Region I - East Texas
2005 Regional Water Plan Overview
|Beaumont, Port Arthur, Orange, Tyler|
|Total Water Use: 2000||836,633 Acre-Feet|
|Total Water Use: 2060||1,261,320 Acre-Feet|
|Primary Rivers||Neches, Sabine, Trinity|
|Major Aquifers||Gulf Coast, Carrizo-Wilcox|
|Annual Precipitation||40-60 Inches|
|Net Evaporation||<16-32 Inches|
Basic Plan Facts
- Population growth is projected to be moderate
- Total capital cost of proposed water supply measures: approximately $520 million
- One new major reservoir proposed - Lake Columbia (Eastex) Reservoir proposed, which would inundate app. 10,000 acres. Rockland Reservoir included as an alternative water management strategy, which would inundate 99,524 acres.
What's at Issue?
While most of the projected demands will be met with existing water resources within the region, Region I is proposing to construct the controversial Lake Columbia (Eastex) in Cherokee County. Given that the region concluded that conservation will not contribute significantly to guaranteeing adequate water resources, there is great potential for water savings in all water user groups. This is especially true given that many of the urban areas in Region I far exceed water usage rates of 140 gallons per capita per day. Large-scale savings could also occur within the agricultural sector, especially in rice farming, and with industrial uses.
In terms of environmental protection measures, the plan recognizes the need to provide for inflows to bays, but does not attempt to quantify the impact of the proposed water management strategies on freshwater inflows in rivers and streams and the fish and wildlife that depend on them. The quality of surface water in this region is also a continuing concern. With ten stream segments listed under the Clean Water Act as impaired or threatened because of degraded water quality, there should be heightened concern over how future management strategies would affect the region's river and streams. The 2005 plan discussed the issue of meeting drinking water standards for municipal supplies; however, the plan does not discuss how water quality levels might affect the region.
Finally, the Region I plan indicates that groundwater in the region suffers from saltwater intrusion and human contamination yet recommends the continued drawdown of aquifer levels as much as 50-80 feet.
Here are some of the items the Region I Planning Group must address.
Conservation and Drought Management
For conservation and drought management, the plan needs to...
- Discuss the adequacy of current conservation levels in all sectors, especially municipal, and recommend additional water-saving measures. Many of the urban areas in Region far exceed the established goal of 140 gallons per capita per day. For example Tyler currently uses 248 gpcd, Beaumont 201 gpcd, Nacogdoches 206 gpcd, and Lufkin uses 171 gpcd. If Region I committed itself to reducing municipal water use by one percent per year until 2060, Region I could save almost 48,000 acre feet of water per year.
- Develop a drought management plan that quantifies projected water savings from each drought measure recommended.
To secure the protection of flows for fish and wildlife, the plan needs to...
Wildlife Habitat and Farmland Protection
- Evaluate alternative water supply strategies for effects on instream flows and inflows to the bay from the Sabine and Angelina-Neches River systems. In addition, the plan must discuss how these flows are affected by current projects and existing water permits.
- Develop strategies to fulfill freshwater inflow requirements for the bays. The plan recognizes the need to provide for inflows to bays, but does not attempt to quantify the impact of the proposed water management strategies on freshwater inflows in rivers and streams and the fish and wildlife that depend on them.
- Include information on the nature of the major springs in the area and the habitats they support.
- Designate stream segments in the region that meet the criteria as having "unique ecological value". No segments were designated in the 2005 regional plan. The Texas Parks and Wildlife Department recommends 42 segments for designation in this region, and the United States Fish and Wildlife Service also recommends unique stream sites in the region.
To avoid destroying valuable wildlife habitat and productive farmland, the plan needs to...
- Avoid recommending construction of unnecessary reservoirs. The plan recommends the construction of Lake Columbia (Eastex), a controversial reservoir in Cherokee County that would inundate 10,000 acres - including high-value bottomland hardwood habitat, disturb documented endangered species in the area, harm property owners, and damage downstream water uses, especially instream habitat and estuaries. The region also recommends as an alternative strategy the construction of Rockland Reservoir near Lufkin, Texas on the Neches River, an even larger project than Lake Columbia with even greater ecological and human impacts: 126,500 acres total would be inundated, including 27,342 acres of bottomland hardwood habitat identified as "high priority" by the United States Fish and Wildlife Service.
To ensure that only the most economically sound water supply strategies are implemented, the plan needs to...
- Compare the costs and benefits of the supply alternatives in a consistent and reasonable manner. This is especially true with regard to the costs of conservation versus the costs of new reservoirs, and the costs of voluntary transfers of surface water rights with the costs of reservoirs.