Horace Grace of Killeen has been dedicated to Texas water issues for more than 15 years. The retired Army officer has worked with two governors to make sure Texas’ water needs are met for the next 50 years. Educating Texans about water issues is his mission. Grace sat down with the Herald to discuss the water challenges Texas and the Killeen area are dealing with.
How did you get involved in the water issue?
I first got involved with the water issue when I was appointed by Gov. (Ann) Richards. I was a close friend of Gov. Richards, and she appointed me to the board of the Brazos River Authority. The Brazos River Authority covers all the drinking water for about half of the state, about 45,000 square miles. About the size of the state of Tennessee. They operate out of Waco. They own all of the drinking water in the two reservoirs here in Bell County. The way it works is those two reservoirs were built by the federal government. They belong to the federal government, not the people of Bell County. The federal government gave the water rights to the state of Texas, and they permitted back to the Brazos River Authority to sell the water to pay for those lakes. All the water in both lakes has been sold. That water has all been spoken for.
What are some of the ways you have contributed your time to this issue?
Back in 1997, Bob Bullock, the lieutenant governor at the time, said, “We’ve got to do something about water resource management in the state of Texas.” So we passed what is called Senate Bill 1, 2 and 3. I have been fortunate enough to serve with the governor at the policy level to help implement all three of those. I am currently on the last leg, and that’s called Senate Bill 3, where we are dealing with water flows. How much do we need in the river to maintain riparian rights. And we’ve lost a lot of species in Texas because the flow was not adequate for them to spawn. That is what I am working on now. We just submitted a final report. In addition to working on all the state water plans, I started what is called Clearwater Conservation District in Bell County. I was the head of that for 10 years.
Why is the water issue of particular importance now?
Water is a critical issue with the state of Texas. We are still in a drought mode, and that is following two other major droughts. Texas probably lost $5 billion last year because of droughts alone. We did not have adequate rain in the state. Then look at the fires we had last year. None of the reservoirs have come back to being completely filled. So people who contracted water in these reservoirs, if they called for their water today, it probably wouldn’t be there. We haven’t had enough rain to put the water back in there.
How are you trying to get people up to speed on this issue?
What I am trying to do now is trying to get the people educated about water and the water cycle. Where does it go? Where does it come from? And the importance of how we need to change a couple of things. We need to start conserving. Another thing: Water is too cheap. People are not going to conserve as long as they can afford it. The other thing is we may have to build more reservoirs. I am not a big proponent of building reservoirs to solve our water needs. I think we should concentrate on conservation first. There are many we can do in Texas. We are not a Western state, but we need to be doing the same thing Arizona, New Mexico and all those states are doing. We need to change our landscapes. We don’t need to use St. Augustine grass. We need to improve our sprinkler systems. We have to question how we use swimming pools. These are the things we need people to be aware of. There are a lot of things governments have to take a hard look at.
What concerns you about Killeen regarding water?
As far as Killeen, Killeen has purchased enough water to last them through 2060. They are one of the few entities, along with Temple, that had the foresight to do that. The only thing I think Killeen has to do is make sure their infrastructure is in place to handle the treated water that they need because they are growing so fast. Say if Killeen could only handle 19 million gallons a day, but we’re building so many houses. Do they have the infrastructure, the pipe size to handle 25 million if the population gets to that point. The other thing I would ask is, if they have the capacity to continue to provide Killeen with water for the next 20 to 30 years as it continues to grow without another treatment plant?
Contact Mason Lerner at firstname.lastname@example.org or (254) 501-7567.