhaps paying double or triple the amount of the original purchase price? How will customers in that area be able to afford water for their household needs that they have “sold”? What will happen to the economies in those areas when they no longer own or have the right to pump their groundwater?


Local communities shouldn’t have to compete to purchase their own water resources with the big cities who are looking to these areas for their future supply. HB 645 and HB 1318 do not transfer any private property rights or water rights, but seek to help ensure that rural communities receive credit for the ownership of their groundwater resource that they are relying on their local utility to provide. 

Tags:  groundwater  HB 1318  House Bill 1318  rural water  Texas legislature  Texas water 

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10 Things You Might Not Know about Rural Water

Posted By Allison Kaminsky, Tuesday, December 20, 2016
Updated: Tuesday, December 20, 2016
  1. Ninety-four percent of water utilities nationwide are rural or small municipal systems serving populations of less than 10,000.
  2. Rural water systems are held to the same quality standards as big city systems. They are regularly inspected and are required to resolve any violations in a timely fashion.
  3. Rural water systems are operated and governed by people whose families drink the water every day and by people who are locally elected by their community.
  4. Rural water operators are all professionally licensed and take the same training and licensing exams as operators at larger systems. All water operators are required to take continuing education to make sure they stay up-to-date on rules, regulations and requirements.
  5. Water operators are public servants who take great pride in their work, which is to safeguard the public health of their communities. In rural areas, the operators know their community members, applying that personal knowledge of their neighbors to their daily work.
  6. Every day, someone is watching for changes in complex water delivery systems, making second-to-second decisions about adding essential purifying chemicals, killing pathogens and keeping your family’s water safe.
  7. A large number of rural systems voluntarily participate in source water protection programs, which includes searching for potential sources of contamination and educating customers on practical steps they can take to protect their drinking water supply.
  8. Rural water systems strive to provide high-quality drinking water while also being sensitive to disadvantaged communities and the affordability of water rates.
  9. Most systems have a water loss program where they check for and fix leaks on a regular basis to minimize waste and costs, eliminate potential sources of contamination and mitigate drought conditions. Operators also check meters to make sure customers aren’t losing water on their end.
  10. Rural systems are part of a larger network. All 50 states are served by a rural water association.  These associations provided over 75,000 onsite technical assistance visits and 150,000 hours of training to more than 37,000 utilities in the last year. Rural water association training and technical assistance covers every aspect of operating, managing and financing water and wastewater utilities.

The Texas Rural Water Association works hard every day to protect rural Texas’ drinking water. We have resources and expert staff that help rural and small systems with a wide-range of issues, including compliance and legal challenges. We are here to help ensure rural Texans have access to efficient service and clean, quality drinking water. We represent over 750 small and rural utilities that serve communities that enjoy #qualityontap and #drinklocalwater.




Tags:  contamination  drink local water  education  quality on tap  rural water  source water protection  Texas water  water loss programs  water operators  water quality 

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