With 2023 a few weeks away, what will it hold for Williamson County? Well, let me shake my snow globe crystal ball for a preview.
The 88th Texas legislative session will begin in January, resulting in information overload with bills that hurt us and bills that help us. The part-time status of our Legislature runs at such a quick clip every two years that many bills are not thoroughly vetted prior to becoming law. It would be so nice to have a full-time Legislature allowing more appropriate time to thoroughly vet proposed bills.
In the last session, legislators attempted to prevent local county governments from having “hired guns” at the Lege each day watching for negative bills and speaking up for local governments to help us at the county level. Our Texas Association of Counties is magnificent in lobbying and educating those willing to listen in the Legislature. What goes on at the capital is a major time drain for us in local government.
Water shortages abound and wastewater treatment plants are expanding across the county to appropriately handle the volume from all our growth. Vigilance on the part of our water plant managers has provided for clear streams despite reduced volume of water flow and increased output from wastewater plants — not perfectly, but with intense scrutiny and vigilant teams. Our past has relied on municipalities to acquire water and rural areas to drill wells.
Our present population means scarce availability of both surface and ground water. The Brazos River Authority, serving most of Wilco, reports 99.9% of its water is spoken for. As for underground water, we do have the Edwards Aquifer in the narrow Balcones Fault area in Wilco, but the vast majority of our county and wells are in the expansive Trinity Aquifer zone, which lacks the support of limestone to rapidly catch and carry water. The Trinity only recharges with 4% of the rainfall as it has layers of clay for water to pass through and needs underground fault lines for storage.
In an Oct. 27, 2017, San Antonio Express News article, Robert R. Puente, San Antonio’s Water System’s president and CEO since May 2008, the longest-serving leader of one of the nation's largest utilities delivering water and wastewater services to more than 1.8 million customers, said, “Buyer, beware, because that Trinity (Aquifer) is very unpredictable. Well, actually it is predictable. In a drought, you can’t rely on it.”
That easterly moving major drought line has now come to roost in Williamson County. That and the additional wells being drilled are wreaking havoc for existing well users in Wilco.
Housing shortages abound, whether affordable houses or apartment units, especially more affordable rental units. We have limited infrastructure in place, primarily within municipal city limits.