The Texas Conservation Districts Amendment, also known as Proposition 1, was approved by state voters on Aug. 21, 1917. The measure required the conservation and development of the state’s natural resources.
It authorized conservation districts to issue bonds and levy taxes to help property owners during drought and flooding.
It was nearly 100 years to the day of the historic floods in Southern Texas, said Texas Alliance of Groundwater Districts Executive Director Sarah Schlessinger.
Schlessinger was a speaker at the 17th Bell County Water Symposium at Warrior Hall on the campus of Texas A&M University-Central Texas in Killeen. The room was filled with government officials, conservation district employees, representatives from local congressmen and those interested in water conservation.
“This is a great opportunity to gather a wide array of stakeholders in one common setting,” Schlessinger said.
Schlessinger said when Texas is not in a drought, it is hard to get people interested in water conservation. She heads a nonprofit that works with local water conservation districts.
She said the 1917 legislation was important because it created a policy for water management, laws to regulate natural resources, offered taxation to finance projects and paved the way for groundwater districts.
Legislation in 1949 created groundwater districts offering landowner rights and helped set water regulations.
Clearwater Underground Water Conservation District General Manager Dirk Aaron spoke on the state of water districts. He has helped organize the symposium for the last 17 years.
He stressed the importance of water in Central Texas.
“When we say that we don’t have any more water, the development will stop,” Aaron told the 150-plus in attendance. “Our job is to facilitate conversations about water and water usage.”
Clearwater Underground Water Conservation District was confirmed by voters in 1999 and opened in 2002. Tax money is used at a rate of .00385 cents per $100 of assessed home values. The district has a budget of sbout $680,000, according to Aaron.
The district’s website offers information for Bell County well drillers and pump installers, monitoring of statewide wells and reservoir levels.
He noted one of the useful tools on the conservation district’s website for local residents is a 3-D model that can show a landowner what is below the property, using latitude and longitude numbers.
Aaron said there are more than 3,500 active wells in Bell County.
Clearwater added a walk-through educational trailer earlier in the year for school children and other organizations to stress the importance of water conservation.
Corey Dawson is one of the Clearwater UWCD employees who teaches water usage. The trailer includes an aquifer model, an example of indoor water conservation kitchen and a pair of well models.
“We can take 12 to 15 students at a time,” Dawson said. “It takes about 20 minutes to work through the trailer.”
Dawson said the trailer can be brought to a school and will have a rainfall simulator in the future.
The one-day symposium at A&M-Central Texas concluded Wednesday afternoon and featured information on legislative agendas, the state of water in Texas, a Brazos River basin update, water planning, a welcome address by Marc Nigliazzo who is the president of A&M-Central Texas, and seminars on aquifers, scientific initiatives and watershed protection.