Development in Austin’s ETJ Threatens Groundwater Quality

Municipal Utility Districts, like the one proposed at Hays Commons, are often outside of city limits or within small communities, where there are fewer environmental protections.  Because groundwater supplies have expansive recharge areas, land use over those sensitive areas should be well-planned to safeguard community water supplies, groundwater quality, and way of life for those already in the community.

The following press release from Save Our Springs Alliance and the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance showcases a current development and the issues increased impervious cover, high density, lax stormwater controls, and wastewater treatment over the recharge zone of the Edwards Aquifer pose for Barton Springs and groundwater users in the Edwards Aquifer.  The public meeting at City of Hays is Thursday, 10/20/2022.  Submit comments and concerns to the Mayor and City Council with the email listed below.

For Immediate Release:  Wednesday, 10/19/2022

Contact: Bill Bunch, Executive Director, Save Our Springs Alliance – (512) 477-2320 /  or Annalisa Peace, Executive Director, Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance – (210) 275-9336 /

Hays Commons Development Threatens Barton Springs And The Edwards Aquifer

A new development near Manchaca proposed by Austin-based developer Milestone would put a 271-unit high-density development over the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone, threatening not only local wells but also Barton Springs. The development as currently planned would ignore the City of Austin’s Save Our Springs (SOS) ordinance, which sets strict limits on lot size, impervious cover, and wastewater disposal for development over the Recharge Zone.

The northern half of the proposed development falls within the City of Austin Extra-Territorial Jurisdiction (ETJ), where SOS restrictions would normally apply. But Milestone is attempting to establish their own Municipal Utility District (MUD) for the development, in a brazen attempt to skirt the SOS requirements that are part of City of Austin development code. Establishment of a MUD for Hays Commons would also leave local landowners footing the bill for the development of Hays Commons water and wastewater services.

Instead of the half-acre minimum lot size required by the SOS ordinance, Milestone is proposing mostly 1/4 and 1/3 acre lots. The 15% SOS impervious cover requirements, designed to mitigate harmful stormwater runoff to groundwater and Barton Springs, would be ignored in favor of lax 35% impervious cover limits. And most notably, Milestone seeks to drill their own wells to tap into the Edwards Aquifer, which is currently being managed with drought restrictions, while disposing of treated sewage via land irrigation at the confluence of Little Bear Creek and a tributary. Little Bear Creek is one of the streams that supplies, or recharges, the Edwards Aquifer that local landowners (and Barton Springs) rely on for water.
“There is simply no safe way to irrigate treated sewage on the Barton Springs portion of the Edwards Aquifer Recharge Zone” says Save Our Springs Executive Director Bill Bunch. “The right approach would be to have the developer treat their wastewater to the east of the tract, away from the recharge zone.”

A key part of Milestone’s strategy is to pressure the City of Hays council members to agree to the MUD, since the southern half of the development lies in the City of Hays ETJ. Without a majority of Hays council members agreeing to move forward on the development, it would be difficult for Milestone to receive state approval for the MUD. A work session (open to the public) between the Hays City Council and Milestone is scheduled for Thursday October 20, with a Hays City Council vote on final plat approval scheduled for Monday November 7.

“The Edwards Aquifer is such a precious resource for Central Texas” says Annalisa Peace, Executive Director of the Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance. “The recharge zone is an environmentally-sensitive area with multiple faults and fractures in the landscape that provide a direct pathway to groundwater and to Barton Springs. Hays Commons as currently designed threatens the aquifer by relying on limited groundwater for water supply, disposing of treated sewage in an area that seeps into the aquifer, and creating excessive stormwater runoff by not following City of Austin/SOS impervious cover limits.”

Concerned citizens are encouraged to join local landowners and attend a public meeting on October 20 and to contact the City of Hays mayor and city council to express their opposition to the approval of the Municipal Utility District. The public meeting will be held on Thursday, October 20 at 5:30PM at the Hays Hills Baptish Church, 1401 N Farm to Market 1626, Buda, TX 78610. Hays mayor Billy Maphies can be reached at (512) 295-4792 or