Last week’s column closed with: “My fellow Texans, we will have some hard choices to make about our water — in the very near future!”
Some of those choices have already been made for those Texans whose water future revolves around the Brazos River.
The Gulf Coast Water Authority held a public hearing April 11 in which its 2014-15 Capital Improvement Projects budget was unveiled.
And the budget contained those mundane items you would expect to find in proposed budget for an operating service provider — replacement trucks, lawn mowers, pumps, valves and the like.
Although not a line item in the $30.5 million proposed budget, it was an announcement that was made which will have long-term effects and more far reaching consequences than possibly any of the expenditures proposed.
However, before presenting the budget items, there was a prelude: “The drought continues and is predicted to continue into the foreseeable future, west of the Brazos River. Texas Commission for Environmental Quality has approved the appointment of a watermaster for the Brazos River from Possum Kingdom Reservoir to the Gulf.”
Because in 2011, the Brazos River above Possum Kingdom Reservoir ran dry.
TCEQ is the agency authorized to appoint watermasters, aka super water cops.
A watermaster has far-reaching powers in his or her designated region.
Watermasters are set forth in the Texas statutes as follows:
“Subchapter G. Water Rights Adjudication Act: Sec. 11.327, Duties Of Watermaster. (b) A watermaster shall regulate or cause to be regulated the controlling works of reservoirs and diversion works in time of water shortage, as is necessary because of the rights existing in the streams of his division, or as is necessary to prevent the waste of water or its diversion, taking, storage, or use in excess of the quantities to which the holders of water rights are lawfully entitled, Texas statutes.”
It will be about one year before this watermaster will be in place and performing the duties of the office.
In the interim, personnel of the Gulf Coast Water Authority will fly around in helicopters to determine whether violations of water withdrawals, in excess of permitted amounts, are being made.
In 1978, Texas City built a water treatment plant that had the capacity to provide 18 million gallons of potable water per day.
The plant was purchased by the Gulf Coast Water Authority, expanded to a capacity of 50 million gallons per day, and in 1994 was named in honor of a longtime member of the water authority Dr. Thomas S. Mackey.
Gulf Coast Water Authority directly provides water for three counties in Texas — Brazoria, southern Fort Bend and Galveston. The main source of raw water is the Brazos River.
Soon, there will be “a new sheriff in town” — the watermaster cometh.
Remember what President Ronald Reagan said: “The most frightening words — I’m from the government and I am here to help you.”