By Andy Ross

Killeen Daily Herald

If it's true water will one day be as valuable as gold, the crowd attending Thursday's Bell County Water Symposium will surely have a head start understanding why.

The all-day event, hosted by the Clearwater Underground Water Conservation District, featured more than a dozen speakers representing several agencies ranging from the Brazos River Authority to the Texas Water Development Board to the Texas Land Trust Council.

With presentations covering a broad spectrum of water and conservation-related topics, Clearwater leaders said the end goal was spreading awareness of the far-reaching implications of water battles in Texas.

"One of most important things we do is education," said Horace Grace, conservation district president. "This event is growing and getting better every year as more and more people are coming out to learn about water."

Grace kicked the symposium off with an overview of groundwater versus surface water supplies in Bell County, explaining that other than Salado, the vast majority of the population's water comes from Belton and Stillhouse Hollow lakes.

Next was Cris Parker, an Austin-based engineer specializing in flood plain management, who spoke about the recent flooding in Salado Creek during Tropical Storm Hermine. Although he said a flood mitigation strategy is now being developed, Parker stressed that years of negotiations will likely be in store to secure funding aid from the Army Corps of Engineers and the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

Randy Doyle, who leads a sustainability and pollution prevention team at Fort Hood, highlighted the steps the post is taking to reduce stormwater runoff into Killeen. He also touched on a partnership Fort Hood has made with local cities as well as a series of environmentally friendly parking lot projects being undertaken using porous paving.

One of the livelier presentations came from Brian Sledge, an attorney specializing in water law. Sledge focused on the upcoming legislative session, saying groundwater planning will receive much more attention by lawmakers than surface water issues. An especially significant change this session, said Sledge, is District 24 state Sen. Troy Fraser's replacing Kip Averitt as chairman of the Senate Natural Resources Committee.

"It is good for Bell County, I'll tell you for sure," Sledge said. "It's good to be the committee chair's constituents."

The afternoon's presenters focused on the role of the Brazos River Authority. The day ended with a discussion of conservation easements for water quality protection and plans for the Leon and Lampasas rivers.

Judy Parker, Precinct 4 board member for the conservation district, said this year's symposium seemed to draw a more diverse audience than normal.

"Every year we get more and more individual citizens and not just people in the water industry," Parker said. "To have the private citizens in here, that's the key. You have to get them onboard and realize what's facing us."

Contact Andy Ross at or (254) 501-7468.

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