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What is the Farm Bureau's Beef with Rural Water Utilities?

Posted By Trent Hightower, TRWA Assistant General Counsel and Morgan Johnson, Associate at McGinnis Lochridge , Tuesday, March 19, 2019
Updated: Wednesday, March 20, 2019

Texas Farm Bureau recently published an article in its monthly magazine entitled “The Public Wants Landowners’ Water,” in which it characterizes legislation promoted by the Texas Rural Water Association as “an unconstitutional water grab.”  This is simply not true.  The legislation, House Bill 2249 by Rep. Eddie Lucio, III, strikes a balance between the rights of landowners within a water utility’s service area and the obligation of utilities to provide adequate water supply to meet the demand of their landowner customers.


Groundwater conservation districts, or “GCDs,” are responsible for managing production from aquifers within their geographic boundaries by requiring permits for the production.  The law currently allows, but does not require, GCDs to take into account a utility’s service area when deciding how much water the utility is authorized to produce.  This makes sense considering the unique functions and legal obligations of water utilities.  A water utility is not your typical applicant for groundwater – utilities do not ordinarily own large amounts of acreage, and they are seeking water to serve all of their customers, including residences, businesses, and agricultural users.  Utilities produce water not for themselves, but on behalf of hundreds or perhaps thousands of their customers.  While the utility’s customers are free to drill a well on their own property, doing so is often cost-prohibitive.  Therefore, customers look to the water utility to provide the water since the utility is able to take advantage of economies of scale to produce the necessary water for its customers at a lower cost. 

 

Recognizing the unique nature of water utilities, many GCDs across Texas take a utility’s service area into account when issuing the utility’s groundwater permits.  For those GCDs, nothing would change if House Bill 2249 becomes law.  This bill would require all other GCDs that regulate by acreage and/or tract size and do not consider service area to consider the utility’s service area.  The bill does this while still ensuring that this requirement does not interfere in any way with a landowner’s right to obtain a permit or drill a well.  Without recognizing a utility’s service area, the acreage-based approach to permitting has devastating effects on rural communities.  With only a small amount of land owned by the utility for its well site, utilities in this type of permitting scheme are required to obtain additional land or water rights at a high cost that is then passed on to consumers.  Worse, when a GCD ties production to an applicant’s contiguous acreage, utilities can find themselves unable to fully utilize their wells if adjacent landowners are unwilling to sell their land or lease their water rights. 


To balance the interests of utilities, their customers, and landowners within their service area, House Bill 2249 includes several safeguards to ensure that water utilities are not over-permitted and that landowner rights are protected.  First, GCDs cannot consider any of the utility’s service area that does not overlie the aquifer.  Additionally, the utility would not receive credit for any acreage within its service area that is already subject to another permit, and the utility’s permit will be reduced annually to subtract acreage assigned to a landowner permit issued after the utility’s permit.  Under the bill, utilities are prohibited from interfering with or protesting landowners’ requests to obtain their own permits.

 

House Bill 2249 is a reasonable compromise to the complex issue of allocating a managed resource among competing interests while keeping water rates reasonable for rural communities and ensuring that landowners’ property rights are not restricted.  House Bill 2249 does not create an unconstitutional taking as the Farm Bureau asserts.  It does not take or constrain the landowner’s right to drill a well, use the water or encumber the water.  It only allows the utility to use the water to serve these same landowners.  Landowner rights are recognized and are superior to the utilities’ authorization to use the water.  Requiring these utilities to acquire groundwater rights from its landowner customers will unnecessarily result in huge rate increases.

 

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Your Smart Watering Guide

Posted By TRWA Communications , Monday, January 28, 2019

With today’s common watering practices, up to 50 percent of the water applied to lawns and gardens is not absorbed by the plants. It is lost through evaporation, runoff, or being pushed beyond the root zone because it is applied too quickly or in excess of the plants’ needs. The goal of efficient irrigation is to reduce these losses by applying only as much water as is needed to keep your plants healthy, whether you have a water-smart or a conventional landscape.

 

To promote the strong root growth that supports a plant during drought, water deeply and water only when the plant needs it. For clay soils, it is recommended to water less deeply, and in multiple cycles. Irrigating with consideration to soil type, the condition of your plants, the season, and weather conditions— rather than on a fixed schedule—significantly improves your watering efficiency and results in healthier plants. Grouping plants according to similar water needs also makes watering easier and more efficient.

 

Lawns, gardens, and landscapes can be irrigated manually or with an automatic irrigation system. Manual watering with a handheld hose tends to be the most water efficient method. According to the American Water Works Association (AWWA) Research Foundation’s Residential End Uses of Water study, households that manually water with a hose typically use 33 percent less water outdoors than the average household. The study also showed that households with in-ground sprinkler systems used 35 percent more water; those with automatic timers used 47 percent more water; and those with drip irrigation systems used 16 percent more water than households without these types of systems. These results show that in-ground sprinkler and drip irrigation systems must be operated properly to be water-efficient.

 

Watering Mistakes

Much of the water applied to lawns and gardens never gets absorbed by the plants. Common ways that water is wasted include:

  • Runoff: Applying water too rapidly causes runoff, because grass and plants can only absorb so much water at a time. When runoff occurs, soil, fertilizers, and pesticides can be carried to nearby streams.
  • Evaporation: Watering in the middle of the day or using a sprinkler that sprays a fine mist causes much of the water you apply to be lost through evaporation. Plants don’t have enough time to absorb the water before it is evaporated by the sun.
  • Underwatering: Watering too little is wasteful because it does little to alleviate any drought stress that the plants may have.
  • Overwatering: Applying too much or too often causes the greatest waste of water. In addition to overwatering the plant, excessive irrigation can leach nutrients deep into the soil away from plant roots, which increases the chances of runoff pollution.

Good Watering Techniques

The key to watering lawns is to apply water infrequently, yet thoroughly. This creates a deep, well-rooted lawn that efficiently uses the water that is stored in the soil. To know when to water your lawn, simply observe the grass. Wilting and discoloration are signs of water stress. At the first sign of wilting, you have 24 to 48 hours before damage occurs.

 

To water properly, apply 1 inch of water to the lawn as rapidly as possible without runoff. An easy way to measure your application of water is to place a 6-ounce tuna can on your lawn. When the can is full, you have applied enough water. If you start to notice runoff before the can is full, turn off the water. Then, wait for approximately one hour to allow the grass to absorb the water, turn the water on again, and wait for the tuna can to fill.

 

Water early in the morning, before 10 a.m. Avoid watering from mid-morning to late afternoon, when you can lose one-third of your water to evaporation. Also avoid watering in the evening, because lawns and plants that are left wet overnight are more prone to disease.

 

Different areas of your yard may have different watering requirements. Some plants and trees may require less water than grass does. You can reduce the sprinkler run time for these areas. A licensed irrigator can advise you on irrigation application rates for your geographic area, topography, soil conditions, and other factors.

 

For “hose-end” sprinklers, make sure the sprinkler heads are adjusted to avoid watering sidewalks and driveways or other hard surfaces. A hose-end sprinkler head should spray large droplets of water instead of a fog of fine mist, which may be affected by wind drift. Set a timer, so that you remember to turn off the hose-end sprinkler.

All this in mind, please remember to always comply with your water system’s water use restrictions.

 

Maintenance

When it comes to a home's irrigation system, a little maintenance goes a long way. Permanent sprinkler systems require regular maintenance and adjustments. This can be done by you, a licensed irrigator, or licensed master plumber.

  • Check your settings at least quarterly to make sure that water is being applied properly and make adjustments as needed. It is important to ensure you are providing adequate water but are not overwatering. Depending on where you live, you may need to winterize your system in the late fall to prevent freezing of system components.
  • Check your sprinkler heads regularly. Remove any dirt or debris that may be clogging the nozzle and make sure that water is flowing at the proper pressure.
  • Examine points where the sprinkler heads connect to pipes or hoses. If water pools in your landscape or you have large wet areas, you could have a leak in your system. A leak about as small as the tip of a ballpoint pen (or 1/32nd of an inch) can waste about 6,300 gallons of water per month, so if you find a leak, repair it promptly! 


Smart Watering Technology

With automatic systems, overwatering is most common during the fall when summer irrigation schedules have not been adjusted to the cooler temperatures. Irrigation system schedules should always be adjusted down in the fall to prevent overwatering in the colder months.


Using water-efficient technologies can make a big difference in keeping your residential or light commercial irrigation system running efficiently without a lot of effort on your part. 

  •  WaterSense Labeled Irrigation Controllers – To make automatic irrigation systems more efficient, consider upgrading your standard clock timer to a WaterSense labeled irrigation controller. These irrigation controllers are a type of "smart" irrigation control technology that uses local weather data to determine when and how much to water. With proper installation, programming, and adjustments, these smart controllers can help consumers save water, time, and money when compared to use of a conventional controller.
  • WaterSense Labeled Spray Sprinkler Bodies – WaterSense labeled spray sprinkler bodies, which feature integral pressure regulation, can help decrease the outdoor water waste associated with irrigation systems that receive water under higher pressure.
  • Microirrigation – Microirrigation can reduce the likelihood of overwatering a landscape by delivering water directly to where it is needed most, the root zone of plants, preventing runoff and reducing evaporation.
  • Soil Moisture Sensors – Soil moisture-based control technologies water plants based on their needs by measuring the amount of moisture in the soil and tailoring the irrigation schedule accordingly. This will prevent waste by ensuring that the sprinkler does not turn on during and immediately after rainfall or when soil moisture levels are above pre-programmed levels.
  • Rainfall Shutoff Devices – Rainfall shutoff devices turn off your system in rainy weather and help compensate for natural rainfall. This inexpensive device can be retrofitted to almost any system.
  • Rain Sensors – Rain sensors can help decrease water wasted in the landscape by turning off the irrigation system when it is raining.

Sources:

EPA WaterSense, Landscaping Tips: www.epa.gov/watersense/landscaping-tips.

EPA WaterSense, Watering Tips: www.epa.gov/watersense/watering-tips.

Landscape Irrigation, A “Take Care of Texas” Guide. Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, Take Care of Texas: www.takecareoftexas.org

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Developments in ongoing CCN Decertification Litigation

Posted By Trent Hightower, Thursday, December 20, 2018

TRWA members Crystal Clear SUD and Green Valley SUD each received positive rulings from Federal courts in their ongoing CCN decertification cases based on their federal debt under 7 U.S. Code Sec. 1926(b).

In Crystal Clear's case against the Public Utility Commission (PUC), United States Magistrate Judge Andrew Austin recommended that the PUC's final order granting decertification be declared void, and that Texas statutes directing state courts to ignore federal debt in decertification cases be declared void and pre-empted by federal law. We must now wait for U.S. District Judge Lee Yeakel's ruling to see whether he adopts the magistrate judge's recommendations.


Meanwhile, Green Valley SUD prevailed in a ruling by U.S. District Judge Sam Sparks. However, Judge Sparks did not declare the same provisions of state law to be pre-empted by federal law as TRWA members would have hoped. Instead, the judge found that the PUC had interfered with GVSUD's exclusive right to serve without considering the issue of the utility's federal indebtedness.

 

Read more about each of these cases by viewing the documents attached below. 

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The Midterms Impact on Rural Water

Posted By NRWA Communications , Thursday, November 8, 2018

After Election Day counts came through late Tuesday night, Democrats had won control of the House for the first time in eight years, while Republicans expanded their control of the Senate. As of yesterday, Democrats flipped 27 House seats and now control 221 seats, while Republicans have 196 (with 17 races yet to be declared). In the Senate, Republicans hold a 51-46 majority, with Republicans leading in two races yet to be called, Florida and Arizona, and Mississippi will head to runoff later this month.

 

President Trump will face new challenges when it comes to Congress as the Democrats in the House now have the ability to stifle some of his legislative agenda on immigration while also attempting to subpoena his tax records. Thanks to Republicans picking up additional Senate seats, that chamber will become a “firewall” of sorts against the newly empowered House leadership and agenda.

 

One place where House Democrats, Senate Republicans and the White House could find common ground, and ultimately a bipartisan agreement, could be on infrastructure spending which is encouraging to Rural Water. “Last night I had a conversation with President Trump about how we could work together, one of the issues that came up was ... building infrastructure for America, and I hope that we can achieve that," potential new House Speaker Nancy Pelosi told reporters yesterday highlighting the jobs that could be created in "surface transportation, water systems ... broadband ... schools, housing and the rest.” The key outstanding issue that will be the primary point of contention during the infrastructure debate will be how to pay for it. There are rumblings that an increase in the gas tax or reducing tax cuts for corporations could be ways of doing so.

 

The new 116th Congress is set to be sworn in January 3rd 2019. Here are how the congressional committees pertinent to Rural Water will likely be impacted:  

 

House Committees

 

Agriculture: Incoming chairman Collin Peterson from Minnesota said he doesn’t want to wait until he claims the gavel in January to pass a farm bill—even though that would allow him to write his own legislation. There could be a last minute deal on the Farm Bill this lame duck session of Congress, however an extension of the law is more likely.

 

Appropriations: Ranking member Nita Lowey from New York is set to be the first woman to lead the powerful appropriations committee. She’s been ranking member since 2013.

 

Transportation and Infrastructure: Rep. Peter DeFazio from Oregon is currently the ranking member and expected to take the lead of T&I this January. He will be a leader in developing any infrastructure legislation.

 

Energy and Commerce: Rep. Frank Pallone from New Jersey will most likely become chairman of this committee and will be focusing on environmental regulation and making healthcare more affordable.  

 

Senate Committees

 

Agriculture, Nutrition, and Forestry: The current Committee Chairman Pat Roberts will retain the gavel and chairmanship of this Committee. He was not up for re-election. His counterpart and able partner Senator Stabenow from Michigan won re-election and will likely continue to be the ranking member as they both work to enact a Farm Bill. Senator Heitkamp, a Democrat from ND, lost her reelection bid which opens up a seat on this Committee.

 

Appropriations: There will be minimal, if any, changes in the Republicans’ lineup of leaders on this powerful committee.  Chairman Richard Shelby from Alabama and the team of subcommittee “cardinals’’ he assembled six months ago are prepared to tackle a full set of FY2020 spending bills early next year after they clear the decks of FY2019 before the end of 2018 during this lame duck session. Neither Shelby nor any of the subcommittee chairs stood for re-election this fall.

 

Environment and Public Works: Republicans lead by Senator Barrasso from Wyoming will continue to control this committee in the 116th Congress and may try to pass a highway bill. This Committee was successful in passing and enacting a massive water infrastructure bill just last month.

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USDA Notice of Funding Available

Posted By TRWA Communications , Wednesday, October 24, 2018
In September, USDA–RD announced that USDA is seeking applications for grants to repair water and wastewater systems damaged by Hurricanes Harvey, Irma and Maria. Over $163 million in supplemental grants is available to qualifying systems, and applications will be accepted until all funds are exhausted. 

To be eligible for funding, the applying water and/or wastewater facility must serve a rural area and be located in one of the federally-declared disaster counties for these hurricanes. In the instance of Hurricane Harvey, this includes the 41 originally declared counties. If you are located in one of the additional 19 counties Governor Abbott later declared as disaster areas for Hurricane Harvey, please visit the FEMA website to determine if that county is eligible for funding. This can be accessed at www.fema.gov/disaster/4332

Funds must be used for repairs or reimbursement for expenses incurred as a result of damage caused by the hurricanes. This would include water offices, records, office equipment, SCADA, etc., as well as most equipment. Please note that storm drainage or building new storm drainage does not apply with this funding; instead, systems would need to use the regular RD loan/grant program in these cases. 

For details and more information on how to apply, see page 46137 of the September 12 Federal Register. For your convenience, we have this document and other resources linked to this post. 

Questions about the application process may be directed to the USDA Rural Development State Office. The Texas office can be reached at (254) 74-9700.  You can also visit their website at https://www.rd.usda.gov/tx

If you have any questions or need assistance, systems can contact their TRWA Circuit Rider, Wastewater Technician or their local USDA-RD Loan Specialist. 
 
 

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Grassroots Involvement During Election Season

Posted By Trent Hightower, Tuesday, September 4, 2018

 

As we return from Labor Day weekend, election season is kicking into high gear. I recently attended the Texas Agriculture Council's summer meeting, where we were informed that 95 of Texas' 150 House seats and 13 of its 31 Senate seats are involved in contested elections. At the meeting, three candidates for the Texas House spoke about their campaigns, and it gave me some ideas for ways you can get some face-time in front of candidates in your area to spread TRWA's legislative message.

 

One candidate in particular, Cynthia Flores of Round Rock, mentioned that she holds weekly coffee discussions in the rural portion of her district near Taylor and Coupland focusing on issues that are important to constituents in that area. Water was one topic she called out by name, and for those of you in Central Texas these sessions would be a great way to meet a potential representative in a small, relaxed environment. Other candidates across the state hold similar conversations on a regular basis, so check the websites of your local candidates to find out where and when those are happening!


Candidates are also always looking for volunteers to help them canvas their district or talk to potential voters on the phone. Once you can identify yourself as a volunteer on their campaign you'll have an automatic "in" for an introduction at the candidate's next event. Whether your district is in a competitive race or considered to be relatively "safe" for one candidate, a little help on a campaign goes a long way when it comes to establishing a relationship.


Finally, as always, TRWA wants to hear from you about your efforts to get to know the candidates and office-holders in your area. If you're working on a campaign or attend a townhall or campaign event in your area, let me know so we can share your success with others and help you build on that contact. TRWA appreciates all your help!

 

My contact information: Trent.Hightower@TRWA.org | 512-472-8591

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TRWA to Partner with TXWARN

Posted By Kelsey Copeland, Wednesday, May 30, 2018

We are excited to announce our new partnership with the Texas Water/Wastewater Agency Response Network (TXWARN). TXWARN, a well-established mutual aid network, is free to all utilities in the state of Texas and provides its members with emergency planning, response and recovery assistance and information before, during and after an emergency. In turn, TRWA’s Board plans to dissolve our Rural Water Emergency Assistance Cooperative (RWEAC) and will be coordinating our emergency response efforts with TXWARN. Our members will benefit from being part of this larger network. If your utility is not already a member of this network, we encourage you to begin the sign-up process by clicking here.

 

In the event of a local emergency or natural disaster, TRWA members can still call our emergency response hotline at 1-866-586-6480 for assistance. We will continue to provide resources and manpower to help you get your utilities back up and running and protect the health and welfare of your communities and customers. Additionally, our generators are available to TRWA members for any local emergency situation. If you find your system in need, contact us to utilize one of our seven generators that are housed across the state.

 

Read more about our partnership with TXWARN in our upcoming issue of Quench! If you have any questions, you may call us at 512-472-8591.

Tags:  #txwater  emergency assistance  rural texas  rural water  RWEAC  Texas water  TRWA 

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Summary of 2018 Primary Runoff Election

Posted By Jennifer Brown Emerson, Thursday, April 19, 2018

The primary elections took place on March 6th.  For many elected offices, the primary election is where the big and final decision is made.  There were numerous races (over thirty) where a single candidate did not receive a majority of the vote, therefore requiring a runoff election.  The runoff election in Texas will be held on May 22nd. There is a runoff election for the Democrat nominee for Governor, seventeen runoff elections in Texas Congressional races, one runoff in the Texas Senate and fourteen run-off elections in the Texas House. 

Texas Governor

Greg Abbott easily won his primary election.  Lupe Valdez (former Sheriff of Dallas County) and Andrew White (son of former Governor Mark White) are in a runoff for the Democrat nominee.  Valdez received a greater percentage of the vote in the primary but the contest between the two is a likely toss-up.  The winner of the runoff will face Governor Abbott in the general election in November and barring any major issues, he will easily win reelection in November.


US Congress

There were an unusual number of retirements from Congress this year which created opportunity for many who have wanted to run for Congress.  Those members that chose to not run for re-election include Ted Poe, Sam Johnson, Jeb Hensarling, Joe Barton, Lamar Smith, Blake Farenthold and Gene Green.  There are seventeen runoff elections in Congressional districts.  Those are as follows:

US House District 2 (seat being vacated by Ted Poe –R – Humble) – This is a Republican district and features Dan Crenshaw versus Kevin Roberts (former State Rep) in the run off.

US House District 3 – (seat being vacated by Sam Johnson R – Flower Mound) – This is a Republican district but there is a run off in the Democrat primary to see who will face Van Taylor (former Texas Senator who easily won his primary) in the general election.  The Democrat contenders are Lorie Burch versus Sam Johnson (pure coincidence on the name).


US House Distrct 5 (seat being vacated by Jeb Hensarling R – Dallas) – This runoff election features Lance Gooden (former State Rep) versus Bunni Pounds (a Republican fundraiser).

 

US House District 6 (seat being vacated by Joe Barton – R – Ennis) – There are runoffs in the Democrat and Republican primaries in this district. However, this is a mostly Republican district.  The Democrat contenders are Jana Sanchez and Ruby Woolridge and the Republican contenders are Jake Ellzey and Ron Wright.


US House District 7 (seat currently held by John Culberson – R – Houston) – This is a marginally Republican district and one that Democrats hope to win someday if not this cycle.  The Democrat primary pits Lizzie Fletcher versus Laura Moser and the winner will face incumbent Congressman John Culberson in November.  The Democrat primary made headlines as the National Democrat party came out against Laura Moser as they thought she was too liberal to have a chance to win this seat.


US House District 10 (seat currently held by Mike McCaul – R – Austin) The Democrat primary has Mike Siegel versus Tawanna Walter – Cadien and the winner of this contest will face incumbent Congressman Michael McCaul.  This is a solidly Republican district.


US House District 21 (seat being vacated by Lamar Smith – R – San Antonio)  This seat probably saw the largest numbers of contenders, over 18 on the ballot in the Republican primary.  There is a run off in both party primaries. The Democrat primary pits Joseph Kosper and Mary Smith Wilson.  The Republican primary has Matt McCall and Chip Roy vying for the nomination. 


US House District 22 (seat currently held by Pete Olson – R – Sugar Land).  This is a Republican district but there is a runoff in the Democrat primary to see who will face incumbent Congressman Pete Olson.  The primary contest has Sri Kulkarni and Letitia Plummer vying for the spot.


US House District 23 (seat currently held by Will Hurd – R – San Antonio).  This is a marginal district and the Democrat primary has Gina Jones and Rick Trevino fighting for the chance to face incumbent Congressman Will Hurd.

 

US House District 25 (seat currently held by Roger Williams – R – Weatherford).  This is a solid Republican district.  The Democrat primary pits Julie Oliver and Chris Perri against each other in an effort to face incumbent Congressman Roger Williams in November.


US House District 27 (seat being vacated by Blake Farenthold – R – Corpus Christi).  There are run off elections in both the Democrat and Republican primary for this seat which is a fairly solid Republican district.  The Democrat primary challengers are Raul Barrera and Eric Holguin while the Republican primary has Bech Bruun and Michael Cloud facing each other.  Bruun was the top vote getter in the primary but word is that this is going to be a very close runoff election.


US House District 29 (seat being vacated by Gene Green – D – Houston). This is a solid Democrat district.  Sylvia Garcia (former State Senator) won the Democrat primary outright in March.  In November, she will face the winner of the Republican primary contenders who are Phillip Aronoff and Carmer Montiel. 


US House District 31 (seat currently held by John Carter – R – Round Rock).  The Democrat primary contenders are Mary Jennings Hegar and Christine Mann.  The winner of that runoff will face incumbent Congressman John Carter in a Republican district.


US House District 32 (seat currently held by Pete Sessions – R – Dallas).  This is a marginally Republican district according to pollsters.  The Democrat primary runoff contenders are Collin Allred and Lillian Salerno.  The winner of that contest will face incumbent Congressman Pete Sessions in November.


Texas Senate

There is one runoff election for a seat in the Texas Senate.  The runoff is in Senate District 17 which is currently held by Republican Joan Huffman.  The runoff is in the Democrat primary and features Rita Lucido and Fran Watson.  This is a solid Republican district so Senator Huffman is very likely to keep her seat.


Texas House

There are fourteen primary runoff elections in the Texas House.  Seven of those fourteen are in districts where the incumbent decided to retire and not seek re-election.  Those are Lance Gooden, Byron Cook, Leighton Schubert, Jason Isaac, Larry Phillips, Helen Giddings and Joe Straus. The primary runoff elections in the House are as follows:

TX HD4 (seat vacated by Lance Gooden- R – Kaufman).  There was a crowded field in the solid Republican district.  The top two vote getters were Stuart Spitzer (who beat Lance Gooden in 2014 and was defeated by Gooden in 2016) and Keith Bell (a local businessman and former President of the School Board). This will be a close race to watch.


TX HD 8 (seat vacated by Bryon Cook – R – Corsicana). This solid Republican district features Cody Harris (farm and ranch real estate and management) and Thomas McNutt (VP at Collin Street Bakery) against each other in the primary.  McNutt ran against Cook last election cycle. Cody Harris was the top vote getter in the primary.


TX HD 13 (seat vacated by Leighton Schubert –R – Caldwell).  The Republican primary pits Ben Leman (Grimes Co. Judge) and Jill Wolfskill (energy industry) against each other in this solid Republican district.


TX HD 37 – This seat is currently held by Rep. Rene Oliveira (D – Brownsville) .  He faced a tough primary and was just shy of getting the required 50% in the primary.  He faces Alex Dominguez (attorney and Cameron Co. Commissioner) in the Democrat primary.  This will be a tough primary battle.


TX HD 45 (seat vacated by Jason Isaac – R – Dripping Springs).  This is a solid Republican district.  Ken Strange (Wimberley – School Board member) won the Republican primary outright. He will face the winner of the Democrat primary which features Rebecca Bell Metereau (professor at Texas State) and Erin Zweiner.


TX HD 46 (seat currently held by Dawnna Dukes – D – Austin).  Rep. Dukes faced several challengers in the primary and was not one of the top two vote getters.  Sheryl Cole (attorney and former City Council member) and Jose Vela (immigration attorney) face off in May to be the Democrat candidate in this House District which is a Democrat district.


TX HD 47 (seat currently held by Rep. Paul Workman – R – Austin).  Rep. Paul Workman currently represents this district which is the only Republican House district in Austin.  It is a marginal Republican district.  Rep. Workman won his primary and will face either Elaina Fowler (environmental remediation business) or Vikki Goodwin (realtor) in November.


TX HD 54 (seat currently held by Rep. Scott Cosper – R – Killeen).  Rep. Cosper faced a tough primary battle and several opponents in the primary.  While he was the top vote getter, he did not get over the 50% mark and will face Brad Buckley (veterinarian) in the May primary run off.  


TX HD 62 (seat vacated by Larry Phillips – R – Sherman).  This was another primary with a crowded field and the top two vote getters in the Republican primary in this majority Republican district were Brent Lawson (electrical engineer) and Reggie Smith (attorney).


TX HD 64 (seat currently held by Rep. Lynn Stuckey – R – Sanger).  This is a Republican district with Rep. Stuckey serving as the incumbent.  He will face a Democrat in the November general election and that will be either Andrew Morris (technical writer in defense industry) or Mat Pruneda (financial analyst).


TX HD 107 (seat currently held by Rep. Victoria Neave – D – Dallas). This is a toss-up district.  Rep. Neave will face the winner of the Republican primary runoff in November.  The two Republican candidates are Deana Maria Metzger (attorney) and Joe Ruzicka (retired Navy). 


HD TX 109 (seat vacated by Helen Giddings – D – DeSoto).  This is a Democrat district and the primary runoff features Deshaundra Jones (DeSoto City Council) versus Carl Sherman (Former DeSoto Mayor).


HD TX 121 (seat vacated by Joe Straus – R – San Antonio).  This primary field became crowded after Speaker Straus announced he would not seek re-election.  The top two vote getters in the Republican primary are Steve Allison (attorney) and Matt Beebe (cybersecurity business).


HD TX 133 (seat currently held by Rep. Jim Murphy – R – Houston).  This is a solid Republican district with Rep. Jim Murphy currently representing this district.  He will face a Democrat opponent in November and that will either be Sandra Moore or Martin Schexnayder.

*It is worth noting that in the general election in November, the party who holds the Presidency goes first on the ballot.  Thus, all Republican candidates will have an edge. 

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What Does a Superior Rating Mean for Your Water System?

Posted By Kelsey Copeland, Friday, December 1, 2017

A public water system (PWS) is a system that provides water via piping or other constructed conveyances for human consumption to at least 15 service connections or serves at least 25 people for at least 60 days each year. As of June 28th, 2017 the State of Texas regulates 6,952 PWSs, providing drinking water to 27,456,677 customers.

 

Unlike many other states, Texas uses outside contractors (rather than the system itself) to assess the state of these systems. This objectivity helps guarantee correct reporting; in fact, failure to report violations is common in some states because it is difficult to report on things that haven’t yet been tested.

 

The Texas Health and Safety Code under Chapter 341.0353 provides the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) with the authority to evaluate public drinking water supplies at least once each year and as often during the year as conditions demand. The information gathered during the evaluation is then used to assign a rating to the water system of “Approved” or “Superior.” But what does this “superior status” mean to the consumer?

 

Adequate Oversight — To be recognized as a superior system, a minimum of two licensed operators (additional operators for larger systems) are required. This ensures the system is adequately staffed, which ultimately leads to increased oversight and a smaller margin for error.

 

Safe and Reliable Water — The most important factor for a consumer is safe, reliable water. TCEQ administers the Public Drinking Water program under primacy authority from the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA). In this context, a superior system has met standards that prove the system can consistently provide quality drinking water.

 

Under the Safe Drinking Water Act (SDWA), the EPA sets national limits on contaminant levels in drinking water to ensure the water is safe for human consumption. When awarded this status, a system has gone 24 months without microbiological violations.

 

To attain the superior status, TCEQ requires compliance with EPA drinking water standards for two types of contaminants. In this industry, the phrase “potable and palatable” is often used to describe these standards. While potable refers to the safety aspects, palatable references things like taste and appearance.

 

  • Primary standards are set to protect consumer health by setting maximum levels on contaminants such as arsenic, fluoride, nitrate, lead, copper or chemicals used for water disinfection. A superior status is awarded only when microbiological sampling ensures water is potable and free of pathogens.
  • Secondary standards are set at levels that, in most cases, aesthetically alter the water: this could include taste, odor or discoloration.

Effective Planning and Preparedness — As communities evolve, it is important for systems to maintain sustainability. To this effect, certain requirements are set forth to ensure a superior system can adequately provide for consumers, even in the event of an unforeseen situation.

 

For example, a superior system is required to have at least two wells, two raw water pumps or a combination of these to provide average daily consumption even with the largest well or pump out of service. Consumers depend on reliable sources, and this requirement helps ensure safe water despite inflation or unexpected circumstances regarding the wells, pumps or water.

 

To further implement preparedness, TCEQ also includes a capacity requirement for the system based on its service area. Capacity is crucial because it enables the system to a) reach consumers and b) reach them efficiently. This distinction is made because systems with low capacities often have low water pressure, and low pressure can increase the likelihood of outside infiltration.

 

Good Housekeeping — Lastly, TCEQ includes standards that help enforce optimal operations. It may be comforting to know that a superior system must comply with operating practices that include but are not limited to: documenting, reporting, flushing, etc. This gives added assurance that procedures are being executed.

 

The water system is also required to be well-maintained and present a pleasing appearance to the public. While the general appearance of the facility does not affect the water quality, these requirements hold the system to a higher standard. The underlying principle includes other aspects associated with superiority in clean water; tidiness and transparency is not a quality exclusive to the product.

 

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 passionately engaged in representing the interests of rural water at both the state and federal legislative levels. 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  EPA  groundwater  rural water  superior status  Texas water  TRWA  water quality 

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Texting While Driving Banned Statewide

Posted By Allison Kaminsky, Friday, September 29, 2017

As of  September 1st, texting while driving within the state of Texas is punishable by a fine of $25-99 for first-time offenders, and $100-200 for repeat offenders (though no points will be assigned). The new law also states that if an accident caused by texting and driving results in the death or serious bodily injury of another person, they can be charged with a Class A misdemeanor punishable by a fine not to exceed $4,000 and confinement in jail for a term not to exceed one year (in addition to any other charges/punishments).

It’s important to note that this new law only addresses “reading, writing, or sending electronic messages” via a “wireless communication device.” It is still legal for motorists in most cities to use their phone for GPS navigation, music apps, dialing phone numbers, etc., but drivers may still get pulled over if an officer suspects them of texting.

While the law includes a provision to preempt local texting-and-driving ordinances which already existed in over 100 cities, it does not address stricter cell phone bans (i.e., hands-free laws) put in place by at least 45 other Texas cities such as Austin, San Antonio, Denton and El Paso. Attempts made during the special session to roll back any city ordinances that ban mobile phone use beyond texting while driving were supported by Governor Abbott, but did not come to fruition. Cities are still free to pass (and enforce) hands-free laws within their city limits.

 

This new law adds to some existing laws that prohibit all drivers under 18 and school bus drivers from texting or making telephone calls while driving—even with a hands-free device. Texas also forbids use of phones in school zones. In 2010 the Federal Motor Carrier Safety Administration finalized rules to restrict texting and the use of hand-held mobile phones by truck and bus drivers while operating a commercial motor vehicle.   

Tags:  #txlege  rural texas  rural water  Texas legislature  Texas water  TRWA  water operators 

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