Keeping the Rivers Flowing in Texas
Today’s update blog about the #3 San Saba River – a part of our America’s Most Endangered Rivers® series- is from Charlie Granstaff, a local long-term resident in the San Saba River Basin.
Quite a lot has happened this spring and summer, since the San Saba was listed as one of America’s Most Endangered Rivers®. First, we had a hydrologist complete an evaluation of water use in Menard County. In his final report, the hydrologist concluded that there is a great deal of waste and abuse of water in Menard County. Consequently, the Friends of the San Saba River approached the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) with the evidence provided in the hydrologist’s report.
As has been the case in recent years, the river stopped running in early summer, and some local residents asked the TCEQ to suspend pumping so that the domestic and livestock users downstream with superior water rights would have water. However, an intervening rain event resulted in the TCEQ denying the priority calls due to the increased river flow from the rain.
Later in the summer, the river stopped running again and two downstream residents filed priority calls again. This time the TCEQ suspended pumping and proposed that if the water flow got below a certain flow rate in Menard, and below a certain flow rate in Brady (the next town downstream of Menard), then irrigators could be suspended to ensure flow in the river. This is a temporary order issued by the TCEQ that will expire in early spring next year unless they make the order permanent.
There is a big TCEQ hearing on Wednesday, Oct. 9th, where they will discuss the San Saba issue. The current intervention from TCEQ is not as good as a watermaster, but it is certainly a step in the right direction. It will be important to have as many people as possible at the meeting to encourage TCEQ to make the current water withdrawal restrictions permanent for the health of the river and the water needs of downstream residents!
In related news, the TCEQ also investigated a complaint that the Menard Irrigation Company had taken out more than their permitted amount so far this year. The TCEQ concluded that from January through August, the Company diverted 5,900 surface acre feet of water and only had the legal authority to divert 4,800 surface acre feet of water. Consequently, the TCEQ filed a Notice of Enforcement against them for exceeding their limit.
We are making progress!
Now, we need folks near Austin, Texas, to attend the TCEQ hearing on October 9th! If you are not available, please send a letter to decision-makers asking that a watermaster be appointed in the basin (the best possible outcome).