Tag Archives: drought

Still Wondering… What do we do When the Well Runs Dry?

Guest Blog post by Dean Speer, Abliene, TX local resident and student at University of California, Berkely College of Natural Resources.


In a state that is suffering through severe droughts and hosting numerous dry rivers and fading lakes, Water has become paramount. The fact is that 94% of Texas is in a current state of drought, with nearly 50% of the state experiencing what has been labeled “exceptional drought”. These droughts are expected to continue with the possibility of an increase in their severity. As if this wouldn’t be enough to get most Texans worrying, wildfires are raging across the countryside destroying homes and plaguing ranchers and farmers. This could make any person wonder what is going to be left of this great state for their children.

Don’t take my word for it, research it for yourself.

Personally I found an article devoted to Droughts within Texas and another about the the dwindling lake levels. With the ever increasing population of Texas I wasn’t surprised to find an article about the growing demand of water facing the shortage in supply of water. Sadly it gets worse, I also educated myself on how a lack of water threatens the growth of our state. The Hill country itself is in a harsh drought that is starting to affect more than humans..

In the heat of this disaster, while cities and individuals are coming together to try and secure what scarce water resources remain for the essentials of drinking, agriculture and local business, Tenaska has been behind the scenes trying to make thirty year contracts for thousands of acre feet of water per year to cool their coal plant facilities. Contracts that would even under the extreme conditions of drought provide water to the coal plant despite the possible needs of families. Tenaska is a business that operates for profits, not for the betterment and protection of the people it is taking its water resources from. Our children could go to bed thirsty while the Tenaska pipes surge with water.

After the coal plant failed to wrangle Abilene and Sweetwater out of their water, Tenaska has targeted Stamford. A recent Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) probe has shown that representatives of the City of Stamford and Tenaska have, without the public’s knowledge or input, been negotiating a water contract since 2009. This contract states that the city of Stamford would provide “firm supply and firm transportation of raw water from Lake Stamford for water demands” of the coal plant. The FOIA probe also showed that Tenaska is funding the lawyers who are advising the city of Stamford, over $65,000, on the contract. When people who are in charge of protecting the citizens are receiving advice paid for by the same company who is trying to take their water a person is left wondering whether or not their best interests are being protected.

The result is the rise of local citizens to protect their own best interests and futures. Grassroots organizations like Texans Against Tenaska and Abilenians Against Tenaska provide the information Tenaska does not to elected officials, their neighboring residents and the business and agricultural communities. Real people are coming together and building the momentum needed to save their right to water by stopping Tenaska.

The question Texans should be asking themselves is whether we need water or we need more energy? According to the “State of the market” report published by the Electric Reliability Council of Texas our supply of energy is outpacing our demand. The cherry on the top is that our energy reserves used to cushion major outages, required at 13% of total use, is at 21%. On one hand we have water (droughts, shortages, hazy futures) and on the other hand we have the Tenaska coal plant (water guzzling, dirty, surplus of energy). You decide, because if you remain silent Tenaska will decide for you.

For more information or to volunteer your talents,

see http://texansagainsttenaska.org/ or ‘friend’ Texans Against Tenaska on Facebook.

Send an email to the Stamford Mayor and city council members now before it’s too late.   You can send a message even if you don’t live in the city of Stamford.   Click here, and spread the word!

–Dean Speer

Stamford Water for Drinking or for Coal?

Freedom of Information Act Documents Reveal Stamford in Closed Door Negotiations over Coal Plant Water Demand

Freedom of Information Act (FOIA) documents reveal that representatives of the City of Stamford have been negotiating behind closed doors since 2009 with the proposed Tenaska coal plant over what is likely thousands of acre feet per year of Stamford water.   Stamford, along with about 94 percent of Texas was in a state of severe, extreme or exceptional drought as of June 7, according to the U.S. Drought Monitor and drought conditions are not expected to subside in the near future.

“In this drought, we must preserve Texas water for drinking, agriculture, and future generations – not for an unnecessary coal plant,” said Whitney Root with Texans Against Tenaska. “If allowed, the proposed Tenaska coal plant would use a huge amount of water on a daily basis in a region that is being hit by a severe drought; one that, it appears, will continue into the future. The documents we requested from City of Stamford reveal that Tenaska is funding the lawyers who are advising the City to the tune of over $65,000 – this leads us to conclude that Stamford officials are heeding biased advice.  We’d like to see all the facts because we can’t afford to commit this precious resource to Tenaska’s coal plant–not now, and not in the future.” 

The documents revealed that since August 18, 2009, Tenaska has been in negotiations regarding an agreement with the City whereby Stamford would provide “firm supply and firm transportation of raw water from Lake Stamford for water demands’ of the proposed coal plant.”

“In west Texas, we are already struggling to preserve our limited water supplies,” says Sarah Strom–Kieschnick, Abilene resident and mother of two. “We have to think about the future. We cannot live without water and this coal plant proposal is demanding water for long after my children will be grown. We have to think of people’s real needs first and our future generations and make sure they have water, too.”

Residents of counties surrounding the proposed Tenaska coal plant have established Texans Against Tenaska to provideinformation to elected officials, other residents and the business and agricultural communities and to build the momentum needed to stop this coal plant.

For more information or to volunteer your talents, see http://texansagainsttenaska.org/ or ‘friend’ Texans Against Tenaska on Facebook.

“Tenaska is the last of a final push to build archaic coal plants throughout the state,” said Ryan Rittenhouse of Public Citizen Texas. “Stamford should not tie themselves to a dirty and outdated technology that will use and pollute massive amounts of water.  To start with, City of Stamford should open up this process to the public so all the facts can be known.  All stakeholders should be involved in this decision.”

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Second best! LCRA delay on Coal Plant Water

Sierra Club, Public Citizen, the No Coal Coalition and numerous Texas water users applauded LCRA’s decision yesterday to delay a decision on a proposed White Stallion coal plant water contract.

Matagorda Co. Judge McDonald opposes water for coal

The Board room was full and public comment began with elected officials from Matagorda County in the south, Travis County in the middle and Burnet County in the north of the Colorado River basin, all opposing the coal plant water and all citing drought concerns.

Lydia Avila, Sierra Club Beyond Coal organizer

Lydia Avila spoke for Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign. She welcomed this decision,

Even though they haven’t denied it yet, we’re glad they’re taking their time to look into the serious implications of this coal plant request. We’re confident that when they look at the facts that this is a bad deal for Texans, they will reject it.

The Board suggested a 30-45 day period before they would consider it again.

Ryan Rittenhouse, Public Citizen and Coal Block organizer

Ryan Rittenhouse with Public Citizen and Coal Block spoke at the meeting.  Afterwards he said,

The proposed White Stallion coal plant is not a beneficial or responsible use of water.  LCRA can and should deny this water request.  We should invest in cleaner renewable energy so that we assure water for our future.

Sierra Club recognizes and appreciates the over 2,000 people who sent comments to LCRA recommending LCRA reject water for the proposed White Stallion coal plant.  We ask if you will stay tuned and prepare to comment and show up again, if and when LCRA reconsiders the proposed White Stallion water request.  Contact Lydia Avila, 512-477-1729 to get more involved.  Thank you!

~ Donna Hoffman

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Don’t Lead this Horse to Water

The Sierra Club today released a report, Proposed White Stallion Coal-Fired Power Plant Water Demands and the Highland Lakes Water Supply”.  Along with Matagorda County rancher-land stewards, Sierra Club asked the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) to deny a water contract for the proposed White Stallion coal plant.

The report by Dr. Lauren Ross of Glenrose Engineering provides information in advance of an expected agenda item on the proposed water contract at the Wednesday, June 15 LCRA Board of Directors Meeting set in Austin.  The report finds that there is not enough water available for the White Stallion request:

Combined Firm Yield Water from Lakes Buchanan & Travis   535,812 acre feet per year
Firm Water Commitments -514,028 acre feet per year
Uncommitted Water  21,784 acre feet per year

White Stallion Request 25,000 > Uncommitted 21,784 acre feet per year

DROUGHT The potential LCRA contract would commit this supply to be available for the proposed White Stallion during the most severe historical drought of record and it would compromise so called ‘interruptible’ agricultural and environmental flows needs.

Dr. Lauren Ross, Glenrose Engineering

“LCRA is contemplating meeting White Stallion’s coal plant water demand by a combination of run of river water,  that is — water from rain and run-off during wet periods and reservoirs that don’t exist,” said Dr. Lauren Ross whose firm Glenrose Engineering produced the report.  “In the extreme drought that we are experiencing there is no excess run of river water and reservoirs are evaporating at greater than normal rates.  LCRA must concentrate on meeting currently committed water uses and the requested White Stallion contract should be denied.”

The report further finds that:

      • 11% of the water supplied for White Stallion from Lakes Buchanan and Travis would be lost to evaporation and leakage before it arrives at the pumping plant. If accepting this contract, LCRA would waste 3,000 acre-feet per year in evaporation and leakage.
      • Water supplied under the proposed contract would lower storage levels in Lakes Buchanan and Travis and would result in less water being provided for agricultural irrigation, instream flows, and Matagorda bay and estuary inflows.
      • A study of the effects of climate change on water availability in Texas released in March 2011, estimates significant changes in precipitation, evaporation, and runoff in Central Texas due to climate change. It predicts significant deficits in reservoir storage during drought conditions with climate change, compared to similar predictions without climate change. This information on the effects of climate change on rain, evaporation, and runoff should be considered before making any additional commitments for firm water supply.

Laurance Armour, General Manager of Pierce Ranch in Wharton County and member of LCRA’s Water Management Plan Advisory Committee.

 Laurance Armour, General Manager of Pierce Ranch in Wharton County and member of LCRA’s Water Management Plan Advisory Committee commented on the upcoming decision by LCRA about the water contract:

With this exceptional drought, there isn’t enough water right now for current stakeholders —  cities, farmers, the environment and all the businesses that currently depend upon Lakes Travis and Buchanan for their existence.  Additional sales of Colorado River water to unneeded industrial users such as the proposed White Stallion coal plant, would take river water away from people who currently depend upon that water for their livelihoods and drinking water.  If there’s no significant rain between now and January 2012, there will barely be enough water for the people in and around Austin and no water for the farmers in the lower basin.  We can’t waste water on unnecessary and polluting coal plants.

Susan Dancer, Texas Blessings Ranch owner pointed to the potential externalized costs to existing ‘interruptible’ water users of granting the proposed contract to White Stallion:

Do we really want the coal industry’s water rights to trump those of agriculture and the environment we depend upon?  During this drought, we are especially in need of water to irrigate our human and livestock food crops as well as our hay pastures.  We need enough freshwater inflow into Matagorda Bay and estuaries to provide the brackish water necessary for many of our fish and shellfish species to reproduce.   The LCRA Board must consider the externalized financial costs of such a facility as White Stallion.  Taking our water for an un-needed, coal-burning project is one of the ways that White Stallion would cripple the existing economy.  LCRA must refuse this unnecessary and dangerous move.

The proposed White Stallion coal plant faces other obstacles to being built in Matagorda County where the medical community, landowners, and numerous community leaders are strongly opposed to the project.  Though permitted by the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ), a state district judge recently remanded the permit back to TCEQ due to faulty information in the permit application.

Eva Hernandez, Regional Manager Sierra Club's Beyond Coal campaign

“Burning coal for electricity is obsolete – it causes too much pollution and uses too much water,” said Eva Hernandez with Sierra Club’s Beyond Coal campaign.  “Instead, we need to preserve our precious water resources for truly vital human needs, especially during this extreme drought that authorities don’t expect to change soon.  White Stallion is a bad idea all around and the LCRA should lead the way instead to creating Texas’ clean energy economy with more energy efficiency and renewable energy — wind and distributed solar power.”

The Sierra Club encourages concerned people to contact LCRA Board Members to ask them to deny a water contract and air permit for White Stallion coal plant.

Background Information:  See The Impact of Global Warming on Texas cited in the report, and another key water report – Energy-Water Nexus in Texas#  #  #

Great Texas Observer Story about Texas Water Supply

Check it out! What do you think about the dwindling water supply in Texas? I like this line:

““It’s so darn similar to oil and gas, it’s unbelievable,” Arrington says. Trouble is, his friends and neighbors—many of whom make a nice living off of oil and gas production—don’t feel the same way.”