Prop 8 was passed unanimously by Texas lawmakers and enjoys broad based support from farmers, ranchers and landowners. Because it changes the state constitution, it needs voter approval.
Laura Huffman is the state director of the Nature Conservancy. Since 95 percent of all of the land in Texas is privately owned, most of the water of our state flows across or sits under private land. She says anything that protects natural resources must include partnering with landowners.
“We looked at the existing agricultural exemption that allows a landowner to run cattle, or to use their property for open space, traditional ranching activities, and get a lower property tax bill. And we said, ‘You know what? We can take that exact bill and create an aquatic analog to it.’ And that’s exactly what we did. We came up with a set of criteria that landowners can comply with, and keep their lower tax bill.”
She says the measure benefits everybody, even those living within close proximity to water, because it protects our rivers, lakes and aquifers.
“The number one reason why Houstonians want to make sure that Prop 8 passes is because a huge percentage of your water comes from the Trinity River, and you want to make sure that as that river flows from Dallas to Houston, that it is as clean as possible.”
The measure was co-authored by Austin Senator Kirk Watson. He disagrees with opponents who say it would duplicate existing options under wildlife management valuation.
“What this would do is it would save it. If you want to protect water quality and water quantity, and you already have the agricultural valuation. If you’ll manage your land to protect water quality and quantity, you will also get the reduced tax bill. So it incentives activities that conserve water.”
He says he doesn’t have confidence in the state’s water plan to provide an adequate supply.
“In that water plan, it also says that over the next 50 years, about 25 percent of our water supply needs to come from water conservation. But unfortunately, the state has really failed in its responsibility to come up with a framework or plan for that conservation. This sort of program will help us start getting there.”
Watson believes Proposition 8 will help secure a reliable source of water for generations to come.