March 31, 2011

Senate votes to make groundwater a vested right

The Texas Senate approved a bill Yesterday that would establish groundwater as a vested right protected by the state Constitution. For the bill’s sponsor, Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, its passage is a clarification of state law and an assurance to landowners that they have the right to the water below their property. For groundwater and subsidence districts across the state, the bill, approved 28-3, is a threat to the management of one of the state’s most limited resources. Read full SA Express-News article here.

Senate Passes SB 332

The Texas Senate passed a much-discussed piece of groundwater legislation, voting 28-3 to approve a bill stating that landowners in the state have a “vested ownership interest” in the groundwater beneath their land…Texas Tribune report.
More on Hill Country Groundwater, More on SB 332.

Petition Challenges Water Plan to Allow for More Groundwater Pumping Than is Available in the Hill Country

The Wimberley Valley Watershed Association has filed a Petition Appealing the 30’ Desired Future Condition (DFC) Drawdown Set by Groundwater Management Area 9 (GMA-9) for the Trinity Group Aquifers in Hays County and is calling for the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District (HTGCD) and GMA-9 to determine the 30’ DFC as unreasonable and unsustainable. Read more

Two reports give conflicting views of future water supply

A report released last month by the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority regarding water planning in Kendall County and Fair Oaks Ranch is based on estimates of available groundwater that are substantially different – 67 percent less – than estimates released by the Texas Water Development Board on Feb. 7. Read full Boerne Star article here.

Water policy must consider the groundwater and surface water connection

“Ground water and surface water are not separate categories of water any more than liquid water and ice are truly separate. The designations ‘ground water’ and ‘surface water’ merely describe the physical location of the water in the hydrologic cycle. Indeed ground and surface water form a continuum.”Full report from GWPC. Yet in Texas policy, we treat these resources separately.

March 30, 2011

Groundwater proposal gets a compromise – Serious concerns are still alive

KUT covered the story yesterday, “It’s a critical time for groundwater districts right now”. Read or listen to the story here. Sierra Club released a statement today still opposing the bill, “The Legislature would be subjecting virtually every action by a groundwater district to a potential “takings” claim. Full media release – For history and resources about SB 332 click here.

Scenic Hill Country updates from SOSHE

Save our Scenic Hill Country Environment (SOSHE) follows the transmission line process and wind farm developments in and around Gillespie County. Learn about the City of Kerrville’s petition process and more here.

March 28, 2011

Luci Baines Johnson was right at home and on a roll

Here’s something for your calendar for next March if you are interested in a little history, a little exercise and a little politics all delivered with a lot of passion. This past Saturday I rode in the LBJ 100, a bike ride that starts and ends on the LBJ Ranch. The money raised helps sustain the Lyndon B. Johnson National Historical Park. Great event, nice people, good cause. But the highlight came after the ride during a ranch tour led by somebody who knows a little something about the place, and, because of a serious illness last year, says she also now knows a little something more about life. Read more from’s Ken Herman here.

LCRA works to keep public informed about drought

With the lower Colorado River basin in the early stages of another drought, LCRA is offering two new ways for customers and the public to stay up to date on the drought. LCRA has created a web page to provide easy access to information and an e-newsletter to provide the latest drought news. Read more

Green Dreams – A documentary film premiere about the revolution at the Pedenales Electric Cooperative

PEC has a new, leaner, reform-minded board of directors, new bylaws and a member Bill of Rights. Transparency and member input have become desirable goals when once they were forbidden. And, some say, it all began with a phone call. Don’t miss this story, April 13th at the Uptown in Marble Falls. Learn more

March 27, 2011

Parks System’s Rocky Start Has Led To Recent Renaissance

It comes at a time when bond programs have funded much-delayed repairs and upgrades, and high gas prices and a wobbling economy have forced families to re-evaluate vacation plans. It hasn’t hurt that Americans also have undergone a resurgence in family values with a desire to participate in simpler activities. Read full Tyler Morning Telegraph article here.

March 24, 2011

Wind Turbines in Mason County?

While attention recently has been focused on the possible CREZ transmission line coming through Mason County, little has been said about an industrial wind farm development that is being considered here. Read full Mason County News article here.

Save the Date – Rainwater Revival 2011 is set for October 8th in Dripping Springs

Rainwater Harvesting is one of the most simple and effective water conservation tools for the Hill Country. Last year HCA co-hosted the first annual Rainwater Revival to provide education and enthusiasm for Rainwater collection. The event was a huge success and we are busy making plans for 2011! Sponsorship available now, contact HCA for more information. To learn about last year’s event see HCA would like to send out a huge thank you to the LCRA and Hays County for their support. You can find more information about Rainwater Harvesting on this HCA issue page:

March 22, 2011

Texas Water Symposium March 31 at Schreiner University

Water, the environment and natural resources are daunting issues for Texans, especially with a projected doubling in population over the next 50 years. Local stakeholder organizations and programs that encourage land and water stewardship through collaboration, education, and community participation are critical for protection and preservation of water resources and quality for present and future generations. Find out more at the final session of the 2010-2011 Texas Water Symposium Series, “River Watch Programs and Activities in the Hill Country: How Local Communities Take Care of Their Rivers and Water.” Read more

Ann Newman Joins Hill Country Alliance Board of Directors

Organizing neighbors to conserve the land comes naturally for Newman; As a new board member with Hill Country Alliance, Ann Newman plans to use her neighborhood organizing skills to bring land owners together to conserve the land. Read more

March 21, 2011

Riparian Systems: Their Remarkable Roles in Healthy Waterways, March 28

HCA Board Presdient, Sky Jones-Lewey, will talk about her work in riparian systems at the March 28th meeting of the Master Naturalist Hill Country Chapter. As both the developer of landowner workshops and a participant involved in restoration of riparian systems, Sky is especially knowledgeable about riparian areas and will be sharing some of those lessons and experiences with attendees. Details

March 18, 2011

In San Antonio, a Focus on Land Conservation

From Marcy G. Rothe’s hillside home, she can see oaks and grasses and a creek bed spread out, looking much the same as when her grandfather first arrived here in the 1920s. In June, she sold a conservation easement on her land to the city of San Antonio to prevent development that would harm the aquifer below — and also to ensure that the nearly 2,000 acres of land remained undisturbed for her descendants. Read full Texas Tribune article here.

March 17, 2011

LCRA Defines Acquisition Plan For Big Hill To Kendall Line

The Lower Colorado River Authority’s real estate service group recently wrapped up a round of informational meetings for landowners in the hill country who are impacted by the Big Hill to Kendall transmission line project. Read full Livestock Weekly article here.

March 16, 2011

Japan earthquake displaced water in Edwards Aquifer

The water level of Texas’ Edwards Aquifer was displaced about a foot Friday after energy released from a massive earthquake near Japan put the squeeze on the underground rock formation that supplies drinking water for much of Central Texas. Read the full article here.

March 15, 2011

Cuts to state parks budget would be crippling

Visitors to Blanco State Park know it for its compact, picturesque Hill Country landscape and easy access to the Blanco River. The park is making headlines these days for a more dubious reason, however: It’s among seven state parks being considered for transfer to local governments because the state can’t afford to keep operating them. Read full SA Express article here.

Texas Legislature

HCA strives to serve as a resource on the many legislative issues facing the Hill Country including land conservation incentives, water resource management, scenic protection and county growth management tools. To learn more about bills we are paying attention to and what’s happening at the Capitol see our Legislative Issue page.

Kathleen Krueger: Improving the world where she lives

Kathleen Krueger, mayor pro-tem, New Braunfels City Council, and new Hill Country Alliance (HCA) board member, is a world traveler…but her roots are in the Hill Country. No matter where she is living, Krueger finds a way to help the people and improve the environment. Read more

Proposed legislation would allow more digital commercial billboards and override existing local law

SB 971 could change the face of the Hill Country, a region with tremendous scenic value. Scenic Texas alerts us that this will allow hundreds of digital billboards to be built not only inside the corporate limits but also inside the ETJ’s of most cities in Texas regardless of what the city has voted to do. For example, in Austin, except for relocations of billboards for highway construction, there have been no new billboards in the city or the unincorporated ETJ since 1985. This bill will be heard at 8:00 am on Wednesday (Tomorrow) in the Senate Transportation Committee. Read the details from Scenic Texashere. More about HCA scenic issues here.

March 14, 2011

Central Texas Water Conservation Symposium: The Business Case for Water Conservation

A coalition of regional water agencies and advocacy groups is organizing the Central Texas Water Conservation Symposium, a one day regional event aimed at providing area elected officials and government leaders crucial information about effective business practices behind water conservation. Details and RegistrationDownload Flyer

American Farmland Trust E-news all about water and conservation

The American Farmland Trust (AFT) recent newsletter highlights programs around the country that improve incentives and programs for farmers and ranchers to conserve land and care for water resources. Here in Texas, SB 449/HB1733 — provides an incentive for landowners who choose to engage in stewardship practices on their land that benefit water quality and quantity.

March 10, 2011

Sky Lewey: New Hill Country Alliance Board President

Sky Lewey, new board president of Hill Country Alliance grew up on the banks of the Nueces River. Today Lewey and her family live on the Open V Ranch, near Uvalde. She is the director of Resource Protection and Education with the Nueces River Authority. Read more

March 9, 2011

Conserving Our Rural Heritage

On April 1st and 2nd, the 2011 Farm & Range Forum will be held in Uvalde, Texas. The focus of this year’s forum is “Conserving Our Rural Heritage.” Landowners, urban and rural conservationists, and anyone interested in the history and dynamics of the region as it faces economic and social challenges are encouraged to participate. Learn more

The Remarkable Riparian Network of the Nueces Basin

“The Nueces River Authority (NRA) is a small organization doing big things”. HCA President Sky Lewey is featured in a wonderful article in Texas Wildlife Magazine this month. “A frequent comment heard from participants after a workshop is, “I’ll never look at a creek the same way again.” Read the full article The Remarkable Ripairan Network of the Nueces Basin. Learn more about this issue on the HCA Riparian Management issue page.

March 7, 2011

The Texas Water War: Is there a solution and who decides?

Environmental Stewardship, Independent Texans, Neighbors for Neighbors and The Texas Drought Project will be hosting and open forum conference to discuss groundwater issues March 19th in Cedar Creek. Details and RegistrationConference Agenda
Read more about the Texas Water Wars here.

March 5, 2011

Local control of rural billboard construction sought

New billboards continue to devalue the scenic beauty of the Hill Country landscape however in rural Texas, counties don’t have anything to say about it. Scenic Texas’ most recent newsletter reports that a bill has been introduced to give counties the tool they need to prohibit new billboards in unincorporated areas if they wish to do so. Learn more about the proposed legislation here. Find out more about Scenic Texas here.

March 4, 2011

Free workshop gives landowners new tool to control properties’ future uses – March 25 in Llano

Did you know landowners can preserve all or part of their ranch and farm land from development even after they pass away? Or that they can arrange for part of their land to be preserved indefinitely while allowing other parts to be used for various purposes? Conservation easements provide a way to customize these types of agreements to suit the needs and desires of each individual landowner. Find out more

Texas Debates Who Owns Its Water

At a crowded hearing earlier this week, members of the state Senate’s Committee on Natural Resources heard testimony on a bill that would declare that landowners have a “vested ownership interest” in the water beneath their land. A less-discussed second bill recognizes both landowner rights and the “compelling public interest” of effective groundwater management. Read full Texas Tribune article here.

Curious about Rainwater use?

The Texas Rainwater Catchment Association (TRCA) is hosting their State Conference in Kerrville. This event is free and open to the public, March 18th and 19th. Learn more

March 3, 2011

Hill Country Gardening

The weather is beautiful and everyone is thinking about working in the garden. Check out these helpful Hill Country Gardening tips from LCRA. Did you know HCA has created helpful resource pages about water conservation and native landscaping also? Check it out.

March 2, 2011

Capitol awash with water issues

Senate committee takes up measure that would equate groundwater with private property. Read full article here.

March 1, 2011

Who Owns Texas’ Groundwater?

Water is simple. Water policy, water law? Clear as crude. Today, in an interminable hearing, the Senate Natural Resources Committee discussed two bills that would, depending on your view, do nothing, radically change, slightly modify, clarify, or confuse Texas groundwater law. Read full Texas Observer article here.

Skywater development on Horseshoe Bay files for bankruptcy

The owner of the Skywater Over Horseshoe Bay development has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The move will allow the project to avert foreclosure, undergo reorganization and be completed as planned, including the 18-hole Jack Nicklaus signature golf course, an attorney said Tuesday. Read full article here.