City supports water regulation initiative, with an exception
By ALBERTO TOMAS HALPERN
MARFA – Marfa city officials voted Tuesday to support an initiative by Presidio County and the Presidio County Underground Water Conservation District to extricate the political subdivisions from the Texas Water Code provision known as the Midland Exemption, so long as the city can continue to produce up to a certain amount of unregulated water.
The provision – a ramrod effort by state Rep. Tom Craddick of Midland – exempts certain municipalities from regulation by water conservation districts in the production and use of groundwater.
The water district board, as well as Presidio County Judge Paul Hunt, have sought to remove Presidio County from the exemption in an effort to have greater control over water use in the county as a water conservation means.
Removing a county from the exemption requires an act of the state legislature. All political subdivisions in the county must officially agree to it and communicate to state lawmakers their wish, which ideally would be put on local and consent agenda in the state capitol.
Presidio County officials have agreed to allow the two municipalities, Marfa and Presidio, to have some wiggle room so as to not be completely regulated by the county water board.
Marfa city officials did vote to support removing the county from the exemption, with the caveat that Marfa can continue to produce up to 280 million gallons of unregulated water per year. Any amount of water produced by the city that exceeds that number would have to be approved by the county’s water board.
“What are we producing yearly now,” City Councilman David Beebe asked.
“About 220 million,” City Administrator Jim Mustard replied. Mustard explained that he and former city public works director Robert Silva came up with the 280 million figure to give the city some cushion.
“I believe we’re safe with this number,” said Mustard, who is also a member of the water district board. Mustard, in his capacity as a water board member, has publicly supported removing Presidio County from the Midland Exemption.
The matter is also before the Presidio City Council which has yet to take action on the initiative.
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