Water export tax

Idea will need legislative support but is worth pursuing for counties

Plans to pump underground water from beneath Milam County have been the topics of conversations for weeks in the Rockdale area and will certainly continue to be when the Post Oak Savannah Groundwater Conservation District (POSGCD) board acts on what’s currently a request by Alcoa for more pumping.

There seem to be two different worlds where the plans are concerned and “worlds” might be too tame a word. “Universes” might be more appropriate.

But a few things are clear. Here are three:

• Texas’ big cities want water.

• There’s lots of it under Milam County.

• Whether it’s through plans by Alcoa, the Lower Colorado River Authority, speculators or some other entity we don’t know about yet, the big cities are coming after that water.

Do you think they’ll get it?

Consider this. Approximately 86 percent of Texans now live in urban areas. That leaves 14 percent of us in rural areas.

That gives you some kind of idea what the political outcome might be if the question of who gets the water becomes an urban vs. rural issue.

What can rural Texas do?

One idea has recently arisen and it may be more than an idea at this point. Bluntly stated, it goes like this: If they’re going to take our water, make them pay us for the privilege.

Some form of water export, or transport, tax might be imposed on water leaving one jurisdiction—say, a county or an underground water district—for another.

It would need legislation, because currently that wouldn’t be feasible under existing law.

But there would have to be lots of care taken to be sure the taxes or fees wouldn’t apply to land owners who merely want to use their own water under their own land.

Is it doable? Quite probably. Would it make up for someone’s dry well? Of course not.

Does there need to be some kinds of steps taken to help rural Texas recoup some of the lost economic value of the water that’s underneath us?

That’s an easy one. No matter what universe you’re in.—M.B.

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2012-10-04 digital edition

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