Production Limits Proposed for Lost Pines GCD
In Section 9, LPGCD establishes new “maximum allowable production” for each aquifer or formation that may be under your property. In addition, the new Rules require that an applicant for a new groundwater permit in LPGCD must obtain the groundwater rights to enough “contiguous” surface acreage to support the permitted production. While Post Oak Savannah GCD already has this type of permitting process, this is a new ballgame for landowners in LPGCD.
Value vs. $
By and large, if you identify with SAWDF's mission to protect aquifers and property rights in groundwater, you already know the "value" of groundwater to your livelihood and the legacy you want to leave to future generations.The district rule establishes the maximum amount of groundwater that may be “produced” from aquifers under your property. As with any commodity, when you put a number on it, some enterprising entity will also put a “$” on it.
Because new permits will require groundwater rights from contiguous acreage, permit applicants must obtain [ownership/lease] enough water rights to support their projects. The example given in Section 9 is a permit to produce 8,000 acre-feet per year from the Simsboro formation that requires water rights to 5,000 surface acres of land over the Simsboro formation.
It is a sure bet that water brokers will approach landowners in LPGCD to lease their water rights. Brokers will be dealing in “$” values. That may not be the same “value” a landowner assigns to groundwater.
SAWDF will organize workshops for landowners to explore the pros and cons of this new paradigm. Stay tuned!
LPGCD plans to refine the proposed "maximum allowable production" limits by convening a stakeholder group and doing further hydrological studies. The stakeholder group will hold meetings July-December 2023. If you'd like to participate in the stakeholder group, sign up for email alerts from LPGCD. Word has it, there will be an application process. SAWDF will be applying to participate.
After the close, on May 29, of the 88th Regular legislative session, the Governor has until June 18 [Father’s Day] to take action on bills sent to his office. The Governor may veto, sign, or let a bill become law without his signature. We have yet to hear word on SB 1080 (the Lost Pines mitigation bill).
Signed by the Governor:
· HB 3278 - Relating to the joint planning of desired future conditions in groundwater management areas.
· HB 2443 - Relating to the authority of certain persons to petition a groundwater conservation district to change certain rules.
· HB 1971 - Relating to the proceduresfor acting on a permit or permit amendment application by a groundwater conservation district and the disqualification of board members of groundwater conservation districts.
Filed without the Governor’s signature:
· HB 3059 - Relating to the export fee charged for the transfer of groundwater from a groundwater conservation district & use of fees for water well mitigation.
Mitigation Only Half the Battle
In May 2022, a handful of landowners from Lee and Bastrop counties testified at the interim hearing of the Senate Water, Agriculture, & Rural Affairs Committee. We returned in November with five times as many landowners. In 2023, your presence, your verbal & written testimony, and other forms of support moved Senator Lois Kolkhorst, Representative Stan Gerdes, and the Legislature to ultimately pass SB 1080 authorizing the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District [LPGCD] to establish a mitigation program to repair or replace failing domestic & livestock wells. Fantastic! [Remember, the Governor has until June 18 to act on SB1080]
SB 1080 requires LPGCD to establish Rules for the mitigation program. SAWDF encourages all landowners to participate in helping LPGCD establish appropriate Rules so that the mitigation program is fair, well-funded, and efficient. Anyone with a well in any aquifer formation will probably need mitigation in the future. Even if you do not have a well now, you or your heirs may need this program in the future.
Deal with the Devil
The LPGCD mitigation bill, and the state-wide mitigation bill HB 3059, passed with an important caveat. GCDs are authorized to provide mitigation only in the pursuit of “a balance between the highest practicable level of groundwater production and the conservation, preservation, protection, recharging, and prevention of waste of groundwater and control of subsidence in the management area.” [TWC Sec. 36.108]
How a GCD defines the term “highest practicable level ofgroundwater production" will determine how low water levels fall.
Sustainable Production = Highest Practicable Level of Groundwater Production
SAWDF believes “sustainable production” is the best way to protect groundwater rights and the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer. We need to start a steady drumbeat on "sustainable production." An excellent place to build our understanding of this subject is to read or re-read the publication by Dr. Robert Mace, titled Five Gallons in a Ten Gallon Hat: Groundwater Sustainability in Texas.
Let’s say “sustainable” means something we can do in perpetuity—for infinity. Mathematics tells us that a drop of water collected for infinity will always amount to more than collected for any lesser period. If we apply that concept to achieving the "highest practicable level of groundwater production," then sustainable production—groundwater we can produce in perpetuity—is technically the highest. [We might limit our math to 5 billion years from now, which is when scientists estimate our sun will explode and groundwater will not be an issue ;-)]
Sustainability has vast implications at all levels of the State Water Plan
We’ll explore sustainability and the pieces of the planning puzzle in future SAWDF Updates.
SAWDF executive director, Andy Wier, will be attending his second Texas Water Conservation Association [TWCA] Summer Conference, June
14-16. As a TWCA member, SAWDF interacts with water professionals from across
the state— GCDs, river authorities, water lawyers, water supply corps,
engineering firms, regulators, and other nonprofits like SAWDF.
The mission of TWCA is to educate members and policymakers, build consensus among water stakeholders, and advocate at the Legislature for solutions
to Texas water matters. TWCA has been a trusted resource for promoting sound
water policy. [For example, in this session, HB 5052, filed by Representative Gerdes regarding the consideration of domestic & livestock wells in permit decisions, was initially drafted by TWCA.]
Andy will also attend the Texas Alliance of Groundwater Districts [TAGD] Groundwater Summit at the end of August. Both conferences are
an opportunity for SAWDF to plant and nurture seeds that lead to the protection
of groundwater rights and the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer. These conferences are
costly, and your continued financial support of SAWDF allows us to be there.
Meetings of Interest
Post Oak Savannah GCD – June 13, 2023 [POSGCD Offices, Milano, TX]
Lost Pines GCD – June 21, 2023 [Giddings City Council Chambers; Giddings,TX]
Groundwater Management Area 12 – June 29, 2023 [POSGCD Offices, Milano, TX]
POSGCD Texas Groundwater Summit, August 17, 2023 [Caldwell Civic Center]