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84th Legislative Session: Policy Priorities for the Texas Hill Country

The Hill Country region has significant economic value for Texas because of its unique natural features,
heritage ranches, culture, beauty and quality of life assets.
The economy of the Hill Country and its land values are dependent upon a clean, plentiful water supply.
Amidst a rapidly growing Texas and an enduring drought, we face the challenge of balancing water needs
of rural farms and ranches, with growing urban communities. Fundamental to that challenge is the need
to protect both the long-term health of our fragile water systems and the property rights of landowners.
In order to sustain water supplies we must realize a water policy framework that protects the health and
flow of groundwater, springs, and streams and recognizes natural water catchment boundaries,
commonly referred to as watersheds.
Our rivers are over-allocated, surface reservoirs are critically low, and groundwater levels and spring
flows are declining. Now is the time for a more innovative, protective and conservative approach to
water planning policy.
HCA recommends the following policy objectives to the 84th Texas Legislature:

Recognize the physical relations between surface-water and groundwater and integrate water
planning and management strategies to reflect this connection.
Defend and enhance the authority of local Groundwater Conservation Districts (GCDs) and their
ability to manage and conserve groundwater in accordance with the best available science.
Dedicate state funding to incentivize the protection and stewardship of land by private
landowners in critical Hill Country water catchment areas in order to maintain the essential role
of land in capturing, cleansing and storing our water supply.
Prioritize water conservation as the most effective, economical, and reliable method to address
unmet water needs as identified in regional and state water plans.
Protect water quality by providing more local oversight for industrial and commercial activities in
fragile Hill Country riverbeds.
Encourage the use of grey water and rainwater harvesting systems in new and existing
residential, commercial, and institutional developments.
Enhance funding levels to conduct and support research that expands knowledge of the state’s
water resources and how to best manage those resources, including the implementation of
Water IQ.
Appropriate funding for Texas Parks though the dedication of sporting goods tax revenue to
Texas Parks and Wildlife.

Hill Country Alliance | 15315 Highway 71 West, Bee Cave, Texas 78738 | Phone 512.263.9147 | Fax 512.263.3471 |


Defend local control and local ordinance decision making authority so that Hill Country
communities can protect private property values, natural resources and quality of life as
population continues to increase throughout the region.

HCA conducted a survey of Hill Country constituents in the fall of 2014. Fifty-three percent of the
respondents identified themselves as rural, 25% as suburban, and 22% as urban residents.
According to this survey, the two most pressing issues threatening the Hill Country are depleted
groundwater resources (81% response) and the threat from unregulated development (66% response).
Respondents supported the use of regulations to limit damage to shared natural resources. A significant
majority of respondents (77%) identified with the phrase “Private property rights should be accompanied
by government regulations necessary to protect the natural resources of the Hill Country.”
Most respondents support regulations to protect the environment at the local level. In fact, a strong
majority of respondents (64%) believe that counties should have the authority to regulate incompatible
land use, development density, construction in environmentally sensitive areas, scenic beauty, and water
A strong majority of respondents were willing to pay for long-term conservation goals. Seventy-seven
percent of respondents were willing to pay for long-term protection of groundwater resources. Also, the
survey revealed a willingness to pay for the creation of new, publicly accessible open spaces (55%) and
the permanent protection of private lands (48%).

The Hill Country Alliance is a nonprofit organization whose purpose is to raise public awareness and build
community support around the need to preserve the natural resources and heritage of the Central Texas
Hill Country. Visit us at