Members of a local grassroots citizens group say they will move ahead with plans to establish a groundwater conservation district for Val Verde County.

Sandra Fuentes, a co-chair of The Border Organization, in October told members of Val Verde County Commissioners Court, “The Border Organization has been working on the effort to form a groundwater conservation district for several years now, and for various reasons, this has not materialized. The Border Organization is reorganizing to organize citizens around this issue, to establish a groundwater district for Val Verde County.”

“There has been a lot of talk, and there have been newspaper articles in the past few months about San Angelo wanting our water, and SAWS (San Antonio Water System) wanting our water, and it doesn’t stop there. We’ve also heard stories about Eagle Pass and Laredo, and while the Border Organization has a clear understanding of Texas law, where landowners have every right to sell their water, we also have a clear understanding that one of the objectives of a groundwater district would be to regulate, and therefore protect, the waters of Val Verde County,” Fuentes said.

Fuentes told the commissioners that the Border Organization will move forward with its plans by working with the Del Rio City Council, with its elected county leaders, business leaders, State Rep. Poncho Nevarez (D-Eagle Pass) and “ordinary citizens.”

“We are here today just to serve notice that we will be moving forward on this issue, and we look forward to working with each and every one of you,” she said.

On Thursday, Fuentes and four other Border Organization leaders again emphasized their intentions to work with the county’s elected representatives to create a groundwater conservation district for Val Verde County.

Fuentes said before she made her presentation to county commissioners court in October, she and other Border Organization leaders had met with several elected city and county leaders.

Fuentes said city elected leaders told the Border Organization that they are waiting for the completion of a study of the area’s groundwater resources, which the city and county agreed to jointly fund last year. That study, she said, is supposed to be completed early in 2014.

“Our answer to that was, instead of waiting for the water study, which is just right around the corner, we believe that the conversations about this issue, with our elected leaders and with citizens in general, need to happen now,” Fuentes said.

Fuentes said she and other Border Organization leaders believe those conversations need to begin at once because discussions about the legislation that must be presented and passed through the Texas Legislature will be time-consuming.

Fuentes said further urgency was supplied by conversations she has had with representatives of SAWS, who told her that the organization’s board of directors would decide in December whether to approve a proposal it had previously received from a private company to pipe water from Val Verde County to San Antonio.

Fuentes said the Border Organization also plans to attend a Nov. 18 meeting of SAWS in San Antonio to speak against the proposal.

And she said although the Border Organization is cognizant of the rights of landowners to sell their water rights, “there isn’t anything in place to restrict or regulate the amount of water that can be sold.”

“A groundwater conservation district would be able to do that, among other things,” Fuentes said.

Fuentes and the other Border Organization leaders said they will continue meeting with Nevarez and State Sen. Carlos Uresti (D-San Antonio) to work on enabling legislation to create the groundwater district.

Reach Karen Gleason at 734-3021 or at karen.gleason@delrionewsherald.com

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