JOIN THE BATTLE TO PROTECT AQUIFERS AND PRIVATE
~~ IT'S YOUR GROUNDWATER AND YOUR GRANDKIDS' LEGACY~~
The "managed depletion", or mining, of our groundwater will leave our counties' residents at risk for their considerable investments in their own properties, which depend on groundwater to sustain their land and their livelihoods.
The Texas Water Code (and the Texas Supreme Court) have confirmed that groundwater beneath a landowner's property is a vested property right. It's hard to reconcile this with the also operable "Rule of Capture" or the so-called "Biggest Straw Rule", but the even bigger issues revolve around this fact:
Sustainable groundwater resources are necessary to keep our promises to our grandkids and all future generations. We are stewards of natural resources more than we are their "owners".
PLEASE NOTE: THIS DRAWDOWN MAP DOES NOT INCLUDE THE PROJECTED DRAWDOWN IN THE SIMSBORO FROM THE LCRA/BOY SCOUT RANCH PROJECT NEAR CIRCLE D SUBDIVISION AND OTHER
HOMESTEADS AND RANCHES IN BASTROP AND LEE COUNTIES; it does reflect pumping under other "permits on the books".
It includes projected 60-year effects of pumping under the Forestar (now Gatehouse Water) Permit, which was recently reduced to zero production rights by the Lost Pines GCD), the Recharge Water (formerly End Op) Permit, the Vista Ridge Permit (SAWS/Vista Ridge Project) and the (existing) LCRA Power Plant Permit, together with baseline pumping under other permits.
WE BELIEVE THE VISTA RIDGE PERMIT ALONE IS CAUSING UNPRECEDENTED DRAWDOWNS IN THE CARRIZO AQUIFER IN LEE COUNTY! IT IS A MATTER OF TIME BEFORE VISTA RIDGE AFFECTS THE SIMSBORO AQUIFER, TOO.
Vista Ridge started pumping in 2020: 15,000 AFY from the Carrizo, and up to 40,835 AFY from the Simsboro. Their contract with San Antonio calls for at least 30 years
of deliveries of at least 50,000 acre-feet every year. (READ MORE IN OUR NEWS BLOG here.)
And LCRA's new demand for more water --- pending before Lost Pines GCD, will only contribute
to issues in the Simsboro. Go here for background information on the LCRA Permit application and the 2019 contested case hearing.
WATCH THIS VIDEO --- CAN YOUR WELL SURVIVE? WILL YOU BE ABLE TO AFFORD TO GO DEEP ENOUGH TO FIND WATER UNDER YOUR PROPERTY?
Lee County and Bastrop County are in the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District. Clearly, both counties' access to groundwater (we are all reliant upon groundwater!) will be greatly affected by all of these export projects, including LCRA --- projects that will permanently remove mass quantities of our water and send it to faraway places.
Those who want to exploit our water do so for speculative and uncertain private gain in most cases. They believe their speculation for big money overrules our documented investments --- and the amounts we have at risk --- in our own properties. LCRA is a quasi-public agency of the State of Texas; we don't really know who all will actually profit from the LCRA project, but we suspect it will be developers and other speculators who operate with other people's resources. We know that is exactly the case with the Recharge Water and Gatehouse Water permits.
The cities and towns ---(and we mean their governing bodies, not their citizens) ---who are convinced to buy our water, either don't think about us at all, or they think their prosperity --- and their ability to grow exponentially on the back of our water ---- takes priority over anything we might want to do, or any needs we might have.
It doesn't matter to them that conservation of our water, protection of our aquifers, and the desire to leave a legacy of land and water for future generations is uppermost in the minds of most citizens of our counties. Instead, they dismiss us by saying our local neighbors who sell their water -- as is their right, we don't dispute that ----overrule the rest of us, no matter how small their acreage is in relation to the county as a whole.
WHERE IS YOUR PROPERTY --- AND IF YOU HAVE ONE, WHERE IS YOUR WELL ---- ON THIS MAP???
PLEASE NOTE! This is the drawdown map FOR THE SIMSBORO formation of our local aquifer, that the Lost Pines GCD hydrology consultant prepared on the basis of LCRA's original permit application in 2018. It shows effects of LCRA pumping over a 60-year horizon.
At about that same time, the computer modeling that assisted the preparation of these projected drawdowns, was modified. No drawdown map was prepared by either Lost Pines or LCRA, using the NEW "groundwater availability model" (GAM) as far as we know.
The hydrology expert for the landowners whom SAWDF supported in their participation in the LCRA contested case, did apply the NEW GAM to look at those landowners' actual well locations, and assess their impacts from LCRA pumping. While the NEW GAM shows less drawdown over 60 years in the Simsboro than this map does, it also revealed something else ---- that part of the reason the Simsboro would suffer less, is because separate formations of the aquifer, both above (Calvert Bluff, Carrizo and minor aquifers) and below (Hooper) the Simsboro, would be induced by heavy pumping in the Simsboro, to "leak" water into the Simsboro. Wells in other formations are therefore also at risk to heavy pumping in the Simsboro, including LCRA's permit.
Map of projected drawdowns in Simsboro aquifer formation over a 60-year horizon, solely from LCRA pumping in the new permit it seeks --- this map was prepared using the "old" groundwater availability model but it gives you an idea what's at stake.
The mission of the Simsboro Aquifer Water Defense Fund (SAWDF) is to take action to protect and conserve the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer in central Texas, as well as the rivers, streams and springs that are nurtured by it, and to defend the rights of those who live over the aquifer and who seek to leave a legacy of sustainable water resources for future Texans.
Issues and Goals
Veterans of several organized efforts to protect the central portion of the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer have determined our communities need an organization with substantial financial resources, ready to take legal and other actions to ensure the public right and our government’s duty to conserve and protect our aquifers in perpetuity, and to preserve landowners’ access to their own groundwater.
A non-profit, 501(c)(3) organization, Simsboro Aquifer Water Defense Fund, was formed to provide a unified and well-funded response to the abuse of our region’s groundwater resources and landowner rights, and to assure that the constitutionally mandated balance between development and conservation of our natural resources is achieved.
Private water marketers discovered decades ago they could lure public officials into pursuing long-term contracts for expensive and massive water projects. They joined other for-profit interests to paint a picture of future water scarcity, with limited supply to satisfy unlimited demand.
The resulting gold rush mentality convinced the decision makers in cities along the IH-35 corridor that someone else’s water – the rich Simsboro formation of the central Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer, among others -- is critical to urban growth and prosperity, and must be rendered for the “greater good” of urban development.
Special interests on both ends of the proposed grid of pipelines (dubbed “Gridzilla” by the opposition) are focused on shaping Texas groundwater law and policy to fit the water marketer’s model. Those who stand to gain from huge infrastructure projects –the marketers, business interests, landmen, attorneys, hydrologists, investors, lenders, financial advisors and others--- compete with one another for profits, but work cooperatively to serve their model.
The marketers first rushed to obtain water rights from landowners, and huge export permits from local groundwater districts, whether or not there was any actual demand for the water. The absence of effective regulation leaves most landowners vulnerable to one-sided deals when they lease or sell their groundwater. Groundwater law and policy have been manipulated by friendly legislators and agencies, to allow permits that will result in mining the Simsboro – allowing withdrawals of water far beyond what this extremely slow recharge aquifer will ever replace.
Ultimately, these special interests are willing to put existing communities and ecosystems that depend on the Aquifer in peril, as well as threaten the Aquifer’s ability to sustain itself as a precious natural resource of our state. They manipulate the private ownership of groundwater to benefit only those who are willing to sell their water. And they count on the “rural donors” of the water they covet to be rendered helpless to do anything about their water grabs.
What has emerged is a strategy of acquiring “abundant new water” to facilitate what may be a megalopolis --one continuous city--- from Williamson County to Bexar County. The mayors of San Antonio (Ivy Taylor) and Austin (Steve Adler) even met regularly to that end for a period of time; it is not known whether Mayor Adler and current San Antonio Mayor Ron Nierenberg have continued to meet. [Update: In 2017, Mayor Ivy Taylor was defeated in San Antonio by Ron Nierenberg, a former City Council person who seemed to show interest in further review of water projects, like the SAWS/Vista Ridge 142-mile pipeline from the Simsboro Aquifer in Burleson County to San Antonio, to assure, among other things, that donor communities of the water are not put at risk. Alas, the Mayor has continued to accommodate the Vista Ridge project. Organized opposition to the Vista Ridge Project in San Antonio has been growing, and is becoming a central issue in the May 2019 mayoral election. Austin, on the other hand, heard --- and adopted a future water plan based on ---recommendations from its Water Task Force that the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer not be targeted for a future supply of groundwater for Austin.]
Instead of raiding their neighbors, risking aquifers and ecosystems, and stressing their constituents with unaffordable water supplies, cities should be looking for alternatives to manage their demand and should quit viewing water as a commodity, to be used up like oil and gas. [Go here to read the draft legislation --- the "Sustainable Groundwater Development Act" that SAWDF and the League of Independent Voters joined forces to promote during the 2019 legislative session --- we were not successful in finding a bill sponsor.]
Rural Texas must be healthy in order to contribute to the welfare of all Texans through agricultural, livestock, industrial, recreational and other pursuits that make Texas unique and prosperous. When Texans unite to protect and conserve our water resources, we are acting not only to preserve the rural way of life in Texas but also to enhance the ability of our entire state to sustain itself indefinitely.
Past civilizations have ceased to exist when they ignored threats to the sustainability of water as their most essential natural resource.
The Simsboro Aquifer primarily lies under three groundwater conservation districts: Lost Pines GCD (Lee and Bastrop counties), Post Oak Savannah GCD (Milam and Burleson counties), and Brazos Valley GCD (Robertson and Brazos counties). SAWDF is positioning to respond to massive water export projects that threaten not only the long-term health of the prolific Simsboro aquifer but also the other formations of the Wilcox Group (Calvert Bluff and Hooper), as well as the Carrizo Aquifer and surface waters (rivers, streams and springs) that depend on groundwater for their flows.
Map shows central portion of Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer; Source: Texas Water Development Board
SAWDF educates, advocates for and supports central Texas farmers, ranchers, landowners and citizens whose livelihoods depend on the Simsboro and the rivers, streams and springs it feeds. We conduct direct educational outreach through sponsored civic activities, printed and online materials, and collaboration with existing local organizations who have been conducting such outreach in an effort to broaden awareness of groundwater-related issues, both locally and regionally.
SAWDF’s assistance includes engaging with communities and their citizens in formal efforts to deliver healthy aquifers to future generations. We interact with groundwater conservation districts, regional groundwater managers, state planning agencies, and legislative and governmental bodies.
SAWDF is involved in groundwater-related public policy issues for the benefit of local citizens, economies and ecosystems. Because landowners are typically the class of citizenship necessary to establish standing to challenge groundwater legal issues, SAWDF directly assists landowners who participate in civil or administrative proceedings involving important legal precedents, to defend their due process rights and their legal property rights to groundwater that in turn affect the sustainability of aquifers and community rights.
Our overarching concerns are to:
Ensure the water resources of the region – aquifers, rivers, tributaries and springs – are conserved and protected in perpetuity by achieving a true balance between the duty to conserve water resources (both groundwater and surface waters) and the desire to develop such resource.
A “true” balance is one that balances, on the basis of the best science available, the amount of withdrawal from the aquifer that will maintain it as a sustainable resource, without unreasonable negative impacts, rather than simply claiming the “conservation” side of the equation is met when “development” (permitted withdrawals) matches projected demand. See SAWDF July 2016 written comments to Lost Pines GCD in our News Section.
Ensure communities in the region that depend on the central Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer are educated about the risks to their own economies and ecosystems, as well as to future generations. of allowing over-production and depletion of the Aquifer.
Ensure local economies and ecosystems are protected in the groundwater permitting process.
Ensure landowner participation and protection in the groundwater permitting process and in other actions that threaten to drain groundwater from aquifers in which they have ownership. (Under state law, landowners own groundwater in place beneath their property whether or not they have active wells; consequently, landowners who have no well or have a well in a formation of the aquifer that is different than the formation in which a permit is sought should nevertheless have the potential status of an "affected person", qualified to challenge such permit).
Ensure rights of all landowners are protected in the permitting process, when water marketers sever landowners’ groundwater ownership by leasing or purchasing groundwater rights to support massive projects.
Raise substantial funds to assist community outreach, education and public policy advocacy, as well as ongoing landowner actions in the public interest, and anticipated future actions, in order to mount a sustainable effort to accomplish the above goals.
SAWDF's application for tax-exempt status was approved by the Internal Revenue Service, effective June 17, 2016 and making donations to SAWDF tax-deductible. As a part of its activities, SAWDF attempts to influence public policy and legislation to the extent permitted by Section 501(h) of the Internal Revenue Code, however, it does not participate in any political campaign on behalf of, or in opposition to, any candidate for public office.
SAWDF was not established to be a public interest law firm, and will not provide or employ staff attorneys to provide or accept compensation for, legal advice or legal services to any individual or any other organization.
Why donate to SAWDF? A message from our Board ---
Dear Friends of SAWDF:
We have experienced some monumental turns in the “water wars” in the last few years. Every mega-project to export our water elsewhere, strengthens the resolve we had in founding this organization. Every mega-project is an opportunity for rural communities to be heard when they say "enough is enough".
The truth is, there are organizations in Central Texas whose work involves preserving our water resources and whose leaders and supporters came to realize that education and advocacy (locally, in the courts and at the Legislature) are important --- and SAWDF lends its voice.
We also realize we need resources. We must take action to prevent the mining of our groundwater to depletion, and instead ensure the sustainability of our aquifers. Texas law says landowners own their groundwater under their land as a property right --- we must protect landowner's property rights, as the vehicle for empowering us all to steward our groundwater.
The battle has moved into the courts with the End Op permit; End Op is currently on appeal in the Austin Court of Appeals because all landowners won an important battle in Bastrop State District Court, thanks to the efforts of three landowners who stood up for their rights. Now we must build on that result with the LCRA contested case.
The continuing battle is also in the Texas Legislature, where growth and development "special interests" override conservation of natural resources, namely our groundwater! They know how valuable groundwater is, and they will fight for their right to suck it out from under us!
We must advocate changes in groundwater policy to protect aquifers, rural communities and private property rights. We must avoid an erosion of the people’s voice.
We want a seat at the table when others try to appropriate our water!
All of this takes money, volunteers and hard work. We encourage you and your families to get involved and stay involved in these issues.
Please contribute financially, talk to your neighbors and contact us to lend a hand.
Thank you so much!
The SAWDF Board
Ernie Bogart, George Witta, Travis Brown,
Michele Gangnes, and Andrew Wier
Ernest F. Bogart
Principal, Owen & Bogart, Elgin, Texas.
Ernie has 45 years’ experience in business, personal and real estate law and litigation. He is a nationally recognized peer-reviewed attorney in the highest categories of legal ability and ethics, and is also a prominent community leader and volunteer. Ernie has served pro bono as counsel for landowners in administrative and judicial proceedings involving landowner water rights. Ernie and his spouse Barbara Bailey, a Bastrop County assistant district attorney, have lived on their property outside Elgin for over 30 years, and are well-known for their commitment to their community and to Bastrop County.
Michele G. Gangnes
Principal, Law Office of Michele G. Gangnes, Blue Community, Lee County TX
Michele has over 45 years’ experience in banking and public finance law, first as a partner in two Pacific Northwest law firms before returning to her native Texas in 1995 as a sole practitioner. Michele is nationally recognized as a peer-reviewed attorney in the highest categories of legal ability and ethics, and her legal opinions are accepted in the U.S. capital markets. She is also a veteran water and environmental volunteer activist in central Texas. Starting with the original attempted “water grab” by San Antonio and Alcoa in 1998, she has worked pro bono on water issues for Neighbors for Neighbors, the League of Independent Voters of Texas, and as a founding board member of SAWDF. She and her partner Bill Turner live with their cattle, donkeys, various fowl, miniature goats, cats and dogs in northwestern Lee County, where she pretends to be retired.
Travis and his spouse, Georgia, have lived in northwestern Lee County 23 years. He retired in 2018 from the Texas Department of Agriculture. An activist for environmental causes for more than 25 years, Travis helped organize central Texas grass-roots 501c3, Neighbors for Neighbors and serves as its president. He also headed up a citizens’ group in North Central Texas in the early 1990s that battled water pollution from industrial-sized dairies. Travis has worked as energy projects director for Public Citizen’s Texas office and as a paralegal for a public interest environmental law firm in Austin. Travis also formerly worked as a reporter for newspapers across Texas and in California.
Owner and Operator, Southwest Septic Loo, Elgin, Texas.
George and his spouse Jeri, also a valued SAWDF volunteer, are the proud parents of three adult daughters and have been ranching at the "Witta Wanch” in Bastrop County since 1980. George’s history of service to civic and church activities in the Elgin community is equaled only by his impressive professional history. In between serving as a Texas Army National Guard pilot and flight instructor, and training as an air traffic controller, George organized the first flight instructor union in the United States in 1969. He then went on to attend the George Meany School of Labor Relations in Washington D. C., before becoming highly qualified in an innovative septic and site preparation business in Elgin. George and Jeri helped lead Bastrop County’s opposition to the San Antonio-Alcoa water grab in the late 1990’s.
Community Relations & Media, TX Commission For Blind,
Texas Youth Commission and Texas School for the Blind and Visually Impaired
A native Texan, Andy’s ranching grandfather taught him that you cannot rule Mother Nature; you have to work with her. His family, wife Mary and two children, chose to move to Bastrop in 2004 to be closer to Mother Nature. They bought property from environmental advocate Carl Manz, who introduced them to regional water issues.
Andy and Mary, certified as Texas Master Naturalists, are members of the Alum Creek Wildlife Management Association, and have become active in water issues. Andy hopes his expertise will help SAWDF educate Texans so they can advocate for a sustainable groundwater policy & practice. Andy stood out as the lone landowner witness in the recent LCRA contested case hearing, delivering an eloquent and poignant appeal to LCRA to be the "good neighbor" that Andy and many others believe the water utility has heretofore been in our communities.
Andy retired from the Texas State School for the Blind in 2021, with everyone at SAWDF hoping he will continue his work for our communities as a "citizen scientist" and community advocate.
Andy was largely responsible, along with well owners in Lee County, for bringing the issue of well failures due to the Vista Ridge Project in another groundwater district to the attention of the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District. Andy's technical arguments, matched only by his impassioned presentations to local officials, convinced the Lost Pines District to address mitigation for affected well owners.
SAWDF is governed by its Board of Directors. Its volunteer Board, non-voting advisors and fundraising committee will be drawn as much as possible from members of the various rural communities served by SAWDF. The proximity of those communities to population centers produces a rich and diverse pool of ranchers, farmers, professionals, urban commuters, students, retirees and local business persons willing to serve their neighbors. All volunteers are welcome.
SAWDF’s funders are expected to be geographically diverse, because SAWDF’s concerns are state-wide issues and Texas water policy is at a critical stage. We will seek a wide variety of grants, donations and other available sources of funding for this most important endeavor.
Because of their own experience of working to limit production in the Edwards and Trinity aquifers, many citizens and organizations along the IH-35 growth corridor understand the threat of a depleted or spoiled Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer to the security of our rural communities. They recognize that the three aquifers, though significantly different in their composition and characteristics, have the same right to be protected and conserved. They are also concerned about urban sprawl and environmental damage to their own ecosystems that will result from the false promise of developers and municipalities that the Simsboro provides a virtually endless supply of water.
Citizens with prior involvement in state-wide, community and grass-roots efforts to protect groundwater have come forward to support SAWDF. The Board’s advisors – currently being constituted -- will also include outside experts, attorneys, hydrologists, 501c3 organizations, and other professionals and community leaders as needed.
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