Babbitt endorses Texas aquifer plan

Interior Secretary Bruce Babbitt April 19 endorsed a plan by Texas to reduce pumping from a large underground aquifer that serves as San Antonio's sole water supply and lifeblood for five endangered species.

Texas Gov. Ann Richards welcomed Mr. Babbitt's endorsement of the Texas plan, which would permanently limit use of the aquifer to 450,000 acre-feet of water per year, down from the 540,000 acre-feet used now, and develop additional water resources by 2040.

Babbitt urged Governor Richards to push for the plan's approval in the Texas Legislature before a May 31 deadline. He warned Richards that if the Legislature fails to adopt the plan by then, the federal government will have the authority under the Endangered Species Act to order a reduction of up to 60 percent in the amount of water drawn from the Edwards Aquifer.

Babbitt said the plan could provide a basis for the US Fish and Wildlife Service to issue a waiver allowing some "take," or damage to endangered species during periods of drought.

The Edwards Aquifer provides critical habitat for the fountain darter, the San Marcos salamander, the Texas blind salamander, the San Marcos gambusia, and Texas wild rice. Suit filed over Milwaukee water contamination

In Milwaukee, 11 people April 19 filed the first lawsuit in connection with a parasitic outbreak several weeks ago, claiming the city was negligent in its water purification process. The city attorney said the plaintiffs had sued too soon, and had to file claims with the city first.

Up to 400,000 people - half of those served by the municipal water system - might have been affected by the outbreak, city health comissioner Paul Nannis said April 19 in testimony before the House Energy and Commerce subcommittee on health and the environment.

The problem was believed to result from runoff into Lake Michigan, from which Milwaukee draws its water. The 800,000 people served by the system had to boil water for a week until the water was declared safe April 14.

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