By EMILY RAMSHAW / The Dallas Morning News - Wednesday, May 23, 2007
AUSTIN – The House endorsed the state's first major water planning bill in a decade Tuesday, a measure that protects streams, rivers and estuaries, conserves water and designates more than a dozen future reservoir sites across Texas.Read more
But the measure, which Dallas officials hoped would protect years of water planning efforts, now does nothing but hinder them, North Texas lawmakers say. Reservoirs that the area has counted on have been stripped from the bill, and the measure limits the region's ability to acquire future water sources.
As lawmakers debated the bill for several hours, many amendments were tacked on with a clear anti-Dallas sentiment, as House members from East Texas and elsewhere complained that Dallas wasn't doing its part by conserving enough. North Texas representatives say that the area is booming and needs to plan for rapid population growth.
The measure faces one more House vote today, and then differences between the House's version and what the Senate approved in March must be negotiated. Dallas officials hope to win some concessions during those negotiations.
But the bill in its current form "does not solve any of Dallas' short or long term needs," said Rep. Rafael Anchia, D-Dallas. "It's a disappointment when a major bill like this is written on the floor. What came out of the House hurts Dallas more than helps."
One amendment approved Tuesday would require the state's water districts to bring down their average per capita water consumption to below 200 gallons a day before they can add new reservoirs to their water plans. Dallas is currently the only big city in Texas that surpasses this threshold, lawmakers said; its water customers use an average 264 gallons per capita per day.