Legislative Update: HPWD offers testimony regarding legislation

By Victoria Whitehead, HPWD General Counsel

Attorney’s Fees Legislation

Under current statute, a judge is required to award attorney’s fees to a groundwater conservation district (GCD) when a GCD prevails in litigation.  This stands for both general litigation involving a GCD, as well as GCD enforcement actions.  There are no other provisions under Chapter 36, Texas Water Code, for any other party to  recover their attorney’s fees.  

This month, HPWD offered support for two bills that address this inequity:

House Bill 2125 by Representative Burns removes the court’s requirement to grant attorney’s fees to a GCD, and instead makes the award of attorney’s fees discretionary.  While the original legislation had a cap set at $100,000, the Committee Substitute introduced April 2nd, removes the cap.   HB 2125 does not alter the award of attorney’s fees for enforcement actions. 

Senate Bill 851 by Senator Perry would change the current process to allow the prevailing side to seek attorney’s fees from the court.  It further states that the court may grant reasonable and necessary attorney’s fees in an amount that the court considers is equitable and just, but not to exceed $250,000.  For enforcement actions involving a GCD, SB 851 allows the prevailing side to recover attorney’s fees, but does not include a $250,000 cap.   

While many GCDs in the state do not support these efforts, the HPWD Board of Directors firmly believe this legislation is a good balance for all parties, as it removes some barriers that landowners may encounter when they believe a GCD is not adequately protecting their groundwater.

HPWD provided testimony on SB 851.  The testimony provided by General Counsel Victoria Whitehead can be found at 02:10:50: http://tlcsenate.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=45&clip_id=14092

Appeals Process Legislation

HPWD offered testimony in opposition to Senator Perry’s Senate Bill 2027.  SB 2027 changes the judicial review process of decisions made by a GCD board from substantial evidence review to trial de novo.

Testimony from HPWD focused on the adequacy of current law for contested matters.  The rights of petitioners are well documented in the existing statute, and also allow for the expertise of the locally elected board members.

Senator Perry concluded the hearing by agreeing to push the matter to an interim discussion rather than pursuing the legislative change. 

The testimony provided by General Counsel Victoria Whitehead can be found at 02:01:00: http://tlcsenate.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=45&clip_id=14250

National Garden Month: Incorporate native plants into landscapes to save water

April is National Garden Month! Incorporating native plants in your landscape can provide color and save water at the same time.
 
“Native plants have adapted to withstand the Panhandle-South Plains climate. Not only are they accustomed to our dry, hot weather -- but native plants are an important component of our regional ecology. They can help support pollinators and other wildlife,” says Education/Outreach Coordinator Katherine Drury with High Plains Underground Water Conservation District in Lubbock. She is also a Texas Master Gardener.
 
“HPWD would like to share some favorite native plants that are beautiful and have low water requirements,” she said.
 
American Basketflower is a striking Texas native. This beautiful purple wildflower often blooms along roadways in spring. “Basket flower” refers to the straw-colored bracts beneath the flower head. Although it resembles a thistle, it lacks their prickly characteristics.

AMERICAN BASKETFLOWER

AMERICAN BASKETFLOWER

Blackfoot Daisy can be found growing during the driest and hottest of years. Local horticulture experts reportedly found a mound of Blackfoot Daisies during the 2011 drought. These little flowers grow in low mounds and are perfect for flower beds.

BLACKFOOT DAISY

BLACKFOOT DAISY

Chocolate Daisy is native to the southwestern United States and Mexico. Not only is it a beautiful, drought-tolerant perennial, but it actually smells like chocolate!

CHOCOLATE DAISY

CHOCOLATE DAISY


Prairie Coneflower can be found across Texas. It is a quick and aggressive grower that is easily started from seed. If you are growing these in your garden, allow the plants to go to seed after flowering ceases in Autumn. You can then collect the seeds or mow down the stalks.

PRAIRIE CONEFLOWER

PRAIRIE CONEFLOWER

Tahoka Daisy is native to the Texas South Plains. It was first discovered in 1898 at Tahoka Lake. The Tahoka Daisy, also called Prairie Aster, is an annual wildflower that prefers sand or gravel soils in full sun.
 

TAHOKA DAISY

TAHOKA DAISY

“These are just a few of the native plants available for local landscapes.  Homeowners should consider using plants that flourish in high temperatures and low rainfall conditions,” says Drury.

Water level measurements indicate average decline of -1.05 feet within HPWD service area in 2018-2019

An average change of -1.05 feet was noted in the groundwater levels of the Ogallala/Edwards-Trinity (High Plains) Aquifer from 2018 to 2019 within the 16-county High Plains Underground Water Conservation District (HPWD).
 
The 10-year District average change (2009-2019) is -8.83 feet while the five-year District average change (2014-2019) is -2.13 feet. The average saturated thickness of the Ogallala/Edwards-Trinity (High Plains) Aquifer within the District is 56 feet (2018-2019). It remained unchanged from last year.
 
HPWD staff shared final results of the 2019 water level measurements with the District’s five-member Board of Directors at their April 9 meeting.
 
Beginning in January, HPWD field personnel made water level measurements in a network of 1,356 privately-owned water wells completed into the Ogallala/Edwards-Trinity (High Plains) Aquifer. In addition, measurements were also made in 31 Dockum Aquifer wells.
 
County wide average declines were recorded in 15 of the 16 counties in the District since the 2018 measurements.
 
“This can probably be attributed to the fact that the area received about half the rainfall in 2018 as it did in 2017. A large amount of irrigation was needed up until the time that it rained toward the end of the growing season,” said HPWD Field Technician Supervisor Keith Whitworth.
 
Whitworth shared the following statistics for observation wells with publishable measurements.

  • 234 observation wells with increases ranging from 0.1 to 5.41 feet.

  • 518 observation wells with decreases ranging from 0 to -.99 of a foot.

  • 279 observation wells with decreases ranging from – 1 to -1.99 feet.

  • 173 observation wells with decreases ranging from -2 to -2.99 feet.

  • 58 observation wells with decreases ranging from -3 to -3.99 feet.

  • 26 observation wells with decreases ranging from -4 to -4.99 feet.

  • 29 observation wells with decreases ranging from -5 to -12.98 feet.  

“Each year, there are wells that show water level rises and others that show water level declines. The largest water level rise was 5.41 feet in a Lynn County well and the largest water level decline was -12.98 feet in a Floyd County well,” Whitworth said. “Groundwater recharge occurs quickly in Lynn County due to sandier soils and a shallow water table. The area in Floyd County where the large decline is shown takes much longer to recover from the previous irrigation season,” he said.
 
Results of the 2019 water level measurements and updated saturated thickness information are now available on the interactive map on the HPWD website (map.hpwd.org).  Those who want printed information should contact Jed Leibbrandt at (806) 762-0181 or email him at jed.leibbrandt@hpwd.org. He can provide print copies of water level measurement data for an individual county or specific counties of interest.

2019 WLM Summary-01.jpg
2019 WLM Summary-02.jpg

Annual irrigation system inspection can save water

April is National Garden Month! Longer days and warmer temperatures are prompting many area residents to prepare their home gardens and landscapes for the 2019 growing season. It’s also the perfect time to add practices to avoid inefficient watering and/or water waste this spring and summer.

 “Outdoor water use can account for 50 to 80 percent of home water use in the spring and summer,” said Information/Education Supervisor Carmon McCain with High Plains Underground Water Conservation District (HPWD). “Because of this, area residents are encouraged to examine their automatic sprinkler systems and repair them as needed to achieve optimum performance this year,” he said.

 Even the best-designed irrigation system will show signs of wear and tear over time. An annual irrigation system inspection can help save water that may otherwise be wasted. 

 Homeowners should watch their automatic sprinkler system as it operates. Sunken sprinkler heads should pop up easily without being obstructed by vegetation.  They should be adjusted to make sure water is not applied to streets, sidewalks, driveways, or other surfaces that allow runoff. Sprinklers should throw a large drop of water -- instead of a fine mist. This reduces the amount of water lost to evaporation and wind drift. Be sure to replace any sprinkler heads damaged by mowing--as well as any broken valves, seals or pipes.

Make sure your irrigation system does not apply water to streets, sidewalks, driveways or other surfaces that allow runoff.

Make sure your irrigation system does not apply water to streets, sidewalks, driveways or other surfaces that allow runoff.

 McCain said it is important to know how much water is being applied by an irrigation system during a given time period. Setting empty cat food/tuna cans or other shallow containers on the lawn is an easy method that homeowners can use to gauge the amount of water their sprinkler applies to the turf.  Once the containers are in place, be sure to note the amount of time it takes to deliver one-half inch of water to the lawn. This determines how long to operate the system to deliver the needed amount of water to the landscape.

 This technique is demonstrated in a Texas A&M AgriLife Research/Extension YouTube video at www.youtube.com/watch?v=1nIwZ_imn9w

 In many instances, irrigation system controllers are initially programmed and then forgotten. Adjusting automatic sprinkler systems in response to changing climatic conditions can help reduce water waste and save money for homeowners and businesses.  HPWD encourages persons to contact their local landscaping professional or landscape irrigation specialist for instructions on adjusting controller settings.

 When irrigating your lawn this spring and summer, please be aware of and comply with landscape watering ordinances your town or city may have in place.

 “With planning and implementation of proven water conservation methods, homeowners can have a beautiful landscape that conserves the surface and ground water resources of the Texas High Plains,” McCain said.

Schedule irrigation systems to run in the early morning hours to avoid evaporation and wind drift.

Schedule irrigation systems to run in the early morning hours to avoid evaporation and wind drift.

Legislative Update: HB 2125 & SB 851 testimony

By Victoria Whitehead, HPWD General Counsel

Under current statute, a judge is required to award attorney’s fees to a groundwater conservation district (GCD) when a GCD prevails in litigation.  This stands for both general litigation involving a GCD, as well as GCD enforcement actions.  There are no other provisions under Chapter 36, Texas Water Code, for any other party to recover their attorney’s fees.   

 This week, HPWD offered support for two bills that address this inequity:

  • House Bill 2125 by Representative Burns removes the court’s requirement to grant attorney’s fees to a GCD, and instead makes the award of attorney’s fees discretionary.  While the original legislation had a cap set at $100,000, the Committee Substitute introduced April 2nd, removes the cap.   HB 2125 does not alter the award of attorney’s fees for enforcement actions.

  • Senate Bill 851 by Senator Perry would change the current process and allow the prevailing side to seek attorney’s fees from the court.  It further states that the court may grant reasonable and necessary attorney’s fees in an amount that the court considers is equitable and just, but not to exceed $250,000.  For enforcement actions involving a GCD, SB 851 allows the prevailing side to recover attorney’s fees, but does not include a $250,000 cap.

While many GCDs in the state do not support these efforts, the HPWD Board of Directors firmly believe this legislation is a good balance for all parties, as it removes some barriers  that landowners may  encounter when they believe a GCD is not adequately protecting their groundwater. 

 HPWD provided testimony on SB 851.  The testimony given by General Counsel Victoria Whitehead can be found at 02:10:50: http://tlcsenate.granicus.com/MediaPlayer.php?view_id=45&clip_id=14092

Amarillo bank, Lubbock manufacturer receive state recognition for water conservation efforts

FirstBank Southwest of Amarillo and Samuel Jackson, Inc. of Lubbock recently received state recognition for their water conservation efforts.
 

FirstBank Southwest - Texas Rain Catcher Award

FirstBank Southwest Chairman of the Board Smith Ellis and Chief Lending Officer Will Miller accept the 2018 Texas Rain Catcher Award during the March 28 Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) meeting in Austin. Shown with them (L-R) are TWDB Chairman Peter Lake, Member Brooke Paup, and Member Kathleen Jackson.  (Photo courtesy TWDB)

FirstBank Southwest Chairman of the Board Smith Ellis and Chief Lending Officer Will Miller accept the 2018 Texas Rain Catcher Award during the March 28 Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) meeting in Austin. Shown with them (L-R) are TWDB Chairman Peter Lake, Member Brooke Paup, and Member Kathleen Jackson.  (Photo courtesy TWDB)

FirstBank Southwest received the 2018 Texas Rain Catcher Award at the March 28 Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) meeting in Austin.
 
Built in 2012, the FirstBank Southwest (FBSW) Western Banking Center is home to one of Amarillo’s larger commercial rainwater harvesting installations.
 
During a rainfall event, several downspouts channel water from the building’s metal roof to a permeable paver parking lot. Once below the pavers, the water makes its way into an underground tank.
 
The permeable pavers and underground tank provide a storage capacity of 26,600 gallons of harvested rainwater. That is the equivalent of 99.6 percent of the rainfall collected during a two-year storm event.
 
The FBSW banking center also uses a xeric landscape and drip irrigation system to help reduce landscape water use.
 
Created in 2007, the TWDB’s Rain Catcher award program “promotes technology, educates the public, and recognizes excellence in the application of rainwater harvesting systems in Texas.”
 

Samuel Jackson, Inc. - Blue Legacy Award in Manufacturing

Dr. Bogdan Jackson-Duda with Samuel Jackson, Inc. accepts the Blue Legacy in Manufacturing Award from Water Conservation Advisory Council Chair Karen Guz (L) and Texas Water Development Board Member Kathleen Jackson (R). (Photo courtesy TWDB)

Dr. Bogdan Jackson-Duda with Samuel Jackson, Inc. accepts the Blue Legacy in Manufacturing Award from Water Conservation Advisory Council Chair Karen Guz (L) and Texas Water Development Board Member Kathleen Jackson (R). (Photo courtesy TWDB)

Samuel Jackson, Inc. received the 2019 Blue Legacy Award for Manufacturing during ceremonies at the March 13 Texas Water Day at the Capitol in Austin.
 
Samuel Jackson, Inc. uses harvested rainwater as an alternative water supply source. The company manufactures moisture control and drying equipment for cotton gins.
 
As much as 90,000 gallons of rainwater can be stored in tanks at their facility. Plant operations can be sustained on as little as six inches of rainfall per year.

The rainwater harvesting tanks are carefully monitored to determine water use trends. As a result, water use has been reduced by 30 percent.
 
The filtered rainwater is excellent quality and offers many benefits during the manufacturing process.
 
Rainwater harvesting reduces dependence upon groundwater. It also allows for greater water use efficiency and sustainability.
 
The Water Conservation Advisory Council gives this annual award to “recognize manufacturing water users that have demonstrated outstanding and innovating commitment to the state’s mission of promoting responsible management and conservation of Texas’ water resources.”