Reply: LCRA's Half-Truths and Misrepresentations
Excerpts from Commentary Submitted to Austin American-Statesman
The LCRA editorial presents several half-truths and misrepresentations as fact. Here's what we think:
- He asserts modeling by the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District shows the aquifer can supply the 25,000 acre-feet of water per year (AFY) LCRA wants to pump in Bastrop County “without harming the aquifer”.
- In fact, the application of the state-approved Groundwater Availability Model shows radical drawdowns in all layers of the Carrizo-Wilcox as well as reduced flow in the Colorado River. Certainly, this is harm, especially when the cumulative harm from other intensive pumping permits in the Simsboro, totaling at least 230,000 AFY in Lee, Bastrop and surrounding counties, is considered.
- Wilson skirts the fact that LCRA's wells would specifically tap the slow-recharge Simsboro formation, which lies almost entirely between the Brazos and Colorado Rivers and holds the best, purest water in the Carrizo-Wilcox. It is also highly sensitive to the intense pumping proposed by LCRA and others.
- He portrays LCRA's pumping under its water rights to the Ranch as benign and constructive: a win-win-win for all concerned. This is not so.
- Mr. Wilson’s editorial perpetuates a common fiction used by large pumpers: that the different layers within the Carrizo-Wilcox are sealed off from each other and that pumping deeper layers of the aquifer will not affect wells in shallower layers. This is simply not so, as collected data and completed studies indicate. Such pumping would gradually deplete the groundwater under Bastrop and surrounding counties.
- Much of the water would come from beneath other owners' properties. The closer to the Ranch such properties are, the more they would be affected. Most of these domestic and livestock wells are much shallower than LCRA's and more in danger of going dry when water levels fall. Put simply, LCRA would take water (rights) away from area landowners for its own purposes.
- Mr. Wilson exploits LCRA’s stewardship of the Colorado River to justify depleting our aquifers, ignoring the effects of over-pumping the Simsboro on the river, its tributaries, and its terminus, Matagorda Bay.
- Presently, water flows from the Simsboro into the river as it passes over the aquifer in Bastrop County. A study by an expert hydrologist using the state-approved computer model indicates that over-pumping of groundwater will cause less water to enter the river, reducing its flows, especially in dry times. Plant and animal life in the river and bay depend on this water for survival, especially during drought conditions, such as now.
- If the Carrizo-Wilcox is over-pumped, a time will come when it contributes no water to the river, and water from the river will begin flowing into the aquifer. This is exploitation, not stewardship.
- Just as LCRA’s Commentary mischaracterizes the effects of over-pumping on our aquifers and the Colorado River, it also fails to consider the effect of over-pumping on Bastrop’s unique ecosystem that includes the Bastrop Lost Pines: its proposed wells are located in the very heart of this ecosystem.
- The sub-soil moisture the Pines depend on will be diminished by intense pumping. No one knows how much more, if at all, this forest can adapt to increasingly arid conditions.
From its inception, LCRA has done much good within its service area and is a major employer in Bastrop County. Its well-trained employees do effective and exemplary work. Its incursions into aquifer pumping are a mistake and are neither needed nor welcome in Bastrop County.
To steward resources as it claims to do, LCRA must engage in responsible management that protects our land and forests, our aquifers, the river/bay system, and the property (water) rights of all landowners. It must fully assess impacts of groundwater pumping on our resources and take the necessary steps to ensure their sustainability in perpetuity.
The following organizations participated in replying to LCRA:
Simsboro Aquifer Water Defense Fund ~~ Friends of Bastrop Water
Environmental Stewardship ~~ Lost Pines Section Sierra Club