News

Hay's County Struggles as it's Population SurgesMarch 30, 2015 13:54
CENTRAL TEXAS GROWTH   One of the fastest-growing counties in the nation is feeling the pinch as its resources are stretched thin. ByAsher Price and TaylorTompkins asherprice@statesman.com ttompkins@statesman.com


Construction crews continue work on the Green at Plum Creek apartment buildings just outside Kyle on Thursday. The population boom in Hays County has stretched its water, housing and government resources in ways that will take years to address. PHOTOS BY LUKAS KEAPPROTH / AMERICAN-STATESMAN...

CENTRAL TEXAS GROWTH

   One of the fastest-growing counties in the nation is feeling the pinch as its resources are stretched thin.

 ByAsher Price and TaylorTompkins asherprice@statesman.com ttompkins@statesman.com


Construction crews continue work on the Green at Plum Creek apartment buildings just outside Kyle on Thursday. The population boom in Hays County has stretched its water, housing and government resources in ways that will take years to address. PHOTOS BY LUKAS KEAPPROTH / AMERICAN-STATESMAN
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A sign along RM 150 in Kyle illustrates how the water supply in Hays
County has become a topic of concern as the area’s population continues to grow. Local communities depend on a haphazard mix of river water and groundwater sources.
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Single-family homes go up in the Blanco Vista neighborhood of San Marcos last November. Due to the scarcity of available housing in Hays County, homes in San Marcos are on the market for an average of 133 days, according to a Realtors’ association official. If no new homes were put up for sale, the current housing inventory in Hays County would be sold in just two months, according to the association. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN 2014
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Hays County residents gather outside the Hays City Store in Driftwood last month to protest the controversial Electro Purification well field being developed near Wimberley.

TOM MCCARTHYJR. / FOR AMERICAN-STATESMAN
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On the face of it, Hays County’s population boom — its growth is the second highest in the country among heavily populated counties — has been good for business.
Median income outstrips the rest of the state, with the average Hays household earning $58,651, compared to $51,900 in the rest of Texas.

But the boom has stretched the county’s water, housing and government resources in ways that will take years to address. The jail is overcrowded. The scramble is on to secure more water for growth. A lack of major arterial roads means too much traffic is forced onto Interstate 35.
And more people are on their way to Hays every day, many of them migrating from the two metropolitan centers it sits between.

County Judge Bert Cobb said the cost of living in Austin is a direct factor in Hays County’s growth. “The feeling that a lot of people have is, ‘Well, if we don’t build it, they won’t come,’ and that’s destructive,” Cobb said. “They’re coming here for all the reasons everyone comes here — there’s space. As Austin gets worse, they’re driving them into San Marcos and Kyle and Buda.”
Newcomers get their first glimpse of the county’s struggle to meet demand as they shop for a place to live.

There is a severe lack of housing that is driving up prices while making it harder to find a home in Hays County, according to James Walker, vice president of the Four Rivers Association of Realtors, a nonprofit trade group that includes Hays County.

“We’re a very fast growing area and there’s very little inventory out there, particularly in the affordable housing arena,” Walker said. “There are some developments that are coming; they’re just not here yet. Unfortunately, in the past, particularly in San Marcos, they haven’t been real receptive to the idea of bringing in new housing developers.”

Homes are on the market for an average of 133 days in San Marcos, and once a home is put on the market it quickly receives multiple offers, some in cash, Walker said.
If no new homes were put up for sale, the current inventory would be sold in just two months, according to numbers from the association.

Yet even without an abundance of housing, people keep coming.

According to new Census figures released Thursday, Hays is the nation’s second-fastest growing county with a population of at least 100,000. The county saw a 4.8 percent population increase between July 1, 2013, and July 1, 2014.
And the growth is not likely to slow.

Currently nearing 180,000 people, Hays County could grow by 30,000 people in the next five years and to 440,000 people by 2050, according to projections by the state demographer.
Finding the water to serve all those people is a work in progress.

Waters for fighting

Hays County’s communities depend on a haphazard mix of river water and groundwater sources that have a spectrum of oversight. Working to meet their growing needs, the communities are trying individually strike deals with a variety of water suppliers, even as the county tries to shepherd them into a unified plan.

The broader issues at play with water — issues of private property, of resource preservation, of population growth, of rural versus urban interests, of patchwork regulation — are on display in the fight involving Electro Purification’s groundwater project. The project would pump up to 5.3 million gallons a day to meet the burgeoning drinking, washing, lawn-watering and bathing needs of a rapidly growing area along I-35.

The company says it is lawfully pulling up water and selling it to communities that need it. Neighbors of the project say it will rob them of their own groundwater and that the company has exploited an unregulated store of groundwater.

“We need to take a stand against living unsustainably,” said Purly Gates, who lives in a subdivision adjacent to the Electro Purification well field. “We’re ruled by economic gain. We need to listen to the land. We’re stealing our resources for private gain. We’re fouling our nest in the name of growth.”
But the Goforth Special Utility District, which has a contract to take the lion’s share of the Electro Purification water to serve its 5,600 connections spanning Hays, Caldwell and Travis counties, says it needs the water to meet rising demand.

Goforth, in a lower-income area, has seen a 6 to 8 percent growth rate in its area over the past decade, said the utility’s attorney, Leonard Dougal. Going forward, “our engineer says just expect more of the same,” he said.

Playing catch-up
Growth is at the heart of a web of issues facing Hays county government.
“The organism has to work as a whole,” Cobb said. “If you concentrate on just one aspect of it, you cheat another part of it.”

One piece of the puzzle is transportation.

Commissioners have a transportation plan that would give the county a much needed east-west roadway by connecting RM 150 to Texas 130 in the east and U.S. 290 in the north.
The proposed roadway could take some of the congestion off of Interstate 35 headed into Austin and is waiting for funding from the Texas Department of Transportation, Cobb said.

“Right now it’s easier to get to downtown Austin than to get to Dripping Springs from Kyle,” Cobb said.

Money problems also plague the Hays County Jail, which is outdated and overcrowded.
The jail maxes out at 311 inmates, and the 25-year-old facility has sent inmates to neighboring jails on and off since last July.

While there is talk of building a new facility, county commissioners are looking at the judicial system as a whole. Special courts, such as a veterans court, psychiatric court and drug court, have been or are being developed to save jail space for people who pose a bigger threat to public safety, Cobb said.
The labor cost of those who would work on new dockets is a concern in addition to the cost of building a jail. A study is being done to analyze the needs for a jail facility in order to not build too much or too little, Cobb said.

Like the other struggles that the county is facing, the jail issue requires action soon.
“The problem will only get worse unless we do something,” Cobb said. “Inaction is a decision. We can’t afford to do that any longer.”

American-Statesman data editor Christian McDonald contributed to this report. Contact Asher Price at 512-445-3643. Twitter: @asherprice
Posted: March 30, 2015 13:54   Go to blog
Muse: Short-term water, long-term consequences for Hill CountryMarch 27, 2015 11:09
By Christy Muse - Special to the American-Statesman 
The Vista Ridge water project in San Antonio threatens to follow a dangerous precedent: draining water from one region to another in a way that will only increase exurban sprawl in the Hill Country. If this solution seems familiar it should: It’s the California model that has led to that state having one year of water left.
The Vista Ridge pipeline is a multibillion-dollar project to pipe 50,000 acre feet of water a year, 142 miles across five counties...
By Christy Muse - Special to the American-Statesman 

The Vista Ridge water project in San Antonio threatens to follow a dangerous precedent: draining water from one region to another in a way that will only increase exurban sprawl in the Hill Country. If this solution seems familiar it should: It’s the California model that has led to that state having one year of water left.

The Vista Ridge pipeline is a multibillion-dollar project to pipe 50,000 acre feet of water a year, 142 miles across five counties. That is hugely expensive infrastructure, especially considering there is no assurance about how reliable this groundwater supply will be for the long haul. Aquifers are not unlimited resources.

This is just one of many proposals to pump and pipe water from the Carrizo Wilcox aquifer. It’s one thing to assess the impact of a single project over the next decade or so, but groundwater runs freely beneath several counties and several groundwater districts with differing management plans. We don’t have the science needed to demonstrate the cumulative effect of developing this much water long-term. Unless we manage groundwater withdrawals in a way that takes no more than nature can replenish, we will deplete the resource. Then what?

San Antonio has managed to successfully grow at a steady pace and at the same time reduce water consumption with forward-thinking proven conservation strategies.
The San Antonio Water System openly states it won’t need this water for many years to come. So to help pay for the Vista Ridge pipeline, SAWS is looking for customers along the way, which is prompting eager developers to jump at the opportunity for short-term profits. One question is how will these new subdivisions continue to provide water for new residents when their contracts are up and San Antonio decides it needs the water?

Flash back 10 years — the Lower Colorado River Authority seemed invincible as it obliged developers with water lines west of Austin. In the end, that hotly debated infrastructure proved to be unsustainable. The Lower Colorado River Authority divested itself of the failing water systems, and water is now scarce for the new developments LCRA facilitated, which have actually increased groundwater pumping and pollution. This is a cautionary tale.

Those of us who opposed the water lines 10 years ago argued that we needed to plan for growth rather than fuel unmanageable growth. For the Hill Country Alliance and others who would like to see a more sustainable future, serious questions demand answers before any of these water lines take another step forward.

SAWS isn’t kidding when it says “game changing” water project. Texas is unique in that we don’t have basic rules about land use and land development outside of our cities. The intensity, location and type of development that occurs in unincorporated areas is currently not planned but is happening anyway at alarming rates.

Piping large volumes of water to rural lands will change the landscape from rural to suburban and exurban. With no rules in place there is little oversight on how this development should occur. Density, wastewater management, water quality, transportation systems, scenic views, ranchland protection, cost of schools and public safety, impact on existing tax-payers — these important issues are not being considered comprehensively.

We submit that a better way is possible and that protecting the Hill Country is worth it. A multi-jurisdictional regional plan could determine what areas can accommodate large densities and what areas need a more conservation-minded approach. Water infrastructure could be planned in concert with other infrastructure needs in a consolidated, conservative and affordable way. To do so, counties would need to be given land use and land development oversight. Any path forward must include a guaranteed commitment to water and land conservation.

“The Hill Country is a beautiful area with limited surface water, limited groundwater and no big city to spread rates across,” Robert Puente of SAWS stated. “We would answer the desperate call.”
We agree with the first part of Puente’s statement, but do not hear that “desperate call.” In fact, we believe most people of the Hill Country want thoughtful, appropriate growth that is compatible with our region’s unique qualities. We must plan to avoid California’s fate. Texas can do better.

Muse is executive director of the Hill Country Alliance: www.hillcountryalliance.org.
 

Muse: Short-term water, long-term consequences for Hill Country
Posted: March 27, 2015 11:09   Go to blog
March 26, 2015 14:41

CITIZEN ALERT Misinformation Campaign Against
Wimberley Citizens and Our Property Values

Dear concerned citizens,

Many Wimberley area citizens have written to their legislators regarding the EP situation, asking that the legislature expands Groundwater Conservation District coverage to include the white zone east of Wimberley (the EP well area). On Wed., Rep. Isaac’s bills went before the Natural Resources Committee. The same day, many of those same citizens began getting emails from legislators indicating that they are being told Wimberley citizens are against Wimberley being included in a Groundwater Conservation District...

CITIZEN ALERT 
Misinformation Campaign Against
Wimberley Citizens and Our Property Values

Dear concerned citizens,

Many Wimberley area citizens have written to their legislators regarding the EP situation, asking that the legislature expands Groundwater Conservation District coverage to include the white zone east of Wimberley (the EP well area). On Wed., Rep. Isaac’s bills went before the Natural Resources Committee. The same day, many of those same citizens began getting emails from legislators indicating that they are being told Wimberley citizens are against Wimberley being included in a Groundwater Conservation District. Unbelievable, since we are already in a GCD.
This is part of a note from Rep. Lyle Larson to a Wimberley constituent:

"It is my understanding that the last few sessions, the folks in Wimberley have opposed being included in a groundwater conservation district. Hopefully we can get this issue worked out this session. I look forward to the discussion that will take place this afternoon and will work with Rep. Isaac to develop a solution to ensure water security for the Wimberley area moving forward."

This smells of a classic misinformation campaign, similar to what EP is doing in other areas the last few days, such as the misleading press conference and the disturbing robo-calls from a former Buda mayor - in the water supply business - trying to stir up antipathy from Buda citizens against the Wimberley area victims of the EP water grab. Read more from the Texas Tribune.

Do not let them get away with this. Let your legislators know how totally absurd this is.

1. Wimberley is in the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District (HTGCD) and has been since that district’s creation.

2. Wimberley area meetings supporting the white zone residents - and concerned about Wimberley property values being threatened by the EP wells - have been packed and totally in favor of the GCDs (both the HTGCD and the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District - BSEACD).

3. In just a few weeks, more than 2,300 citizens of the Wimberley area have signed the CARD Citizens Petition supporting expanding and funding the HTGCD. In addition, almost 4,000 people have signed the similar Hays County Groundwater Watch Dogs petition on Facebook.
Please write the members of the Natural Resources Committee by going to this page. When the page opens, click on the representative’s photo to get his contact information.
And if you have friends in Buda, please, assure them that no one is trying to block their water supply; we are just trying to keep our life water from being stolen for future developments.

- CARD Steering Committee
Posted: March 26, 2015 14:41   Go to blog
TESPA Files Suit To Stop Electro Purification in Hays County District CourtMarch 21, 2015 11:40
The Trinity Edwards Springs Protection Association (TESPA) filed suit in Hays County District Court Friday morning seeking to stop any further work by Electro Purification unless and until they obtain groundwater use permits from the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District. TESPA filed suit on behalf of members living within 1⁄2 mile of the Electro Purification project. The suit names Electro Purification and the landowners who leased the groundwater to Electro Purification as defendants...
The Trinity Edwards Springs Protection Association (TESPA) filed suit in Hays County District Court Friday morning seeking to stop any further work by Electro Purification unless and until they obtain groundwater use permits from the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District. TESPA filed suit on behalf of members living within 1⁄2 mile of the Electro Purification project. The suit names Electro Purification and the landowners who leased the groundwater to Electro Purification as defendants. 

The suit was filed under provisions of Chapter 36 of the Texas Water Code that allow landowners to sue over water well construction on adjacent property when the wells were constructed without appropriate permits. The suit also complains that the rule of capture applicable to groundwater in Texas under older case law violates the new property right in groundwater established by the Texas Supreme Court in the case of Edwards Aquifer Authority v. Day, particularly given the extensive well drawdown anticipated on adjacent properties due to the Electro Purification project. 

According to Vicki Hujsak, a founding incorporator of TESPA, “TESPA was formed to take action to protect our aquifers and springs. It feels good to be fighting back.”
Jeff Mundy, lead trial lawyer for TESPA summarized the main points of the case. “First, our legal research revealed that the Legislature already passed legislation which attempts to protect all of the groundwater in Hays County through groundwater conservation districts. The Legislature gave the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District default jurisdiction over groundwater in all of Hays County, to the extent jurisdiction has not otherwise been given to another groundwater conservation district. The HTGCD has a legislatively mandated duty to protect groundwater to assure it is used wisely and in a sustainable manner.


Second, if for some reason the courts find that the HTGCD does not have jurisdiction to protect this groundwater, TESPA is requesting the Supreme Court of Texas to review and overturn the ‘rule of capture’ as it applies to groundwater, which will have statewide impact in areas not protected by groundwater conservation districts or other water conservation districts. We hope to bring the common law of Texas into accord with the laws promoting groundwater conservation as passed by the Legislature and as mandated by the Texas Constitution.” 

According to Vanessa Puig-Williams, an environmental attorney helping TESPA, “The rule of capture is harsh and archaic, dating back to a 1904 decision that referred to groundwater as secret and occult. We are well beyond the occult in our understanding of groundwater today, and we feel that the time is ripe to challenge this doctrine that has long outlived its usefulness.” 

As filed, the suit seeks a temporary injunction to stop Electro Purification until the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District decides how to respond to the allegation that they have regulatory responsibility for these contested wells. The Hays Trinity District was served Tuesday with a letter giving them notice that they had 90 days to determine what action, if any, they wished to undertake. 

TESPA is holding a public meeting at the Wimberley Community Center on March 21 at 6:30 where members of the legal team as well as other community leaders will speak on the litigation and the challenges that lie ahead in moving toward effective action to protect our aquifer and our springs.
Posted: March 21, 2015 11:40   Go to blog
District Targeted in Water ConflictMarch 17, 2015 12:18
STATESMAN INVESTIGATES HAYS COUNTY WATER DEALDistrict targeted in water conflictNiederwald-area utility would be barred from using eminent domain.By Sean Collins Walsh scwalsh@statesman.com

STEVE LOPEZ/STAFF
ABOUT THIS STORY
To report this story, the American-Statesman submitted Texas Public Information Act requests for copies of all written communications between the Goforth Special Utility District and many players in the Electro Purification plan.Goforth provided some emails but is withholding many others, including all those related to a 13-mile pipeline critical to the project’s future...

STATESMAN INVESTIGATES HAYS COUNTY WATER DEAL

District targeted in water conflict

Niederwald-area utility would be barred from using eminent domain.

By Sean Collins Walsh scwalsh@statesman.com

STEVE LOPEZ/STAFF
ABOUT THIS STORY

To report this story, the American-Statesman submitted Texas Public Information Act requests for copies of all written communications between the Goforth Special Utility District and many players in the Electro Purification plan.
Goforth provided some emails but is withholding many others, including all those related to a 13-mile pipeline critical to the project’s future. Goforth is asking the state attorney general’s office to allow it to seal communications that fall under exceptions to the disclosure law for attorney-client privilege and potential real estate transactions. The office has until April 15 to make a ruling.

As outrage has mounted this year over the Electro Purification well field being built in Hays County, officials from Buda and the planned Anthem subdivision — two customers of the project — have dutifully showed up to town halls and round tables, subjecting themselves to the jeers of their neighbors.

But missing from every public meeting has been the most critical player in making the project a reality: the Goforth Special Utility District, a Niederwald-area water provider that has the largest contract with Houston-based Electro Purification’s venture in Hays County.
Goforth is now front and center because of a bill filed last week by state Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, that is designed to stop the project in its tracks. The measure would prohibit Goforth from using eminent domain outside of its service area, preventing the utility from acquiring the right of way needed to build a 13-mile pipeline connecting the Wimberleyarea well field to its customers along the Interstate 35 corridor.

The American-Statesman in January requested copies of all written communications between Goforth and Electro Purification through the Texas Public Information Act. The utility provided a trove of emails but is withholding many others, including all emails related to the pipeline.
Although incomplete, the emails provided from December 2012 to January 2014 offer a window into the planning that went on for years before the project became the subject of outrage in late 2014. The emails show that water quality was a chief concern for the utility in the early stages of the negotiations and that the company sought lower standards for the water. They also show that Electro Purification was eager to move the project along, urging the district at one point to move more quickly.

Electro Purification manager Bart Fletcher wrote in March 2014 that “we need to move forward as soon as possible on the pipeline. We would like the board to approve the delivery of water to Goforth the summer of 2015 tonight, so we can get started on the project.”
The timing could become a critical issue as Isaac and the Trinity Edwards Spring Protection Association — a nonprofit formed by residents near the wells, which plans to sue the company — race against the clock to stop the project before it begins delivering water. Doing so, many believe, could make it harder for Electro Purification to claim it should be grandfathered into any changes in law that would govern the project, which has found a loophole in Texas law that will allow the company to pump from a distressed water source with little oversight.
The wells are being drilled into the Trinity Aquifer but they are in the territory of the Edwards Aquifer Authority. As a result, the authority cannot regulate the project because it isn’t using Edwards water, and the nearby Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District has no jurisdiction because the wells are outside its territory.

Without district oversight, the project is subject only to Texas’ century-old “rule of capture,” which gives property owners nearly unfettered rights to pump water from beneath their land
— even at the expense of their neighbors.

Electro Purification has contracted to deliver up to 5.3 million gallons per day out of its well field off of RM 3237 between Wimberley and Kyle, alarming the hundreds of residents in the area who rely on private wells. Goforth’s reservation for 3 million gallons per day is the largest.
The Trinity Aquifer is generally considered to have poorer-quality water than the Edwards, which is where Goforth’s water supplies currently come from. In January 2013, Electro Purification sent Goforth a draft version of the contract that included suggested changes, including one that deleted a clause that said the water “will meet any more stringent standards reasonably required by the Buyer to ensure acceptable total dissolved solids (TDS), salinity, taste, and odor.”

A month earlier, Fletcher sent Goforth an email saying that the company wanted to use the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s water standards, not the more stringent rules set by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. A hydrogeologist at Electro Purification, Fletcher wrote, “advises us that very few water systems in Texas meet EPA standards but meet TCEQ standards.” The executed contract uses the TCEQ standards.

During a February 2014 exchange that set up a meeting for the Goforth board of directors to taste water from Electro Purification’s test wells, Mario Tobias, the utility’s general manager, warned that they might not want to drink untreated water. Leonard Dougal, Go-forth’s general counsel, then volunteered to do so himself: “I will drink it. If I survive, I expect the directors will feel OK about it. So, let’s proceed.”

In the end, the directors tasted the water and were satisfied. Tobias then wrote to the company asking if it was OK to pour out the leftover water. Tim Throckmorton, an Electro Purification manager, said the company did not need the water but joked about disposing it: “Sure put on the plants, that is expensive water!”

In a written statement Monday, Throckmorton said that his company’s relationship with Go-forth began five years ago, when the utility was searching for new ways to provide water to its fast-growing customer base.

“They understood they are required to provide water in their service area, thus they were looking for alternatives to providing for their customers,” Throckmorton said. “Electro Purification and Goforth entered into a contractual agreement in order to meet part of their long-term water needs.”
Although the Statesman requested all communications since January 2008, the earliest email provided by Go-forth was from December 2012. Goforth has asked Attorney General Ken Paxton to allow it to withhold communications requested by the newspaper that Dougal believes are exempted from the Public Information Act, including those covered by attorney-client privilege and discussions on potential real estate transactions or eminent-domain takings for the 13-mile pipeline.
Property owners along FM 150, a potential route for the pipeline, have received letters from the Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam engineering firm, which Goforth has hired to help it acquire right of way for the pipeline.

The firm is attempting to negotiate for the easements, but some owners who oppose Electro Purification have vowed not to give up their land. The utility has not yet authorized the use of eminent domain, Dougal said, but it may do so at a future meeting.

The next meeting is March 25. Goforth canceled its February meeting after throngs of angry Wimberley-area residents began showing up to meetings of every governmental body with a connection to the project. Organizers of Electro Purification’s opponents say they are planning to attend the March 25 meeting, which had been scheduled for Wednesday.

But a message on the Goforth website suggests they might not all be able to get in: “There is limited seating (30 seats available) in board room.”

Contact Sean Collins Walsh at 512-912-2939.
Twitter: @seancwalsh
Posted: March 17, 2015 12:18   Go to blog


March 16, 2015: For immediate release
Contact: Vicki Hujsak, TESPA President: 512-847-5639. vhujsak@txwinet.com

TESPA Announces Water Defense Plans at Saturday Meeting

The latest developments in the fight to protect our groundwater in Hays County go public at the TESPA Water Meeting, 6:30 p.m. Saturday at the Wimberley Community Center.

TESPA, the recently formed Trinity Edwards Springs Protection Association, wasted no time wading into the major threat to Hays County water and prosperity presented by Electro Purification’s plans to drain 5.2 million gallons a day from the heart of our water-fragile community. Just weeks after the announcement of TESPA’s founding, the group is ready to take its actions directly to the people threatened by EP’s aquifer-draining plans.

"I am excited about this public meeting,” said TESPA co-founder and local resident Jim Blackburn. “We on the TESPA team will present the surprising results of our legal research and discuss moving forward to stop the Electro Purification water development plan. I hope everyone who cares about the future health and prosperity of our area will join us."

It’s no secret that Hays County, recently declared the fastest-growing county in Texas, has long had a serious water issue. Western Hays’ primary water source, the Trinity Aquifer, is already being depleted far faster than it can be renewed. For years county officials have sought alternate water sources for a fast-approaching shortage. Despite this, EP found a county area unprotected by any Groundwater Conservation District, and quietly acquired water rights and signed contracts allowing them to annually suck 1.8 billion gallons of water from the Trinity.

Taking so much water would quickly drain scores and eventually hundreds of local wells. That would not only ruin many homesteads, but would eventually damage property values area wide. Dozens of local organizations and thousands of citizens have reacted with signs, resolutions and outrage.
           
TESPA was formed to fight that threat through litigation and other legal means, and will discuss their promising progress at Saturday’s meeting. Vicki Hujsak, local resident and president of TESPA, will open the meeting with a quick overview. Blackburn will take the podium to recognize citizen members placed at the forefront of legal actions as well as the TESPA legal team to update their latest findings. The team includes Austin trial lawyer Jeff Mundy, Houston environmental lawyer Charles Irvine and Austin lawyer Vanessa Puig-Williams, who also specializes in water and environmental law.

Other water information will come from Wimberley Valley Watershed Association Executive Director David Baker and from Steve Klepfer, Wimberley businessman, former mayor and a member of TESPA.

It’s sure to be an exciting and energy-packed event. The Wimberley Community Center is located at 14068 Ranch Rd 12, next-door to Brookshire Brothers grocery, which will provide overflow parking. For information, watch the TESPA website, www.tespatexas.org.
Posted: March 16, 2015 8:25   Go to blog
March 13, 2015 15:47
Neighbor to Neighbor News Pass it on...                     March 13, 2015Hill Country NewsTexas suburbs are growing faster than cities
Counties are growing at extremely high rates, in part because of the lack of land use planning ability outside of our cities. This trend has tremendous costs to tax-payers for basic infrastructure needs such as roads, water and schools. “Hays County, just south of Austin, is projected to be the fastest-growing county, by percentage, in all of Texas by 2050” Read more from the  Austin Business Journal....
Neighbor to Neighbor News Pass it on...                    
March 13, 2015
Hill Country News
Texas suburbs are growing faster than cities
Counties are growing at extremely high rates, in part because of the lack of land use planning ability outside of our cities. This trend has tremendous costs to tax-payers for basic infrastructure needs such as roads, water and schools. “Hays County, just south of Austin, is projected to be the fastest-growing county, by percentage, in all of Texas by 2050” Read more from the  Austin Business Journal. Learn more about County Planning authority here.

The Southwest Water Wars
An old-fashioned, Western-style water war has erupted. Across Texas and the Southwest, the scene is repeated in the face of a triple threat: booming population, looming drought and the worsening effects of climate change. Read more from New York Times.

Isaac Jumping Into Hays County Water Fight
With a high-profile groundwater fight raging in his district, state Rep. Jason Isaac is launching a volley of legislation to stop plans to pump huge amounts of water from underneath Hays County. Read more from the Texas Tribune. Representative Isaac issued his own media release yesterday. Read “Rep. Isaac and Sen. Campbell File Water Legislation Aiming to Protect Trinity Aquifer.” here.

Creating Vibrant Green Cities: Lessons from Seoul South Korea and San Marcos
Join us for a panel discussion with Thomas Hardy, Ph.D., and Matthew Lewis, the City of Austin’s Assistant Director of Planning and Development Review, on the lessons learned from two great green infrastructure projects located an ocean apart. This next event in the Imagine Austin Speaker Series will take place April 1 at the Dougherty Arts Center here.

Victory in Comal County
The Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance (GEAA) praised the Comal County Commissioners court this week and announced the denial of the Meyers Ranch “Water Quality Improvement District” would have translated to 1,500 homes on 700 acres over the Edwards Recharge Zone. Read more from GEAA.

Hunt School builds Rainwater Harvesting model with funds from Rainwater Revival Grant

6th and 7th grade students from Hunt School are learning all about water conservation and rainwater harvesting thanks to a grant from HCA's Rainwater Revival and the generous help of the Hunt Garden Club. Read more from the West Kerr Current.


 Spring Break has Sprung!
Spring Break is finally upon us. What a perfect time to get outdoors and enjoy the beauty of the Hill Country. Don't forget to grab your camera and snap some shots for the HCA photo contest!
Entering is easy through the HCA website.

Upcoming Events

March

March 13-15 in Llano: Llano Earth Art Fest - Details
March 21 in Kyle - "Hays County: Water, Rocks, ‘Rule of Capture’ and the Future of our Native Plants" - Details
March 25 in San Antonio - Saving Family Lands Seminar - Hosted by Texas Agricultural Land Trust - Details

March 26-29 in Brackettville - Advanced Women of the Land Workshop by TWA - Details
March 27-28 in Hunt - "Introduction to Holistic Management and Ecosystem Function" - Part one in HMI's Mitigating Drought with Holistic Management Workshop Series - Details
March 28 in Austin - Native Plant Society Spring Symposium at the Wildflower Center - Details

March 28 in Stonewall – 8th Annual LBJ 100 Bike Tour - Details
March 29 in Johnson City - "Food, Health and the Environment: Why Eating Right Can Save You and the Earth," presented by Ecologist, Dr. G. David Tilman - 4:30 pm at the Hill Country Science Mill in Johnson City. Details
April

April 1 in Austin - "Creating Vibrant Green Cities: Lessons from Seoul South Korea and San Marcos," part of the Imagine Austin Speaker Series - Details

April 4 in Boerne - 25th Annual Cibolo Nature Center Mostly Native Plant Sale (members only pre-sale April 3 from 5-7pm) - Details

April 4 in San Antonio - Rain Barrel Workshop - Details
April 7-9 in Dallas - Rainwater University 2015 by Texas A&M AgriLife - Who should attend: Texas Flood Plain Managers, Landscape Professionals, Engineers, Architects, Homeowners, Business Owners, Builders, School Districts, City, State and Federal Personnel - Details
April 9 - Six-county wildlife program and tour by Texas Agri-Life Extention - Participating counties: Mason, Menard, McCulloch, Llano, Gillespie & Kimble - Details

April 22 in Jourdanton - Agri-life Workshop - Presentations by HCA's Sky Jones Lewey, Rainwater Harvesting Expert John Kight and more - Details

April 23-24 in Kerrville - The Second Annual Bennett Land Stewardship: “Keys to Hill Country Living" - Details
April 24-26 in Fredericksburg - 5th Annual Wings Over the Hills Nature Festival - Details





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Water in the Hill Country is at a crossroads. Learn about our Hill Country groundwater supply.

Healthy Riparian Areas

An easy way to keep Hill Country streams clean and flowing is to use simple riparian management techniques.





Posted: March 13, 2015 15:47   Go to blog
Friends of Blue Hole and WVWA Join TESPA to Raise Funds for Aquifer ProtectionMarch 05, 2015 16:02



Joining forces the Friends of Blue Hole and the Wimberley Valley Watershed Association are taking action to address the current water crisis in Central Texas brought on by a proposal from Electro Purification, a corporation from Houston, that proposes to use the rule of capture to pump over five million gallons a day from the Trinity and Edwards Aquifer. This unregulated water grab would potentially dry up water wells in adjacent neighborhoods and impact the Edwards and Trinity aquifer springs in an already fragile drought stricken area...



Joining forces the Friends of Blue Hole and the Wimberley Valley Watershed Association are taking action to address the current water crisis in Central Texas brought on by a proposal from Electro Purification, a corporation from Houston, that proposes to use the rule of capture to pump over five million gallons a day from the Trinity and Edwards Aquifer. This unregulated water grab would potentially dry up water wells in adjacent neighborhoods and impact the Edwards and Trinity aquifer springs in an already fragile drought stricken area. The two organizations have become members of the newly formed Trinity Edwards Springs Protection Association (TESPA) to assist in fundraising for the newly established non-profit. www.tespatexas.org 

"These springs are the lifeblood of this country," said Peter Way, founder of Friends of Blue and founding director of TESPA. Way is a property owner adjacent to the EP well field in the Blanco River watershed. "Without water, this land loses the wonderful character that all of us love. Our long term goal is to develop and implement strategies to protect our groundwater and springs."

The EP threat requires all of us to work together to stop this project," said David Baker Executive Director of WVWA. "We need to protect the people whose homes and wells are endangered, and also to preserve the springs, rivers and aquifers we all depend on. We encourage all concerned citizens and organizations to become members of TESPA and help advance the protection and wise management of our groundwater and its connection to our surface water springs.

TESPA was officially formed Feb. 25 in response to the commercial attempt by Houston-based Electro Purification, LLC, to take 1.9 billion gallons of water annually from the already stressed Trinity Aquifer, creating an immediate and critical threat to Western Hays County private wells and property values. TESPA's goal is to protect, through legal action, those wells and properties as well as the Trinity and the Edwards aquifers and their springs. TESPA has already lined up a legal team and begun preparations for action.

"This is a critical time for Hays County groundwater," said Jim Blackburn, a TESPA board member and property owner in the Lone Man Creek watershed. "When livelihoods and property are threatened, it is reasonable to ask the courts for help.  If we don't fight now with all we can muster, this groundwater will be lost."

Read the full TESPA announcement of formation at www.tespatexas.org  

Press Inquiries please contact:  
Jim Blackburn - 713-524-0122   

 
Supporters can make a tax deductible donation to TESPA, by making a gift to Friends of Blue Hole directed specifically to TESPA endeavors.   

Please make checks payable to
Friends of Blue Hole and mail to PO Box 1601, Wimberley, Texas 78676.

Or go online at wimberleywatershed.org 

Donation can also be made on March 5th & 6th 
as part of the Amplify Austin Live Here Give Here Campaign 
Checks can be made payable to WVWA PO. Box 2534 Wimberley Texas 78676

News Stories on EP Issue SaveOurRollingOaksWells.org
Stay informed on EP issue SaveOurWells.com

Sign Petition here
WVWA Facebook
TESPA Facebook
 TESPA Mailing List

Please Join TESPA for  a community meeting to discuss plans for fighting the Electro Purification project.  Lawyers designing TESPA litigation strategy and local leaders will discuss aspects of the litigation. 

When - Saturday March 21 at 6:30 p.m.
Where - Wimberley Community Center

Posted: March 05, 2015 16:02   Go to blog
March 03, 2015 16:17
Water as Life: Celebrate!
Strengthening Community Through Story Saturday, March 21st, 3-6 pm
The Sanctuary in the Village, Wimberley 
Note the new time for March 21st only!
On the March 21st Spring Equinox, we gather to celebrate our appreciation and love for water through our stories, a water ceremony at Blue Hole and heartfelt music performed by local musicians.  
Stories That Connect Us will adapt the format of the March 21st storytelling circle and expand to include the larger community as we share our individual stories about water...
Water as Life: Celebrate!
Strengthening Community Through Story
Saturday, March 21st, 3-6 pm
The Sanctuary in the Village, Wimberley 
Note the new time for March 21st only!

On the March 21st Spring Equinox, we gather to celebrate our appreciation and love for water through our stories, a water ceremony at Blue Hole and heartfelt music performed by local musicians.  

Stories That Connect Us will adapt the format of the March 21st storytelling circle and expand to include the larger community as we share our individual stories about water. We will break into smaller groups, where everyone will have an opportunity to speak and share from their hearts.

Share your own story about water - your vulnerability about water now, what water means to you, and/or your current relationship with water.  

MORE DETAILS COMING SOON!

What to bring:
whatever mat, cushion or chair you need to be comfortable
Location:
501 Old Kyle Road. The Oaks at Blue Hole / The Sanctuary in the Village in Wimberley (the old Baptist church where Helen Stutchbury teaches yoga). At the corner of 3237 and Old Kyle Rd. on the way to Blue Hole. Click here for a map.

Fee:
love donations

We would love to share this sacred day with you!
Shiila and Dan
A Return Project Event
For more information, contact Shiila@CreativityinNature.com
Posted: March 03, 2015 16:17   Go to blog
Group Formed to Protect Trinity, Edwards Aquifers and SpringsFebruary 25, 2015 19:19

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE
Group Formed  to Protect Trinity,Edwards Aquifers and SpringsFebruary 25, 2015
    TheTrinity Edwards SpringsProtection Association (TESPA)today announced its formation as a Texasnon---profit corporation createdto protect these aquifersand their associated springs. In the process, TESPA seeks to bring clarity to the groundwater propertyrights associated with owning land over the Trinity and EdwardsAquifers and associated springs.
     TESPA was formed as a responseto the attempt by a private company– Electro Purification --- to develop and sell 5.1 million gallonsper day of groundwater from the TrinityAquifer...

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE

Group Formed  to Protect Trinity,Edwards Aquifers and Springs
February 25, 2015

    TheTrinity Edwards SpringsProtection Association (TESPA)today announced its formation as a Texasnon---profit corporation createdto protect these aquifersand their associated springs. In the process, TESPA seeks to bring clarity to the groundwater propertyrights associated with owning land over the Trinity and EdwardsAquifers and associated springs.

     TESPA was formed as a responseto the attempt by a private company Electro Purification --- to develop and sell 5.1 million gallonsper day of groundwater from the TrinityAquifer. The ElectroPurification project will harm adjacentneighbors who are totally dependent upon private wells in the Trinity for their water supply. However,the issues to be addressedby TESPA go beyond the dispute with ElectroPurification to includemore general protection for springs throughout centralTexas springs which are the key to the survival of Texas’ beautiful flowingstreams and to property valuesand the use and enjoyment of private property.

    According to Vicki Hujsak,President of TESPAand a resident of the Lone Man Creek watershed, “The Electro Purification proposal has made us all aware of how vulnerable our groundwater resources are. We all depend upon this water and we neverimagined it couldbe taken away from us but it apparently can. We have made up our minds to fight back throughthe legal system.”


    “TESPA plans to focusits legal effortsunder two key approaches initially” said Jim Blackburn, a TESPA board member and property owner in the Lone Man Creek watershed. “First,the Edwards AquiferAuthority has failedto take regulatory authority over the ElectroPurification proposal and we disputethat determination based on the many interconnections betweenthe Edwards and Trinity Aquifers throughthis fractured limestonegeology. And second,we believe that there is a fundamental conflictbetween the TexasSupreme Court’s rulingin the Day case and the way that the Rule of Capture works with regardto groundwater. These are controversial issues and we intend to pursue them in the court system.”

    Malcolm Harris, a Wimberleyresident and Austinattorney working with TESPA, adds “The court system is an appropriate placefor this disputeover the extent and nature of property rightsin water. Courtshave been adjudicating property rights since they began,and we will seek a court ruling better defining and protecting the property right in groundwater that the Texas Supreme Court undertook to affirmin the Day vs. EAA case.”

    Inthe Day case, the Texas Supreme Court determined that groundwater was the property of the surfaceowner even if they had not drilledinto the aquifer and captured the water.  They also stated that they were applying the rule of capture, even thoughthat concept, as interpreted in the 1999 Sipriano Case, allows the drainingof a neighbors’ groundwater.

    According to Jeff Mundy of Austin,lead counsel for TESPA, “The neighbors of this proposed well are in danger of their own water wells going dry. If this corporation can drain 5 milliongallons a day for profit,and leave the adjacent homes with dry water wells and people with not even enough to drink, cook, and bathe, who is next?When will electedofficials protect citizens?”

    “The Texas Constitution is clear that the Legislature must pass all laws appropriate to preserve and conserve the natural resourcesof the state,” says Vanessa Puig-­Williams, an attorney and member of the Wimberley Valley Watershed Association, “but the Legislature has not adequately done so with respect to groundwater in Texas,and now people’sprivate property rights are in jeopardy.”

    More generally, TESPA hopes to set in motion a protective umbrellathat covers much of the Texas Hill Country. According to TESPA directorPeter Way of the Cypress Creek and Blanco River watersheds, “These springs are the lifeblood of this country.Without water, this land loses the wonderfulcharacter that all of us love. Our long term goal is to develop and implement strategies to protect our groundwater and springs.”

    “Many springs in the Texas Hill Country, such as Jacob’sWell, are related  to water movements through the Trinityand Edwards Aquifers”said David Baker Executive Director of the Wimberley Valley Watershed Association, an organizational memberof TESPA . “This complex  geology defies the current regulatory system.We seek a more comprehensive view of this groundwater system and its relationship to springs and surface water.Sustainable management of all water is what we have come togetherto advocate for.”

According to President Hujsak,“TESPA is currently planning to file suit to protect the RollingOaks area immediately adjacent to the Electro Purification proposed project.  We are building an organization that we hope will lead the fight for years to come. The one thing we have learned so far is that we will lose this groundwater if we do nothing. We must fight for it.”

 
Posted: February 25, 2015 19:19   Go to blog
When Will Austin’s Swimming Holes Dry Up? by Lani Alvarez on February 18, 2015February 22, 2015 20:11
RootsRated Stories How Central Texas aquifers (and pumping them out) affect your outdoor recreation For those of us who swim, paddle, fish, hunt, or simply just enjoy the flowing waters of Central Texas, no water means no play. While aquifers—those vast underground rivers—remain mysterious and unseen far below us, they have a huge impact on our everyday life. Not just for drinking and showering, but for recreation as well.

In addition to water playgrounds like Barton Springs, take Jacob’s Well in Wimberley, for example, one of the finest swimming holes in Central Texas...
 
How Central Texas aquifers (and pumping them out) affect your outdoor recreation
For those of us who swim, paddle, fish, hunt, or simply just enjoy the flowing waters of Central Texas, no water means no play. While aquifers—those vast underground rivers—remain mysterious and unseen far below us, they have a huge impact on our everyday life. Not just for drinking and showering, but for recreation as well.

In addition to water playgrounds like Barton Springs, take Jacob’s Well in Wimberley, for example, one of the finest swimming holes in Central Texas. For the first time in history, the spring, which is fed by the Trinity Aquifer, dried up completely in the year 2000. Then it happened again in 2008.
Years ago, it would be impossible to descend more than two feet below the surface because the spring would bubble you up with incredible force. Parents would toss their children into the well smiling and without fear, confident they’d bob right back up. Some historians even say that in past centuries the spring would shoot as high as 30 feet above ground! This was all because of the strong aquifer flow.
But now, due to major development in the area as well as drought and overpumping, all we have are distant memories of the past and ongoing measures in the present to address water conservation and quality of the aquifer. Yet, even attempts like these don’t ensure protection. On Feb. 10, a furious crowd overflowed the Wimberley Community Center to demand that state Rep. Jason Isaac (R-Dripping Springs) put an end to a commercial groundwater-pumping project in Hays County. The project is planning to pump 5.3 million gallons of water each day from the Trinity Aquifer and, for a pretty penny, sell more than a million gallons a day to the city of Buda. But action to stop the project remains to be seen.
People packed the Wimberley Community Center Feb. 10 during a town hall meeting with Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, to demand a stop to the commercial groundwater-pumping project in Hays County, but unless changes are made, the project could still pump and sell precious aquifer water. Lani Alvarez
Underlying this conflict is a critical issue highly likely to boil up in increasing frequency across Texas as water resources diminish and the population swells. “No natural resource issue has greater significance for the future of Texas than water,” says Dr. Andrew Sansom, executive director of The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment.
Everyone knows rain in Central Texas is sporadic, unpredictable and, more often than not, infrequent. Now stop for a moment and imagine if we had to rely solely on rain to keep our rivers and creeks flowing. For almost two decades now, Texas has suffered under record drought. And as we already are seeing in many spots, some of Austin’s best paddling trails may become a lot less enjoyable in shallow, still water. Fortunately for us, aquifers capture and store rain and release water over time into our rivers, streams, and springs. And yet, such aquifers are threatened by projects like the one near Wimberley.
The view from a glass-bottom boat tour on Spring Lake, which is fed by the Edwards Aquifer. Lani Alvarez
“Think about Spring Lake in San Marcos and Barton Springs in Austin,” says Louie Bond, editor-in-chief of Texas Parks & Wildlife magazine. “All are fed by these underground bodies of water—all are in danger of drying up if we empty the aquifers.”
Even though the Trinity aquifer, which the controversial project is targeting, may seem relatively distant from Barton Springs, it is intricately linked. The Trinity aquifer feeds the Blanco river, and during droughts, the Blanco feeds Barton Springs much of its water, according to Nico Hauwert, senior hydrogeologist for the City of Austin Watershed Protection Department.
To put this connection in real context, “If the baseflow to the Blanco river near Wimberley were to cease,” reported Hauwert, “Barton Springs could dry up in three months.”
Texas blind salamander: The only place in the world this endangered species can live is deep within the Edwards Aquifer. It is completely blind because its eyes are not needed in the darkness of the aquifer. Lani Alvarez
 All aquifers in our region affect our outdoor recreation. Swimmers, divers, paddlers, anglers alike—all are impacted by the water that is or is not in Central Texas aquifers. Additionally, there’s the impact this would have on endangered species that are entirely dependent on these springs, such as the Texas Blind Salamander that lives only in the Edwards Aquifer. Whether you love diving into a deep well of water or simply observing the wildlife around you, this is an issue that affects you directly.
So when will Central Texas water playgrounds dry up? It seems that’s up to us.
Here are just a few ways you can do your part to help preserve our aquifers:
  • Voice your concern about aggressive pumping. Visit SaveOurWells.com and consider signing this petition. If you’re in Buda or Wimberley, or almost anywhere in Hays County, you may be directly affected by the current controversy over Electro Purification’s aggressive water pumping from the Trinity aquifer.
  • Learn about your aquifer authority or groundwater conservation district. You vote for your board members—find out who shares your goals for a healthy aquifer and who might have less-than-pure motivations for controlling how much is pumped.
  • Grow food, not lawns. Today lawns are the largest modern water wasters. How about planting some butterfly- or bird- attracting plants instead? Or food for yourself. When your neighbors see the wonderland you’ve created, they’ll want one of their own.
  • Xeriscape. Xeriscaping is a method of landscaping and gardening that utilizes water-conserving techniques. More than half of our fresh water supplies go to landscaping, so this method is highly promoted in drought-sensitive Central Texas.
  • Join a citizen science group, such as the Texas Stream Team, that is dedicated to learning about and protecting the 191,000 miles of waterways we have here in Texas.
  • Read up on other ways to conserve water, such as the Water—Use it Wisely website, which offers nearly 200 water-saving tips that you can download, print, and even share on social media.
Posted: February 22, 2015 20:11   Go to blog
LCRA: Current drought worst on record for Central TexasFebruary 19, 2015 13:31
AUSTIN (KXAN) – The ongoing drought impacting Central Texas’ Highland Lakes is the worst the region has experienced since the lakes were built in the 1930s, according to data from the Lower Colorado River Authority presented at a Wednesday meeting. Preliminary LCRA data shows the Highland Lakes are in a new “critical period,” drier than the 1947-57 drought previously considered the worst on record. The Highland Lakes include lakes Travis, Buchanan, Inks, LBJ and Austin. Lakes Travis and Buchanan serve as the primary water supply for the city of Austin and several other Central Texas cities...

AUSTIN (KXAN) – The ongoing drought impacting Central Texas’ Highland Lakes is the worst the region has experienced since the lakes were built in the 1930s, according to data from the Lower Colorado River Authority presented at a Wednesday meeting. Preliminary LCRA data shows the Highland Lakes are in a new “critical period,” drier than the 1947-57 drought previously considered the worst on record. The Highland Lakes include lakes Travis, Buchanan, Inks, LBJ and Austin. Lakes Travis and Buchanan serve as the primary water supply for the city of Austin and several other Central Texas cities.

Due to dry weather and the low inflow, the Highland Lakes’ firm yield, which is an inventory of water LCRA can provide reliably every year, has been decreased by about 100,000 acre-feet, to 500,000 acre-feet per year. And the firm yield could continue to drop, according to LCRA data. An acre-foot of water is 325,851 gallons.

Six of the 10 lowest inflow years have all happened since 2008.

“We’re in a historic drought like we’ve never seen in our lifetimes,’’ LCRA General Manager Phil Wilson said in a prepared statement. “Even in these conditions, however, lakes Travis and Buchanan remain significantly above their all-time lows, thanks to smart water management decisions and excellent water saving efforts by our customers throughout the lower Colorado River basin.”
The LCRA manages the Highland Lakes and lower Colorado River. The river authority also generates power for the region and operates area parks, among other responsibilities.

On  Wednesday, the lakes contained about 717,000 acre-feet, or 36 percent of capacity. That’s nearly 100,000 acre-feet more than the 1952 all-time low combined storage of 621,221 acre-feet, or 32 percent of capacity. The revised estimate of the firm yield changes the amount of water available for sale in the future, but does not impact existing contracts, such as those held by the City of Austin and other firm customers, according to the LCRA.

“LCRA has water available to meet all our existing contracts,” Wilson said in a prepared statement. “The good news is the reservoirs are doing what they were designed to do – capturing water when it rains, and holding it for use during droughts.”

LCRA will work on expanding its water supply further, Wilson said, including the construction of a new reservoir near the coast. LCRA began building the Lane City Reservoir in Wharton County in late 2014. The reservior is expected to hold 90,000 acre-feet of water and be completed in 2017.
The firm yield is unrelated to trigger levels in the 2010 Water Management Plan that determines how water is divvied up among customers during drought. The plan sets out three triggers that must be met before the LCRA Board issues a Drought Worse Than Drought of Record declaration. Those triggers are:
  • 24 months since lakes Travis and Buchanan were full.
  • Prolonged low inflows worse than inflows during the 1947-57 drought.
  • Combined storage in lakes Travis and Buchanan at less than 600,000 acre-feet.
If the LCRA declares the current drought to be worse than the drought of record, it would cut off Highland Lakes water for certain customers and impose water-use cutbacks of 20 percent for firm customers. Current estimates show combined storage could potentially hit 600,000 acre-feet in May or June.
Posted: February 19, 2015 13:31   Go to blog
PEC Press Release February 18, 2015 10:27
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                                              Feb. 17, 2015MEDIA CONTACT: Kay Jarvis, (830) 868-4961; media@peci.com
PEC Board votes in support of groundwater legislationAt its Feb. 17 meeting, the Pedernales Electric Cooperative Board of Directors voted unanimously in support of legislation on groundwater production. The vote is a show of the Board’s stance on this issue, which is an important one for communities within the Co-op’s service area.  The Texas Water Code recognizes that a landowner owns the groundwater beneath the land...
FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE                                                                                                                                              Feb. 17, 2015
MEDIA CONTACT: Kay Jarvis, (830) 868-4961; media@peci.com

PEC Board votes in support of groundwater legislation

At its Feb. 17 meeting, the Pedernales Electric Cooperative Board of Directors voted unanimously in support of legislation on groundwater production. The vote is a show of the Board’s stance on this issue, which is an important one for communities within the Co-op’s service area.  
The Texas Water Code recognizes that a landowner owns the groundwater beneath the land. It also allows for the creation of groundwater conservation districts in order to protect natural reservoirs against “wasteful or malicious drainage.”
By resolution, the PEC Board states that the boundaries of these districts are not consistent with the hydrogeology of Central Texas and that unregulated aquifer areas exist which are vulnerable to the commercial drainage of groundwater from beneath a landowner’s property.
“Well drillers are locating these gaps in water district jurisdictions and exploiting them for pure profit,” said PEC District 6 Director Larry Landaker, who sponsored the resolution. “What is happening in Hays County through the misuse of the rule of capture is tantamount to the theft of water by one community to serve another. … That volume of water could … create a serious economic impact to the Hill Country communities we serve. Economic impact to the Hill Country is economic impact to PEC.”
The Board called for legislation to establish the proper local regulation of commercial and non-exempt groundwater production in Hill Country aquifer areas which are currently outside of existing conservation districts. It also agreed to communicate its support to the Texas Legislature and specifically to State Representative Jason Isaac, who is currently working on legislative solutions to address this issue.
“Reliable energy and water supplies are essential for the homes and businesses of our service area. We must all remain committed to protect our groundwater resources for the future of the Texas Hill Country,” said PEC Board President Dr. Patrick Cox. “It’s in PEC’s best interest to support the best interests of its members.”
-30-
Posted: February 18, 2015 10:27   Go to blog
House Concert benefiting WVWA - registration is liveFebruary 17, 2015 11:58

  Chick MorganPlease join us March 21st for this fun evening of entertainment by Chick Morgan to support the water stewardship programs of the Wimberley Valley Watershed Association. Only 30 seats available! “Jazzed For Justice” is the brainchild of the WUUHOOs (Wimberley Unitarian Universalists Helping Others Out). We are members and friends of the San Marcos Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, all living in the Wimberley Valley area. Our purpose is to support local issues of justice and sustainability, in keeping with Unitarian Universalist values...

ChickMorgan1

  Chick Morgan

Please join us March 21st for this fun evening of entertainment by Chick Morgan to support the water stewardship programs of the Wimberley Valley Watershed Association. Only 30 seats available! “Jazzed For Justice” is the brainchild of the WUUHOOs (Wimberley Unitarian Universalists Helping Others Out). We are members and friends of the San Marcos Unitarian Universalist Fellowship, all living in the Wimberley Valley area. Our purpose is to support local issues of justice and sustainability, in keeping with Unitarian Universalist values. For this concert, we have selected the Wimberley Valley Watershed Association for our donations. Nobody has worked harder to protect this vital resource in our area.


WVWA-logo


Register Today!

Posted: February 17, 2015 11:58   Go to blog
Texas Tribune Article About Isaac EP Wimberley Meeting 2/10/2015 Hays Water Fight Portends Battles to ComeFebruary 11, 2015 16:15

Hays Water Fight Portends Battles to Come  
Feb. 11, 2015, by Neena Satija   photo by: Axel GerdauWIMBERLEY — Hundreds of people packed a community center Tuesday night to demand that state Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, stop a commercial groundwater-pumping project in Hays County. Not that there is much he can do to stop it...

Hays Water Fight Portends Battles to Come  
Feb. 11, 2015, by Neena Satija 
     photo by: Axel Gerdau
    WIMBERLEY — Hundreds of people packed a community center Tuesday night to demand that state Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, stop a commercial groundwater-pumping project in Hays County. Not that there is much he can do to stop it.

    But their wrath underscored an issue likely to flare up repeatedly across the state as water supplies dwindle and the population keeps growing: Texas' approach to managing groundwater is increasingly incompatible with the demographics and growth patterns of the state. And possible solutions are hard to find amid bruising local politics, deep-pocketed business interests and small-government-minded legislators.

    If the town hall meeting called by Isaac is any indication, the fights will not be gentle. 
    The community center was decorated with signs that read "EP go home!!!" and the cheeky, "They pumped paradise and put up a subdivision." Public officials and an angry crowd used the meeting to shame those who would profit from the Hays County deal. "We don't want you here. We want you to leave," said Hays County Commissioner Will Conley, pointing directly at Tim Throckmorton.

    Throckmorton owns Houston-based Electro Purification, or EP, which is planning to pump more than 5 million gallons of water each day from the Trinity Aquifer in western Hays County, where no groundwater regulator has any authority. That's far more water than has ever been pumped in the region, and area hydrologists fear it could have devastating effects on the wells most nearby residents rely on.

    Conley's verbal assault drew cheers and a standing ovation from the crowd. And a presentation from Clark Wilson, who is building a community of homes and hopes to buy EP's water, drew jeers from the audience. "Apparently, none of y'all live in my homes," he said defiantly, while people laughed at pictures of his planned neighborhood complete with green lawns, a lake and a neighborhood swimming pool. 

    Throckmorton, too, looked embattled. "Our customers have come to us and asked us, can we come up with a solution to their problem" of a water shortage, he told the audience. "And at this point, we're not sure we can." Hydrologists who spoke before Throckmorton acknowledged that wells near EP's may go dry because of the company's pumping. 

    The controversy has spurred residents into action all over the county, but especially in the Rolling Oaks subdivision, a neighborhood of about 300 families just a few miles from the proposed well fields. Signs that read "Save Our Wells" and "Stop the Water Grab" are planted in many front yards, and cars sport bumper stickers reading "Buda, please don't suck us dry." (EP wants to sell its water to the fast-growing city of Buda and new planned subdivisions in the area, including Wilson's.)

    "It's been a political awakening for us," said Dan Pickens, a marketing executive who has lived in Rolling Oaks for 20 years. "What's the value of a home with no water?"
    Pickens and his neighbors say their wells are already unreliable in the midst of severe drought, and they deserve protection. But on the flip side, some say, landowners also have the right to sell the water beneath their land for a profit. And that's exactly what two families in the area have decided to do, using EP as the marketer. 

    "That is always the irony of property rights proponents, just to be blunt," said Russ Johnson, who represented one of the landowners who is selling their water to EP. "What really makes people bat crazy, and correctly so, is ... not everybody can share."

    The solutions offered so far are myriad, but limited. Several landowners say they'll fight attempts to send the water pipeline across their property. And Isaac has proposed legislation that would give the Texas Water Development Board some say over wells in unregulated areas like where EP is drilling.
    But that's unlikely to happen, said Brian Sledge, a water lawyer who lobbies for the Texas Water Conservation Association, one of the largest water interest organizations in the state. For decades, the Legislature has left local groundwater districts to decide who can pump water and how much they can pump, not the state. "I can't think of a better system," he said.

    It's more likely that Isaac will be able to extend the boundaries of one of the neighboring groundwater conservation districts to include the area where EP is drilling. And Republican state Sen. Donna Campbell, whose district also includes the region, told The Texas Tribune on Tuesday that she would support such legislation.
    Still, that isn't a silver bullet. If EP has already started producing water, no district could retroactively cancel its ability to do so. If the district tries to limit how much water EP can pump, it's likely to end up in court. That means the district needs to have ample financial resources — and the Legislature is unlikely to have the appetite for giving local regulators any more power to tax or charge groundwater production fees.

    A more practical solution, said lawyer Russ Johnson, is to start accepting the fact that some people's wells will be impacted. EP has offered a "mitigation plan" of sorts, which could involve paying well owners to lower their pumps if the project causes their water supplies to dry up. And the city of Buda, which hopes to buy 20 percent of the EP water, has promised to be a part of that.

    But how much that will cost is impossible to know, because even EP acknowledges that the impacts of pumping are still unknown. "The effect of the pumping can only be known by long-term pumping and monitoring of the aquifer response," the company said in documents prepared for Buda.
    That's a wild card for Buda, which may have to budget more for the project if mitigation gets expensive, said the city's mayor, Todd Ruge. "I just want a chance to show them that we are a good neighbor," he said of those who oppose the project in Rolling Oaks and elsewhere. More than 1,500 properties and seven utilities that rely on groundwater are located near EP's well fields, local officials say.

    Donald Lee, director of the Texas Conference of Urban Counties, said there's a much larger problem that needs to be addressed: growth occurring outside the jurisdiction of cities. The new subdivisions that EP wants to sell water to, for instance, aren't under the jurisdiction of Hays County or any nearby cities. So no one has any real authority to make sure growth proceeds prudently. 
    Giving counties more authority to regulate growth would be a big help, Lee said, but it's not clear if that will happen anytime soon.

    "Growth isn't unsustainable if we don't screw it up," he said. "But right now, there's pressure to screw it up."
    Posted: February 11, 2015 16:15   Go to blog
    HAYS PROPERTY OWNERS ALERT!- Town Hall Meeting on Electro Purification Water Mining- Tuesday Feb. 10th 6:30pmFebruary 09, 2015 22:21
    IMPORTANT MEETINGS ALERT
    for Hays Property Owners
    CARD urges all citizens, property owners and business owners of Western Hays to speak up for their private property rights and speak out against a plan with a clear potential to harm all of us.It's very important that property owners attend these upcoming meetings - just by attending you show our representatives the massive concern for this issue - and let your concerns be known...
    IMPORTANT MEETINGS ALERT
    for Hays Property Owners
    CARD urges all citizens, property owners and business owners of Western Hays to speak up for their private property rights and speak out against a plan with a clear potential to harm all of us.
    It's very important that property owners attend these upcoming meetings - just by attending you show our representatives the massive concern for this issue - and let your concerns be known.
    Representative Jason Isaac Town Hall Meeting on Electro Purification Water Mining in Hays County, Tuesday, February 10 at 6:30pm, Wimberley Community Center  
                                  SIGN ONLINE PETITION TO STOP WATER MINING HERE

    Tuesday, February 10th - Hays County Commissioners Court Meeting, 9:00am (Hays County Courthouse, room 301) FILL OUT QUESTIONS IN ADVANCE HERE-

    Wednesday, February 11th - Hays-Caldwell Public Utility Meeting, 3pm (Kyle Public Works Building, 520 E. RR 150)

    Thursday, February 12th, - Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District, 6pm (Manchaca Volunteer Fire Dept, 655 W FM 1626, Austin)

    Wednesday, February, 18th - Goforth SUD, 7pm (8900 Niederwald Strasse, Kyle)

    Thursday, February 26th - Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District, 6pm (Church of Christ, 470 Old Hwy 290, Dripping Springs)
    Check this website (hayscard.org) and SaveOurWells (saveourwells.com) website to stay current with future meetings to attend, new articles, and other action steps you can take.



    CALL TO ACTION for Hays Property Owners 
    What’s the truth about the Electro Purification wells issue?
    True: 5.3 million gallons a day of our Trinity Aquifer water is to be taken and sold elsewhere –doubling what is currently being withdrawn.
    True: That huge amount of water would put many Western Hays County wells, streams and springs in danger.
    True: Houston-based Electro Purification’s exploitation of a regulatory loophole to grab Western Hays water is legal.
    NOT TRUE: There’s nothing we can do. Continued...
    Our Water and the Threat to the Heart of Our Existence
    by Patrick Cox, PhD 
    (1/30/15)
    Hundreds of residential wells in the Trinity Aquifer are threatened by Houston-based company Electro Purification (EP). This private company has secured contracts to provide water from the Hays Trinity aquifer for a minimum of 1.9 billion gallons a year to several public entities and developments - which equates to 5,830 acre feet of water. If one acre foot fills about 22 average size swimming pools, that's more than 128,000 swimming pools - almost unimaginable. Download the complete essay for actions we need to take...
    HOW TO TAKE ACTION...
    Information about meetings to attend; elected representatives and other players to write or call.
    SaveOurWells.com 
    Website devoted to the unregulated pumping threat to Trinity Aquifer

    (Power Point on geologic setting and projected water level decline here)
    A Houston Company, Electro Purification (EP), has drilled unregulated commercial wells near FM 3237 and FM 150. The proposed pumping exceeds 5 million gallons per day - greater than the combined total of the Wimberley Water Supply, Aqua Texas, and Dripping Springs Water Supply. Continued...
    Posted: February 09, 2015 22:21   Go to blog
    Explainer: The Hays County Water DealFebruary 03, 2015 15:59

     

    Monday, February 2, 2015 by Michael Kanin
    DevelopmentExplainer: The Hays County Water DealEach week, the Explainer offers a closer look at stories we have been following. This week we look at the Electro Purification water deals coming out of Hays County.
    As Andy Sevilla has reported over the past 10 days or so, Electro Purification — a Houston-based company — is looking to pump nearly 2 billion gallons of water annually out of the Cow Creek Formation of the Trinity Aquifer through a well the firm sunk in western Hays County....

     


    Monday, February 2, 2015 by Michael Kanin

    Explainer: The Hays County Water Deal

    Each week, the Explainer offers a closer look at stories we have been following. This week we look at the Electro Purification water deals coming out of Hays County.
    As Andy Sevilla has reported over the past 10 days or so, Electro Purification — a Houston-based company — is looking to pump nearly 2 billion gallons of water annually out of the Cow Creek Formation of the Trinity Aquifer through a well the firm sunk in western Hays County. The spot Electro Purification chose appears to have been selected for at least one major reason: It is, as Sevilla reported, “located on property just outside the jurisdiction of the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District and the Hays Trinity Conservation District near Wimberly.”
    In other words, Electro Purification found a hole in the regulatory patchwork that Texas grants to authorities that govern the use of groundwater in the state. To be clear: This is perfectly legal. But it’s also enough to have Republican Hays County Pct. 3 Commissioner Will Conley calling for action “to be taken to fill in that white zone.”

    Texas water law is notoriously complex. Some water rights trace back to before U.S. annexation, others are governed by quasi-governmental river authorities, such as the Lower Colorado River Authority — which is responsible for the surface water that runs through Austin — and still others are subject to nothing more than the “rule of capture” law perhaps best (simply) described by Daniel Day Lewis’ Daniel Plainview character from the film There Will be Blood as “drinking milkshakes.”
    Written concern about water supply in the Western portion of the United States goes back at least as far as John Wesley Powell, who in the latter portions of the 19th century argued that only a fraction of the region “could be sustainably reclaimed.” (More on Powell, a later examination of water in the West and a 2010 study of water in the West from UCLA is here.)

    In October, a dramatic vision of all that came courtesy of the San Antonio Water System, when the San Antonio City Council approved a $3.4 billion, 142-mile pipeline that will ship 13.4 billion gallons of water a year from the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer underneath Burleson County. (Water infrastructure costs are a subject for another day.)

    The San Antonio project is roughly eight times the Hays project in terms of sheer water volume. However, the same regulatory principles apply. According to the Texas Water Development Board, groundwater — the legal definition of the stuff that’ll be used by both the San Antonio and Hays County projects — accounts for “about 60 percent” of the water used by Texans. The board assigns Groundwater Conservation Districts within Groundwater Management Areas to regulate usage in those regions. And though some have long called (and worked) for further regulatory authority in the Central Texas region, that has yet to happen.

    And that brings us back to Electro Purification and Hays County. Because there is no active groundwater conservation district in the region of the Trinity Aquifer where the company has placed its well — and despite significant local opposition — there is no specific local regulatory mechanism for the project. It’s all enough to have the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer District looking into annexation of well areas in the region — though this could, as Kara Nuzback reported this morning, prove problematic.

    Still, just because a regulatory authority exists does not mean that ambitious projects such as these would be tempered. Indeed, the groundwater conservation districts in Burleson County — from whom San Antonio would ultimately be purchasing water — is a partner in the pipeline project.
    Posted: February 03, 2015 15:59   Go to blog
    The Water Wars of Hays CountyFebruary 03, 2015 15:43


     
     
     



             
     
    Our Water and the Threat to the Heart of Our Existence
    By Patrick Cox, Ph.D.

    Everyone should understand the tremendous importance and impact of the water wells that are now being drilled in the heart of Hays County.  This issue has made people a lot hotter than Willie Nelson's Picnic on the Fourth of July...


     

     

     




     
     
     
     
     

     

    Our Water and the Threat to the Heart of Our Existence
    By Patrick Cox, Ph.D.

    Everyone should understand the tremendous importance and impact of the water wells that are now being drilled in the heart of Hays County.  This issue has made people a lot hotter than Willie Nelson's Picnic on the Fourth of July.  But this act deserves this type of heat and concern - it's a thrust into the heart of our very existence.

    Hundreds of residential wells in the Trinity Aquifer are threatened by Houston-based company Electro Purification (EP). This private company has secured contracts to provide water from the Hays Trinity aquifer for a minimum of 1.9 billion gallons a year to several public entities and developments - which equates to 5,830 acre feet of water.  If one acre foot fills about 22 average size swimming pools, that's more than 128,000 swimming pools - almost unimaginable.

    That's a lot of water by anyone's measure.  Based on news reports and independent analysis, the EP reports of available ground water is highly suspect.  Furthermore, they have seriously undercounted the number of private wells in the surrounding area that rely on water from this segment of the aquifer.  Yet the train keeps rolling.

    To further illustrate this audacious act, if EP is withdrawing approximately 5 million gallons of water per day, this is more than double the average daily pumpage of water from Wimberley Water Supply Corporation, Aqua Texas, and Dripping Springs Water Supply combined.  And all of that water will be gone forever.  This action clearly ignores Chapter 36 of the Texas Water Code that confirms that a landowner, including a landowner’s lessees, heirs, or assigns, is entitled to produce groundwater below the surface of real property, “without causing waste or malicious drainage of other property."

    The EP plans are the "rule of capture" taken to its most extreme and by any measure provides a real threat to our livelihood.

    If successful, this project will not only significantly alter the future of Hays County.  This will send a clear message to everyone in Texas and beyond that any entity can take all the groundwater they can pump, ship it anywhere, make a lot of money, and leave a lot of people and businesses high and dry.  This sounds like a tall Texas tale - but it's a hard reality.

    This move not only shows disrespect for the thousands of people who rely on groundwater as their primary source of water.  This is also a calculated scheme to find a loophole in the law, launch a fast and unpublicized plan, and once discovered, create panic and put neighbors at odds with one another in a fight that should never have happened.  Anyone remember the movie Chinatown?

    So what should we do?  Throw up our hands because these clever folks have outsmarted us and are living by the law of the biggest pump.  No - there are some essential actions to take right now.  And with this crisis, we can also look beyond this initial battle to a more definitive set of solutions that will help not just people in Hays County but all of Texas.

    For the immediate future, here's what we need to do:
    • call and email elected officials of our concern and need to protect our property and water;

    • attend public meetings and forums urging elected officials to oppose this unseemly action;
    • contact Buda, Goforth, and Anthem who have signed EP contracts to voice our concern and opposition;
    • circulate petitions to oppose EP wells and extensive drilling that exports water;
    •urge all public entities, cities, organizations and homeowners groups to pass resolutions in opposition to this action;
    • encourage and require objective, independent scientific studies of aquifer capacity, recharge and conservation;
    • distribute information to friends, neighbors and businesses on importance of this issue;
    • provide locations, data and logs on our private wells to the Hays Trinity and/or the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Districts that will allow for accuracy and a complete data base.

    In the longer term, we need more permanent solutions:
    • provide sufficient funding for groundwater districts and jurisdiction over all aquifers within their boundaries;
    • align groundwater districts along hydrogeologic, not artificial political boundaries that ignore natural aquifers and waterflow;
    • mandate effective, realistic drought and conservation plans for all groundwater districts;
    • initiate a cultural change that encourages and rewards water efficiency, reuse and conservation  and treat water as a precious, valuable resource;
    • expand the water development fund and simply the process to include groundwater studies, rain water collection systems, and conservation projects;
    • require publication and time for citizen comment and reaction to all major initiatives - in the impacted area and not miles away or on some obscure web page.

    Wallace Stevens wrote a very pertinent statement about water:  "Human nature is like water.  It takes the shape of its container."  In this drama, as the human containers and consumers of our water, we each have responsibilities to assume.   We need to be aware of where the water comes from - and it's not the faucet. So we should all agree make a concerted effort to change our own behavior along with fair and equitable rules and laws that govern this essential natural resource.

    Patrick Cox, Ph.D.
    Landowner and Hays County resident since 1974
    Wimberley, Texas
    Patrickcoxconsultants.com


     

    Posted: February 03, 2015 15:43   Go to blog
    Friday Night Football Returns to Water PoliticsJanuary 30, 2015 13:13

    By Neena SatijaJan. 30, 2015In the midst of the worst drought in recent memory, Texas lawmakers two years ago sent the state a message: The need for water can transcend politics...

  • Texas Governor Rick Perry ceremonially signed House Bill 4, which lays the foundation for Texas' future water needs. He is joined by Lt. Gov. David Dewhurst, Speaker Joe Straus, Rep. Allan Ritter, R-Nederland and Sen. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay on May 28, 2013
    In the midst of the worst drought in recent memory, Texas lawmakers two years ago sent the state a message: The need for water can transcend politics.
    A coalition of lawmakers from both parties and nearly every corner of the state came together to create a new fund that would help jumpstart water projects like pipelines and treatment plants. A few months later, voters overwhelmingly approved taking $2 billion from the state surplus to get the fund going.
    But such a political confluence is rare and not likely to recur soon, many lawmakers and experts say. And as the Legislature takes up more contentious water issues in 2015, including a patchwork system for managing groundwater, water politics may revert back to something more akin to Friday night football. 
    At least, that's how state Rep. Lyle Larson likes to describe water politics in Texas — thirsty towns in fierce fights over the same water supplies. The divides are often between urban, rural and suburban areas; rainy East Texas and the drier West; or population centers sharing rivers that cross nearly the entire state, like theColorado or Brazos
    "A number of groups have already pulled their swords out, and they’re drawing lines in the sand," said Larson, one of the loudest House members on water issues. "And this is typical of what we’ve seen for the past few decades.” As a San Antonio Republican and former city councilman, Larson himself is an example of locally driven water politics. The exploding city has long sought to buy groundwater from underneath nearby rural communities, but was rebuffed and onlyrecently found a source almost 150 miles away. Larson said cities aren't able to get the water they need because dozens of local districts regulate groundwater differently across Texas, and that the state should have more authority over them. 
    Doug Miller, a Republican state representative from New Braunfels — less than an hour north of San Antonio — has a different view. Also a vocal House member on water policy, Miller called the need for more state authority over groundwater "a subject for debate." 
    Miller's constituents include some rural areas that compete with San Antonio for water from the dwindling Edwards Aquifer, and others who fear thirsty cities are after their groundwater. He said it's important "not [to] destroy the economy of rural areas." 
    The political dynamic got more interesting when Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick shook up the Senate committees and created an Agriculture, Water and Rural Affairs Committee, chaired by freshman Republican Charles Perry of Lubbock. Previously, water had been under the Senate Natural Resources Committee, which Patrick has now put in charge of economic development. Troy Fraser, R-Horseshoe Bay, who chairs that committee, said he expects Perry's committee to take over most groundwater regulation issues. 
    Such a change is "huge," said Greg Ellis, a lawyer who represents local groundwater regulators across the state. "This move is potentially bad for or negative for cities, water marketers and other people that want to move water from rural Texas into the cities," he said. Perry declined to comment for this story.  
    It's not yet clear who the drivers of water policy will be in the House, since the former chairman of the House Committee on Natural Resources, Allan Ritter of Nederland, has retired. The Republican was well respected for his relative neutrality when it came to local water battles — perhaps easier for Ritter because his district is in rainy and swampy East Texas, which isn't scrambling for new water supplies. 
    "Allan did a good job in that respect," said Larson, who — along with Miller — has been vocal in his desire to take over as chairman. Larson added that if the next chairman is "somebody from the rural areas, they might not be as responsive to where we're seeing the compression on [water needs] in the urban areas." 
    But state Rep. Drew Darby, a Republican from San Angelo, said his West Texas, mainly rural constituents need water just as much as the big cities. Urban representatives may outnumber the rural ones in the Legislature, he said, but “they don’t grow cotton at Men’s Warehouse in San Antonio. They don’t feed beef at the H-E-B in San Antonio. ... The food, the fiber, the natural resources are produced in rural Texas." They need water to do that, Darby said.  
    There may be a few things that lawmakers come to a consensus on. The Texas Water Conservation Association, one of the largest trade associations of water interests in the state, is making it a priority to speed up applications for surface water projects and encourage underground water storage technologies. Both issues are important for developing big new water supplies for large numbers of people.
    But the group — which includes cities, groundwater regulators and others — could not agree on legislation on brackish groundwater desalination, which lawmakers statewide have touted as a major solution to Texas’ water crisis. Urban interests want to make it easier to pump groundwater if it's brackish, and want the ability to appeal to the state if local regulators get in the way. But rural interests see that as a threat to local control over water. 
    Andy Sansom, executive director of the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University, doesn't expect any of the major water policy issues — namely, groundwater regulation — to be solved without "a catastrophe or federal litigation." 
    And during this legislative session in particular, many will be tired of dealing with water, Sansom predicted. "There are people who'll say, 'Well, shit, we threw $2 billion at this. What do you want?'" 
    Posted: January 30, 2015 13:13   Go to blog
    Battle Brewing In Hays County Over Commercial Water WellsJanuary 29, 2015 10:06
    Updated: Tuesday, January 27 2015, 09:32 PM CST 
    Residents in western Hays County communities like the Rolling Oaks Subdivision are fighting to save a precious resource. 
    "This is where it all comes from," Rolling Oaks resident Terry Raines said as he pointed to a water well on his property. 
    Raines' way of life there depends on his access to water. 
    "This well is 360 feet deep," he explained. "It was drilled in 1970 and has always been a good source of water." 
    But that could change...
    Updated: Tuesday, January 27 2015, 09:32 PM CST 

    Residents in western Hays County communities like the Rolling Oaks Subdivision are fighting to save a precious resource. 

    "This is where it all comes from," Rolling Oaks resident Terry Raines said as he pointed to a water well on his property. 

    Raines' way of life there depends on his access to water. 

    "This well is 360 feet deep," he explained. "It was drilled in 1970 and has always been a good source of water." 

    But that could change. 

    A Houston based company Electro Purification plans to pump five millions gallons of groundwater a day from the Trinity Aquifer and sell it to growing communities like Buda and Kyle. 

    The pumping could cause residential wells in western Hays County to run dry. 

    "I'm not the least bit opposed to growth in our county. 

    With that being said I do think county growth needs to be responsible," resident Susan Tosher said. 

    Tuesday, county homeowners took their concerns to the Hays County Commissioners Court meeting. 

    "Apparently Electro Purification does not care about the people in this area who may be damaged by their pumping," resident Jim McMeans said. 

    The Commissioners Court decided to call a special meeting inviting stake holders on this issue. 

    They are hoping to develop a plan of action. 

    "I have concerns about that amount of water leaving a very sensitive aquifer," Will Conley, Hays County Commissioner, Precinct 3, said. 

    Commissioner Conley represents western Hays County residents. 

    He hopes to take their concerns to state lawmakers to regulate commercial use of local groundwater resources. 

    If nothing is done this legislative session, residents fear what could happen. 

    "There's always been water in there ever since we've been out here and there always will if Electro doesn't pump us dry," Raines said. 

    Texas Representative Jason Isaac will host a town hall meeting regarding the water issue on February 10 at 6:30 p.m. in the Wimberley Community Center. 



    text size Battle Brewing In Hays County Over Commercial Water Wells Updated: Tuesday, January 27 2015, 09:32 PM CST Residents in western Hays County communities like the Rolling Oaks Subdivision are fighting to save a precious resource. "This is where it all comes from," Rolling Oaks resident Terry Raines said as he pointed to a water well on his property. Raines' way of life there depends on his access to water. "This well is 360 feet deep," he explained. "It was drilled in 1970 and has always been a good source of water." But that could change. A Houston based company Electro Purification plans to pump five millions gallons of groundwater a day from the Trinity Aquifer and sell it to growing communities like Buda and Kyle. The pumping could cause residential wells in western Hays County to run dry. "I'm not the least bit opposed to growth in our county. With that being said I do think county growth needs to be responsible," resident Susan Tosher said. Tuesday, county homeowners took their concerns to the Hays County Commissioners Court meeting. "Apparently Electro Purification does not care about the people in this area who may be damaged by their pumping," resident Jim McMeans said. The Commissioners Court decided to call a special meeting inviting stake holders on this issue. They are hoping to develop a plan of action. "I have concerns about that amount of water leaving a very sensitive aquifer," Will Conley, Hays County Commissioner, Precinct 3, said. Commissioner Conley represents western Hays County residents. He hopes to take their concerns to state lawmakers to regulate commercial use of local groundwater resources. If nothing is done this legislative session, residents fear what could happen. "There's always been water in there ever since we've been out here and there always will if Electro doesn't pump us dry," Raines said. Texas Representative Jason Isaac will host a town hall meeting regarding the water issue on February 10 at 6:30 p.m. in the Wimberley Community Center. By Nadia Galindo

    Read More at: http://www.keyetv.com/news/features/top-stories/stories/battle-brewing-hays-county-over-commercial-water-wells-23769.shtml
    Posted: January 29, 2015 10:06   Go to blog
    Neighbor to Neighbor News - Hill Country Groundwater WarJanuary 28, 2015 11:01
    January 27, 2015
    A Groundwater War is EscalatingEvery rancher, landowner, well-user…any Texan for that matter, needs to understand some basic flaws in Texas water policy as illustrated in this story unfolding in Hays County.

    Starting with a fresh blog post by Vanessa Puig-Williams, we’ve assembled some articles, resources and upcoming meeting information to help generate awareness and encourage public participation.

    According to a KVUE news post last night, State Representative Jason Isaac will be hosting a Town Hall meeting to discuss this gap in Trinity Groundwater Management at 6:30 p.m. on Feb...
    January 27, 2015
    A Groundwater War is Escalating
    Every rancher, landowner, well-user…any Texan for that matter, needs to understand some basic flaws in Texas water policy as illustrated in this story unfolding in Hays County.

    Starting with a fresh blog post by Vanessa Puig-Williams, we’ve assembled some articles, resources and upcoming meeting information to help generate awareness and encourage public participation.

    According to a KVUE news post last night, State Representative Jason Isaac will be hosting a Town Hall meeting to discuss this gap in Trinity Groundwater Management at 6:30 p.m. on Feb. 10 at the Wimberley Community Center. Read more from KVUE.





    “Rule of Capture Undermines Groundwater Regulation in Texas”


    “In mid-western Hays County, a groundwater war is escalating.  A private water supplier, with goals to pipe and sell close to 6,000 acre feet of water per year has strategically located a well field in an area of the Hill Country where the Trinity Aquifer is unregulated. Unlike the more recent groundwater controversies involving decisions by groundwater districts east of Austin to permit or limit the amount of groundwater being transported to the west, the situation in Hays County is different, as it has exposed an innate flaw of the rule of capture, one that is magnified in our modern era of groundwater regulation - the doctrine’s inability to protect a natural resource and the landowners who reasonably depend on it.

    The contentious well field is situated outside the jurisdiction of the Hays-Trinity Groundwater Conservation District and the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District but within the boundaries of the Edwards Aquifer Authority (EAA). (See recent Austin American Statesman article here). The geology of the area has allowed the company to drill test wells through a thin portion of the Edwards Aquifer formation and pump water from the Trinity, where EAA authority does not extend and where no groundwater regulations apply. Locals and nearby groundwater conservation districts are referring to the Trinity beneath the Edwards Aquifer as an unprotected “white zone,” and many are concerned that the water is ripe for the taking by water suppliers looking to sell water to support growing central Texas.

    Without a groundwater conservation district to issue permits and enforce pumping restrictions, under the rule of capture, this water supplier can pump an unlimited amount of groundwater from the Trinity without liability, even if doing so causes the wells of neighboring landowners to run dry. And according to hydrogeologists, this is a real possibility. The fact that a corporate water supplier is using the rule of capture to its financial advantage has infuriated many locals, but courts have long approved of this practice.”  Read the rest of the story.

    Vanessa Puig-Williams, January 26, 2015 blog post from the Energy Center at the University of Texas School of Law.




    Over 300 people and numerous elected officials attended a standing room only groundwater conservation district meeting January 21st at the Wimberley Community Center. Community awareness is building.
    A new website has been launched as to keep you informed on meetings and events related to Electro Purification and their water grab in Hays County and how you can get involved:
    The Hays Caldwell Public Utility Agency (HCPUA) has this issue on their agenda, Wednesday, January 28th at 3:00 pm at the San Marcos Activity Center.

    The Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BSEACD) will discuss and possibly take action related the EP well field including options for possible annexation, Thursday, January 29th at 6:00pm. 1124 Regal Row in South Austin

    Find a complete listing of recent and upcoming public meetings worth attending here.
    The Hays County Commissioner’s Court will be forming committee to hold public forums to discuss concerns over groundwater pumping, particularly in areas where conservation districts have no authority, “in the interest of protecting private land rights while promoting public responsibility.” Read more from Hays County.
    The Citizen’s Alliance for Responsible Development (CARD) issued an excellent community alert last week that includes additional background information as well as contact information for area elected officials: http://hayscard.org/cardtalk15-citizenalert1.html.  Letting your voice be heard by those who represent you matters.
    Hays County Commissioner, Will Conley stated in a recent letter to the community: “I, along with many of my colleagues, have discussed this issue with the groundwater districts in Hays County. We have asked that they get together and see if they can develop some reasonable legislation that might cover this gap in groundwater regulatory authority in our community. To my knowledge the groundwater districts are working together and will try to deliver something to Representative Isaac in the near future. This is a complicated issue that will warrant a tremendous amount of discussion. However I am optimistic that our groundwater districts, working with Representative Isaac can come up with a good solution. The rule of capture should not be the only rule that applies to a corporate entity with the intentions of commercial distribution of water resources. I believe there must be some accountability on this whole process beyond free market principles that will protect the private property rights of land owners in an impacted area.” Read the full media release issued by Commissioner Conley’s office here.



    To put some of this into perspective, the production being proposed is 5.3 million gallons per day (mgd). Whereas the entire Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer District’s maximum allowable pump limit is 1.5mgd and the entire Hays-Trinity Groundwater Conservation District’s maximum is 8.13mgd.
    5.3 million gallons per day exceeds that being withdrawn from the aquifer for the entire county area. This massive rate could cause water levels to be lowered in hundreds of nearby wells, thus creating the need for pumps in the wells to be lowered or the need for many wells to be drilled deeper.

    In 1985 Texas began a process to determine where critical groundwater shortages were anticipated and to designate Priority Groundwater Management Areas (PGMAs) as areas where Groundwater Conservation Districts (GCDs) were necessary. In 1990 the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) designated the Hill Country Priority Groundwater Management Area. It includes all or part of nine Hill Country counties and these wells are just barely beyond the eastern boundary of the PGMA in Hays County. Groundwater Districts have never been formed in Western Comal County or Western Travis County.



    Electro Purification’s test wells are 900-950 feet deep into the Middle Trinity Aquifer’s Cow Creek and lower Glenn Rose formations on Bridges Ranch. Electro Purification has characterized their well field as isolated from surrounding wells; however, the BSEACD has hundreds of well records in the same formation less than 5 miles away.

    The well field lies near the intersection of FM 150 and FM 3237 just west of the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BSAECD) and just east of the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District (HTGCD) near Mountain City and Wimberley. As stated above, although this area is under the jurisdiction of the The Edwards Aquifer Authority (EAA), they have no regulatory authority over the Trinity Aquifer beneath the Edwards.

    Image courtesy of BSEACD

    Pumping production from a total of 15-20 planed wells is expected to peak at 5.3-mgd in 18-24 months. At 1/5th of the proposed production levels, the estimated drawdown of that heavily utilized portion of the Trinity Aquifer is 93’/year.
    Area landowners are justifiably concerned and pointing to hydro-geologic evidence that wells will dry-up if pumping proceeds.
    Electro Purification plans on pumping to fulfill contracts to the following entities located to on the eastern edge of the Hill Country along the I-35 corridor.
    - 1mgd (contract signed) to the Anthem subdivision planned by Clark Wilson Homes  located outside of Mountain City
     
    - 1.3mgd (council approved the completion of a contract with mitigation stipulations to be written in) to the City of Buda
     
    - 3mgd (contract signed in 2013) to the Goforth Water Special Utility District.



    “It's by far the biggest commercial pumping project in the area, but it won't be subject to any regulation because the well fields are in a regulatory "no-man's land," as some lawyers like to call it.” Neena Sataja, Texas Tribune. From her recent article “Groundwater Wars Brewing in Austin’s Suburbs” this quotes says a lot:
    "That just really seems like it goes beyond the good will intention of the law," said state Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, who represents Hays County. "To find this area that’s just right outside of a district, that really concerns me."

    Thank goodness this is concerning our elected officials and that they are thinking about the things like the “good will intention of the law.”



    Read more and share with your neighbors:
    Electro Purification in the Press:

    Groundwater Wars Brewing In Austin's Suburbs
    Texas Tribune, Jan. 23, 2015 by Neena Satija


    Buda Makes Waves With Water Contract
    Hays Free Press, Wed, 01/21/2015 - 12:37pm , By Andy Sevilla


    Buda Agreement With Electro Purification
    City of Buda news dispatch, Jan 21, 2015


    Firm’s Plan To Pump, Sell Water Raises Alarm In Northern Hays County
    Austin American Statesman, 9:44 p.m. Tuesday, Jan. 20, 2015 By Sean Collins Walsh


    Where Will The Water Come From?
    Dripping Springs News-Dispach Fri, 01/16/2015 - 10:00am by Ashley Sava


    MUD For Water: Aquifer Pumping Increases With Growth, Development
    Hays Free Press, Wed, 12/17/2014 - 12:36pm, By Andy Sevilla


    Water Fight Ends in Rancher’s Favor
    Houston Chronicle, By Matthew Tresaugue, January 23, 2014
    Posted: January 28, 2015 11:01   Go to blog
    Saving Family Lands Seminars March 2015January 28, 2015 10:13
    Saving Family Lands 2015San Antonio March 25, Pearl Studio, Suite 115Fort Worth, TX March 26, Ft. Worth Convention Center, Room 201
    Designed for landowners and their advisors, Saving Family Lands will focus on how to individually tailor the voluntary conservation easement to meet a family’s goals, and thus pass cherished lands down to future generations. Led by national conservation easement expert, attorney and author of the IRS conservation easement code, Stephen J. Small, the half-day seminar will include presentations on the tax benefits of donated conservation easements, appraisals, oil and gas development and land trusts...

    Saving Family Lands 2015

    San Antonio March 25, Pearl Studio, Suite 115

    Fort Worth, TX March 26, Ft. Worth Convention Center, Room 201


    Designed for landowners and their advisors, Saving Family Lands will focus on how to individually tailor the voluntary conservation easement to meet a family’s goals, and thus pass cherished lands down to future generations. Led by national conservation easement expert, attorney and author of the IRS conservation easement code, Stephen J. Small, the half-day seminar will include presentations on the tax benefits of donated conservation easements, appraisals, oil and gas development and land trusts.


    Agenda

    12:30 – 1:00Registration
    1:00-1:15Introductions,
    Blair Fitzsimons Chief Executive Officer, Texas Agricultural Land Trust
    1:15-2:00Tax benefits of Conservation easements
    Stephen J. Small, Law Office of Stephen J. Small Esq., P.C.
    2:00-2:15 Break
    2:15-3:00Pitfalls / Common mistakes
    Steve Small
    3:00-3:45Appraisal rules
    James J. Jeffries, MAI, ARA, Jeffries Appraisal Services
    3:45-4:00 Break
    4:00-5:15Oil and gas production on conserved land
    Steve Small & Joseph B.C. Fitzsimons, Partner, Uhl, Fitzsimons Jewett & Burton PLLC
    5:15-5:45Q&A for the Panel
    5:45 Adjourn

    Fee: $75 before February 28, 2015, $100 after.
    To Register: Please click the location of the Saving Family Lands event you wish to attend:
    San Antonio March 25, 2015
    RegisterTodayButton
    Fort Worth March 26, 2015
    RegisterTodayButton

     

    Posted: January 28, 2015 10:13   Go to blog
    Rule of Capture Undermines Groundwater Regulation in TexasJanuary 28, 2015 10:10
    By: Vanessa Puig-Williams  January 26, 2015   In mid-western Hays County, a groundwater war is escalating. A private water supplier, with goals to pipe and sell close to 6,000 acre feet of water per year has strategically located a well field in an area of the Hill Country where the Trinity Aquifer is unregulated...
    In mid-western Hays County, a groundwater war is escalating. A private water supplier, with goals to pipe and sell close to 6,000 acre feet of water per year has strategically located a well field in an area of the Hill Country where the Trinity Aquifer is unregulated. Unlike the more recent groundwater controversies involving decisions by groundwater districts east of Austin to permit or limit the amount of groundwater being transported to the west, the situation in Hays County is different, as it has exposed an innate flaw of the rule of capture, one that is magnified in our modern era of groundwater regulation – the doctrine’s inability to protect a natural resource and the landowners who reasonably depend on it.

    The contentious well field is situated outside the jurisdiction of the Hays-Trinity Groundwater Conservation District and the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District but within the boundaries of the Edwards Aquifer Authority (EAA). (See recent Austin American Statesman article here). The geology of the area has allowed the company to drill test wells through a thin portion of the Edwards Aquifer formation and pump water from the Trinity, where EAA authority does not extend and where no groundwater regulations apply. Locals and nearby groundwater conservation districts are referring to the Trinity beneath the Edwards Aquifer as an unprotected “white zone,” and many are concerned that the water is ripe for the taking by water suppliers looking to sell water to support growing central Texas.

    Without a groundwater conservation district to issue permits and enforce pumping restrictions, under the rule of capture, this water supplier can pump an unlimited amount of groundwater from the Trinity without liability, even if doing so causes the wells of neighboring landowners to run dry. And according to hydrogeologists, this is a real possibility. The fact that a corporate water supplier is using the rule of capture to its financial advantage has infuriated many locals, but courts have long approved of this practice.

    In the 1904 landmark case of Houston Texas Central Railroad Company v. W.A. East, the Texas Supreme Court adopted the rule of capture in Texas.[i] In East, the Houston and Texas Central Railroad Company dug a groundwater well on property it owned in Denison, Texas to supply water for its locomotives and machines shops. The well produced about 25,000 gallons per day, ultimately causing the plaintiff’s domestic well, which was dug prior to the railroad company’s well, to run dry.
    A major point of discussion for the Court was the fact that the railroad was using the groundwater for manufacturing purposes rather than for domestic purposes. The opinion discusses and relies on several cases where other courts maintained that a defendant landowner can pump groundwater to sell to a town or to use in manufacturing, mining, or brewing “whatever may be its effect upon his neighbor’s wells and springs.”[ii] One of these opinions from 1859 in England, Chasemore v. Richards, concerned a defendant landowner who used percolating water from his property to supply to a town, consequently reducing water in a neighbor’s stream to the point where he could no longer operate his mill. In East, the Texas Supreme Court noted that Lord Wensleydale, one of the Justices in Chasemore “expressed doubt as to the correctness of the conclusion reached” even though he “admitted to the soundness of the rule of capture.”[iii] According to the Texas Supreme Court, “[h]is doubt arose out of the fact that the defendant was not using water for his own purposes but was selling it to others.”[iv]

    In 1999, the Texas Supreme Court upheld the rule of capture in Sipriano v. Great Spring Waters of America (Ozarka)[v]when asked to decide whether the bottled water company could be held liable for pumping 90,000 gallons of groundwater a day from its property, resulting in neighboring landowners’ wells going dry.

    While the Texas Supreme Court recognized that the rule of capture is “harsh” and “outmoded” and has been “severely criticized,” it was unwilling to change the law, instead, punting the decision of whether to abandon the rule of capture to the Texas Legislature.[vi] The Court’s decision in Sipriano rested primarily on the 1917 Amendment to the Texas Constitution, which placed the duty to protect the State’s natural resources in the hands of the Legislature and on the Legislature’s efforts at that time to regulate groundwater in Senate Bill 1.[vii]

    Since the Sipriano decision in 1999, the Legislature has made considerable progress in regulating groundwater across Texas. The Legislature has approved the establishment of close to 100 groundwater conservation districts.[viii] Moreover, under Chapter 36 of the Water Code, the Legislature has created a process where groundwater districts with jurisdiction over the same aquifers work together in a groundwater management area (GMA) to establish desired future conditions for these aquifers. Desired future conditions or DFC’s are “the desired, quantified conditions of groundwater resources (such as water levels, water quality, spring flows, or saturated thickness) at a specified time or times in the future…”[ix] Under Chapter 36, a GMA submits the DFC for an aquifer to the Texas Water Development Board who uses it to determine the modeled available groundwater (MAG) for the aquifer. Groundwater conservation districts use the MAG in their permitting decisions, as Chapter 36 requires groundwater districts to manage groundwater in a way that achieves the adopted DFC.[x]

    Under the nose of the Edwards Aquifer Authority, however, on an unregulated well field in Hays County, the rule of capture is undermining this regulatory framework. For the portion of the Trinity Aquifer governed by GMA 9 and the Hays-Trinity Groundwater Conservation District, the annual amount of water the water supplier intends to pump (5,600 acre feet) is over half of the MAG (9,100 acre feet per year) that the Texas Water Development Board determined is available to permit for the district to achieve its DFC. Even more alarming, for the portion of the Trinity Aquifer that falls under the jurisdiction of GMA 10 and the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BSEACD), the Texas Water Development Board determined that the MAG is 1,288 acre feet a year. The water supplier has plans to pump 4,300 acre feet more than the MAG. BSEACD is concerned that this excessive withdrawal of groundwater will interfere with the groundwater district’s ability to achieve the DFC for the Trinity Aquifer.

    As Justice Hecht wrote in his concurring opinion in Sipriano, “what really hampers groundwater management is the established alternative, the common law rule of capture…It is hard to see how maintaining the rule of capture can be justified as deference to the Legislature’s constitutional province when the rule is contrary to the local regulation that is the legislature’s preferred method of groundwater management.”[xi]

    The Legislature constructed Texas’ groundwater regulations to ensure that groundwater, a natural resource, is conserved, preserved, and protected.[xii] But the rule of capture is contrary to these purposes, especially when it protects the interests of corporate entities wishing to export groundwater rather than the property rights of local landowners.

    In this era of drought and widespread regulation of groundwater in Texas, the doubt expressed long ago by Lord Wensleydale over the rule of capture’s protection of water marketers is even more relevant today. In response to the situation in Hays County, a Hays County Commissioner recently wrote that “[t]he rule of capture should not be the only rule that applies to a corporate entity with the intentions of commercial distribution of water resources.”

    In the short term, locals are considering annexing the unregulated parts of the Trinity Aquifer into the jurisdiction of the Hays-Trinity Groundwater Conservation District and lobbying the Legislature for additional funding for the district to be able to effectively regulate. But in the long term, perhaps the Legislature should examine whether it is time to dispense with the rule of capture in favor of a liability doctrine that protects the natural resource, the property rights of all landowners, and supports the regulatory framework the Legislature enacted rather than undermining it.

    Go to Original Post

    Footnotes
    [i]Houston Texas Central Railroad Company v. W.A. East, 98 Tex. 146, 81 S.W. 279 (1904).
    [ii] East, 98 Tex 146 at 150.
    [iii] Id.
    [iv] Id.
    [v] Sipriano v. Great Spring Waters of Am., Inc., 1 S.W.3d 75 (Tex. 1999)
    [vi] Sipriano, 1. S.W.3d 75 at 78 (discussing Friendswood Development Co. v. Smith–Southwest Industries, Inc. 576 S.W.2d 21 (1978)).
    [vii] Id. at 79.
    [viii]See http://www.twdb.state.tx.us/mapping/doc/maps/GCDs_8x11.pdf
    [ix] See Tex. Water Code §36.108.
    [x] Tex. Water Code §36.1071(a).
    [xi]Sipriano 1.S.W.3d 75 at 81, 83. (Hecht, J., concurring).
    [xii] Tex. Water Code §36.0015
    Posted: January 28, 2015 10:10   Go to blog
    THE TEXAS TRIBUNE: roundwater Wars Brewing in Austin's Suburbs: by Neena Satija Jan. 23, 2015 January 26, 2015 17:08


    WIMBERLEY — In a classic example of the gaps in Texas' patchwork approach to regulating groundwater, an unprecedented amount of water may soon be pumped from underneath already parched Hays County with virtually no oversight.
    Houston-based Electro Purification hopes to eventually pump 5 million gallons of water daily from the Trinity Aquifer, and sell it to some of Austin's fastest-growing Hill Country suburbs, including the town of Buda and a new subdivision planned near Kyle...


    WIMBERLEY — In a classic example of the gaps in Texas' patchwork approach to regulating groundwater, an unprecedented amount of water may soon be pumped from underneath already parched Hays County with virtually no oversight.

    Houston-based Electro Purification hopes to eventually pump 5 million gallons of water daily from the Trinity Aquifer, and sell it to some of Austin's fastest-growing Hill Country suburbs, including the town of Buda and a new subdivision planned near Kyle.

    It's by far the biggest commercial pumping project in the area, but it won't be subject to any regulation because the well fields are in a regulatory "no-man's land," as some lawyers like to call it.


    Electro Purification's wells (the yellow dots on the map)
     are outside any regulator's purview. They're also near many other 
    wells that depend on the Trinity Aquifer (the blue and green dots).  

    Graphic by: Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District. 
    About 100 groundwater conservation districts across Texas limit how much water users can pump from aquifers in an effort to protect the resource. 

    But Electro Purification's well fields are in an area where no district governs the Trinity Aquifer. The wells are located in the Edwards Aquifer Authority's jurisdiction — but the authority doesn't oversee the Trinity, which is a groundwater formation that lies under the Edwards in Hays County.

    Since it's not operating within a groundwater conservation district, Electro Purification is subject only to the century-plus-old "rule of capture" — which basically allows it to pump as much water as it wants with no liability on how that affects neighbors. The company only needed to lease the land for its well fields, secure water rights from the landowners, and get a permit to drill through the Edwards Aquifer to the underlying Trinity. It is is not required to report its pumping activities to any authority.

    "That just really seems like it goes beyond the good will intention of the law," said state Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, who represents Hays County. "To find this area that’s just right outside of a district, that really concerns me."

    Electro Purification did not respond to requests for comment, but the company has disputed that its pumping will affect anyone, and Buda has promised that a mitigation plan will be in place for anyone impacted. But local residents and hydrologists are deeply worried. Shallow residential wells — which provide water for most people in this exploding suburban county outside Austin — have already gone dry during the ongoing drought, and they fear a huge amount of pumping in a focused area will only make things worse.

    "My district and others, and you all, I gather, are concerned," Brian Hunt said at a packed meeting of over 200 people at the Wimberley Community Center on Wednesday night, just a few miles from the well fields. "This is a real conundrum for us."
    Hunt is a hydrologist for the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District, which manages the Trinity and Edwards aquifers in some parts of Hays and Travis County. And he was speaking at a meeting of the Hays-Trinity Groundwater Conservation District, which governs the Trinity Aquifer in western Hays County. Electro Purification's well fields are located just outside both districts' boundaries.

    Hunt said such a huge amount of groundwater withdrawal in one area could cause the water table in hundreds of nearby residential wells to drop more than 50 feet in just one year. That would force people to spend tens of thousands of dollars lowering their pumps. Some nearby residents have designed bumper stickers that read, "Buda sucks us dry."
    "I don't have money to dig a deeper well," pleaded Janice Rogers, one of several Hays County residents who spoke at the meeting. "All I have is the little house I live in." She added that she doesn't have the money to install a rainwater collection system, either, which many of her neighbors have done to bypass issues with groundwater availability.

    Hydrologists across Central Texas are still collecting data on what effects Electro Purification's pumping might have. But Hunt and Raymond Slade, an Austin-based hydrologist who is retired from the U.S. Geological Survey, said the Trinity Aquifer can sustain far less pumping than other aquifers, like the Edwards.

    "The holes are much smaller" in the rocks where Trinity water moves through, Slade said. "They don’t have caves." If someone pumps a lot of water from the Trinity, "a lot of [new] water can't move in quickly to fill in gaps." That affects nearby pumpers, who have to look farther underground for water.

    The project has businesses and schools worried, too. Many attending the meeting said they'd heard about it because St. Stephen's Episcopal School in Wimberley, which relies on water from the Trinity, had sent a note to students.

    But there's little anyone can do to stop Electro Purification.

    The Hays-Trinity Groundwater Conservation District could try to annex the unregulated portion of the Trinity, but that's not an easy process and may require the Legislature to act. And even if that is successful, the district is basically broke. It has no taxing authority or even the ability to charge groundwater production fees. Only the Legislature can change that.
    Isaac, the local state representative, said he's not yet sure what is doable. “At this point, I’m trying to study the issues and learn more about it before we decide to change the Texas Constitution and take the rule of capture away from everybody," he said in a phone interview Wednesday. He added that legislators are unlikely to agree to give the Hays-Trinity district taxing authority in this political environment.

    But a local lawmaker could easily give his own constituents' groundwater conservation district the authority to charge more fees, and no one would challenge him, said Greg Ellis, the district's general counsel.

    “It’s almost unheard of in the Senate for an outside senator to interfere with a local bill," Ellis said.

    “It’s almost the same in the House.”

    Isaac said his real priority is addressing the patchwork system of groundwater regulation in Texas, where districts are drawn on county lines — not aquifer lines. That especially affects the huge Trinity Aquifer, which stretches across such a huge portion of the state. Unregulated pumping in the Trinity is also happening in Comal and western Travis County, he noted.

    "We can't monitor that activity. We don't know what's going on, and it's the exact same aquifer," Isaac said. “Clearly, there are some gaps in maintaining and managing the aquifer that we need to address this session."
    Go to Texas Tribune.
    Posted: January 26, 2015 17:08   Go to blog
    Hays County Press Release: Court Forms Groundwater CommitteeJanuary 26, 2015 10:06




    Hays County, Texaswww.co.hays.tx.usFollow us at www.twitter.com/hayscountygov                              www.facebook.com/hayscountytexaswww.haysinformed.comfor Countywide Emergency InfoInformation for the News MediaJan...




    Hays County, Texas
                                  www.facebook.com/hayscountytexas
    www.haysinformed.comfor Countywide Emergency Info
    Information for the News Media
    Jan. 23, 2015




    Hays County Commissioners Court Forms Committee to Further Groundwater Pumping Discussions with Public

    Hays County Courthouse, San Marcos, TX – The Hays County Commissioners Court voted unanimously Tuesday to form a committee that would hold public forums to discuss concerns over groundwater pumping, particularly in areas where conservation districts have no authority, in the interest of protecting private land rights while promoting public responsibility.
    The vote came following public comment and discussion from Court members, concerned citizens and representatives and partners of Electro Purification, Inc., about proposed pumping in Western Hays County over the Trinity Aquifer. Electro Purification has current and expected contracts to provide as much as 1.8 billion gallons of water annually within 10 to 20 years to cities, water supply companies and proposed subdivisions primarily along the I-35 corridor in Hays County. Landowners in the same area have concerns that removing that much water from the aquifer would render their wells useless, as the water level could drop far below current levels.
    Company representatives assured the Court that while the final amount of water that would be pumped is not close to being set, they intend to introduce mitigation measures to ensure that that private citizens would not have their wells depleted due to pumping, a major concern among citizens who spoke to the Court.
    Acknowledging that the County is very limited in what it can legally require in areas not governed by groundwater districts (which are also limited in authority), Precinct 4 Commissioner Ray Whisenant of Dripping Springs said that it would be difficult to say there would be no effect on private wells if that much water is removed and that it could be years before any effect is actually noticed, too late for mitigation. Whisenant formerly owned a well-drilling company in Dripping Springs.
    In 1904 the Texas Supreme Court adopted the “rule of capture” that allows landowners to pump and capture whatever water is available, regardless of the effects on neighboring wells. The land in question is privately owned and lies outside the boundaries of any area groundwater conservation districts, which generally have the authority to promulgate rules for conserving, protecting, recharging and preventing waste of groundwater.
                “The County’s goal in forming this committee is to learn what actions private companies such as Electro Purification are planning, how it might affect our area now and in the future, and how we can work together with private companies to ensure that our citizens are not deprived of the water they need,” Precinct 3 Commissioner Will Conley of Wimberley said. “We plan to invite representatives from Electro Purification, Edwards Aquifer Authority, Hays-Trinity Groundwater Conservation District, Sen. Donna Campbell, Rep. Jason Isaac, City of Mountain City, Goforth Special Utility District and the City of Buda to join the committee and provide information so that we can hold public meetings to discuss private rights and public responsibility for water capture.”
    Posted: January 26, 2015 10:06   Go to blog

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