SAWDF email excerpts to northeastern Lee County landowners --- has your well gone dry?
Even if your well hasn't been affected, please read our INFO SHEET and fill out and return our WELL SURVEY to firstname.lastname@example.org.
In fact, ALL well owners who haven't already done so, are very welcome to fill out our WELL SURVEY --- we would appreciate the information from Lee and Bastrop countians, and as soon as possible! Email us at above address if you need copies in different format.
Email Excerpts - December 13, 2020
Good day, Friends,
This email comes to you from Michele Gangnes, on behalf of the Simsboro Aquifer Water Defense Fund (SAWDF), a local 501c3 that works for a sustainable water supply through protection of our aquifers and protection of the property rights of those who wish to conserve their groundwater for the benefit of future generations.
Each of you has been a primary contact for us re recent water well issues, although we hope to have a meeting next week with a prominent Lee County well driller, to get more data.
Please refer to the attached document "Info Sheet" to provide background information and to give tentative answers to the question, What is causing problems with Lee County Wells?
The remainder of this email will focus on actions we encourage well owners experiencing problems with their wells to take. WE HAVE ATTACHED A "WELL OWNER SURVEY" TO MAKE IT EASY FOR LANDOWNERS TO GIVE US INFORMATION, IF THEY WOULD BE SO KIND.
But there is one important point to highlight.
Our objective is to deliver this message to our groundwater district --- can anyone reading this email help us do it in your own words? We think it important for the Board of the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District to hear that you want action from them -- that you want them to be proactive in future, for the benefit of local landowners. Read on to find out how to talk to them.
Landowners with wells want and deserve to have *their* groundwater district reach out to them with "straight talk" and information they need to know. What could be more important than for the district to tell them if pumping inside or outside the district, wherever it may be, is projected or expected to impact local domestic and livestock wells upon which families depend?
If the district has information that could at least allow well owners to make informed decisions when their wells go dry ---- for example, how far should they try to lower their pumps to avoid having to just pay to do it all over again in months or years --- why hasn't Lost Pines let people know these things before they are faced with an expensive emergency and don't have the facts they need? Why doesn't the district try to educate us, even if they say there's nothing they can do about the damage?
Having to repair your well, and perhaps even lose your well, within a few months of Vista Ridge starting to pump full bore on a 30-year contract tells us no official agency has been proactive enough, so far, in anticipating what can happen. This needs to be corrected!
Tell them you want to hear from them regularly, with meaningful public outreach and education! And then tell them you want them to "go slow" in their own permitting like we have always asked them to do --- what some well owners are experiencing makes the best case for slowing down and making sure the right decisions are being made.
The first action we ask ... is to share this email with your neighbors so they and you can take these actions:
- We hope you will all share a copy of this email with any neighbors you think are interested. We are soliciting any info about them on the attached "Well Owner Survey" that your neighbors hopefully will share with SAWDF [for more info on SAWDF, our website can be found at https://www.simsborowaterdefensefund.org].
- They can email info email@example.com or call Michele Gangnes for more information (leave VM) 512.461.3179.
- We will use their personal information to keep them informed of any future developments we become aware of.
- Anyone who shares info on the Well Owner Survey should know that when we send group emails, we blind copy our mailing list so as not to share names or email addresses.
- However, we do need names and addresses, as inputs to attach to well data, in order to assist calculations about wells and verify accuracy. We may also need to share data with the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District for similar reasons. Anyone can tell us to stop sending them information anytime they choose.
- If you receive this email and you know other well owners who have well issues, feel free to share this email with them and ask them to fill out a survey and get in touch with us.
What is causing problems with Lee County Wells?... see attached "Info Sheet" for what we believe has led up to problems with some Lee County wells.
The second action we hope you and your neighbors take is to go ---virtually --- to the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District board meeting on December 16.
[Agenda and instructions for joining the meeting (p.3), are attached to this email.]
- Attend and participate in the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District (Lost Pines) board meeting Wednesday, December 16, at 7 p.m. via a virtual ZOOM meeting. Participation by phone instead is also possible --- I have poor internet service and can only listen by phone. The agenda is attached in Word, so the links for participation on page 3 should work. This is a summary:
- Public comment on any specific agenda item is usually taken during the meeting, just before the item is discussed, but you may comment on any subject not on the agenda as well, at the top of the meeting ---- if you speak on a non-agenda item, the board can't discuss it with you, so we suggest you ask to speak on AGENDA ITEM 9, concerning the district's possible action of forming a "well networking committee" --- your comments are certainly germane to that topic.
- All public comment is typically limited to 3 minutes per person (per family) --- we don't like it but we don't make the rules!
- SAWDF would like anyone whose well has been recently affected to make public comment Wednesday. If you are unable to attend or listen, or you just don't want to speak, you may send comments via email to the district (firstname.lastname@example.org) with a request they be copied to the full board.
- **Contact the District** at 512-360-5088 or email@example.com to register as a speaker during public comment or on any agenda item by noon on Wednesday, December 16th. Please indicate whether you would like to speak during public comment and/or a specific item on the agenda. Any person participating in the meeting must be recognized and identified by the presiding officer before they speak.
- We encourage all of you to speak from your heart about your concerns and feel free to give whatever personal experience with the well issues you are able to cram into three minutes! We don't need to coach you --- your story, with your own personal touches, are important to tell --- this board responds to hearing from constituents..
- Identify yourself at the top of your comments, say you own a well and tell them whether or not your well is registered with Lost Pines. (** We encourage all well owners to register with the district --- it's the only way to get them to pay attention to you. You are already registered if your well was drilled 2001 or later; otherwise, contact the district and they will help you get registered --- your data is very important to collect. You can mention in your comments that you want to get registered.)
- If the district asks you, in the future, to become a monitoring well for pumping impacts, it will be at their expense and we hope you will volunteer your well --- again, your data can be critical to how well the district responds to these critical times.
When I say "we" in this email, I mean SAWDF and its board of directors, including myself. The founders of SAWDF were involved in defeating the Alcoa water deal with the San Antonio Water System in the early 2000's and in helping get our groundwater district approved by the residents of our two counties. Like everyone else who supported the district then and now, we expect them to work for us!
We are a qualified 501c3 charitable organization dedicated to aquifer protection, sustainable water supply, and protection of landowner rights in groundwater. We have helped litigate two formal protests of two mega-permits in Lost Pines, and we have fought the Vista Ridge project in Burleson County.
Frankly, the state of Texas has to quit ignoring landowners and move to recognition of what I describe as a right to a sustainable water supply (no *landowner*, including those who buy up water rights for their own profit should be entitled to more than a sustainable water supply) --- they should not be able to "mine" our aquifers beyond the aquifer's ability to restore itself, if we are going to have any chance of preserving a water supply for future generations.
We have been in contact with a board member of the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District in an attempt to get Andy Wier on the agenda Wednesday to present his findings. He was rebuffed --- I think you will realize when you read the agenda, all that will be discussed by the board Wednesday is Item 9 (maybe appointing a monitoring well committee). So I don't want to suggest that "we" or "you" or your neighbors have the support of your groundwater district *yet*. We wanted them to have been far more proactive and have a plan in place long before Vista Ridge started pumping in April, because we think the ill effects you are suffering --- this fiasco ----should have been predicted.
I would be happy for you to forward this email to anyone in your neighborhood affected by this situation, but I don't want misunderstandings as to the level of interest or even awareness of this issue by any official body.
We look forward to hearing from you,
The Board of Directors of the Simsboro Aquifer Water Defense Fund,
Ernie Bogart, George Witta, Travis Brown, Michele Gangnes, and Andrew Wier
PS Two mega-permits in the Lost Pines district are also on the agenda Wednesday night --- bottom line, these two permits have looming expiration dates but are asking for extensions on their permits, even though they have found no customers for their 74,500 acre-feet of water for years --- tell the district now's the time for the district to go slowly and cautiously, not cater to the water marketers!
Well Owner Survey
WELL OWNER SURVEY
Simsboro Aquifer Water Defense Fund
December 12, 2020
(Attach additional sheets as needed -- more information is good information!)
Telephone No. (voice? text?)
Best time to call:
Prop. ID # at Lee Co Appraisal District, if you know it, for each property with well:
Date you filed Form 300 with the District to register your well? Do you have a copy or give registration number?
What formation(s) of the aquifer is your well in, if you know?
Do you know who drilled your well?
How deep is it drilled?
Depth your pump is set?
GPS COORDINATES of well(s)
Do you have a “pump saver” on your well (an automatic shut-off to prevent catastrophic loss of your well pump and casing)?
Have you ever had to lower your pump? Any other catastrophic loss?
Are you willing to give us cost or estimate of cost?
Details of what steps you took to recover your well?
Have you reported anything to Lost Pines GCD?
Lost Pines response, if you care to share?
Other info we should have?
Attach additional sheet if necessary for any answers.
Do you depend on well for your residence?
Do you have alternate source of water if your well is compromised?
Other info we should have or other concerns you have --- property values, for example? We appreciate details!
Info Sheet re Wells and Vista Ridge
INFO SHEET FOR WELL OWNERS AFFECTED BY VISTA RIDGE PUMPING
December 13, 2020
You are probably familiar with the Vista Ridge project just over the Lee County line in Burleson County, which is permitted by the Post Oak Savannah Groundwater Conservation District (Milam and Burleson counties) to produce up to 55, 842 acre-feet (almost 18.2 billion gallons) per year.
Lee County and Bastrop County are in the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District --- neither groundwater district currently has any authority or jurisdiction over what goes on in the other district, so we can only hope they will cooperate to address what is happening.
The Lost Pines GCD has permitted two mega-projects that total another 74,500 acre-feet a year of pumping, when and if they come online (Recharge Water, formerly End Op, and Forestar, and its expected successor to the permit, GateHouse Water LLC)--- both of those projects will also greatly affect northern Lee County especially, but the overall impacts of all of these projects will be felt over several counties, to varying degrees.
Contour maps needed, especially for Vista Ridge
It is our hope that Lost Pines will produce “contour maps” to show projected drawdown throughout the area as a public education/outreach effort. A Vista Ridge contour map should be produced right away.
"Vista Ridge" is a for-profit consortium that has a 30-year contract with the San Antonio Water System to deliver at least 50,000 acre-feet (16 billion gallons) of their permitted production to San Antonio, every year. The project began pumping at a reduced rate in April 2020 and then ramped up to full monthly production in Summer 2020, as far as we know.
Full production under a permit from almost day one is an aberration; most projects start up and then ramp up over time. This is why Vista Ridge is such a looming problem. The Lost Pines mega-permits are “laddered”, with three or four phases before permission for full production is essentially “earned” because data gathered by the district shows the project is meeting required benchmarks for impacts. No one knows how well that system will work either, because it’s untested.
Vista Ridge stopped pumping last week
Without any public discussion, the Post Oak GCD manager was heard to say Vista Ridge shut down production last Monday, due to a contract provision requiring shutdown one week per year. SAWDF is skeptical that’s the only reason, given numerous landowner well issues in both districts.
Vista Ridge pumping in two aquifers
VR is allowed to pump in two formations of the central portion of the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer that underlies central Texas counties, including Lee, Bastrop, Milam and Burleson --- VR is allowed to pump up to 15,000 acre-feet per year in the Carrizo aquifer and up to 40,842 acre-feet per year from the Simsboro formation of the Wilcox aquifer from an 18-well field in Burleson County, not far from the Yegua Creek county line with Lee. Some landowners in Lee County who are now affected by Vista Ridge had already unsuccessfully fought having the Vista Ridge pipeline cross their property on its way to San Antonio!
The Wilcox Aquifer group has three formations, including from top to bottom: the Calvert Bluff, the Simsboro and the Hooper. They lie just below the Carrizo Aquifer. The Simsboro formation is especially targeted by private water marketers for both its quantity and quality, but the Carrizo's water is also higher quality than the Calvert Bluff that separates the two from each other.
Those with what may be called the “sweet water” in either the Simsboro or Carrizo probably have to worry over time about Calvert Bluff encroachment into their water quality – we now know that heavy pumping in one formation can induce inflows to that formation from other formations above and below.
We are concerned the Simsboro and Carrizo will be "mined" to depletion --- that is, that the aquifer will not be able to replenish itself through “recharge” for water taken out through heavy pumping over years and years --- the Wilcox Aquifer especially is known to be a very slow recharge aquifer.
The interesting thing is that newer computer modeling used by both districts reveals there will be less drawdown, especially in the Simsboro, than predicted in the past. On its face, that’s a good thing --- until you realize the Simsboro is expected to be “fed” water from the Calvert Bluff above and the Hooper below, which explains the “less drawdown” projection.
Likely explanation for recent well impacts; one caveat
We suspect most if not all of the recent well impacts are due to Vista Ridge pumping pf the CARRIZO AQUIFER at a rate of up to 15,000 acre-feet (almost 5 billion gallons) per year. (We know from anecdotal reports that drilling for water in the Carrizo to serve oil and gas fracking wells in Burleson County had earlier contributed to some decline in Carrizo wells in Burleson.)
If you have a Carrizo well --- and we want to help determine that ---- you have probably suffered or will suffer sooner or later, impacts on your well of varying seriousness.
Andy Wier, SAWDF board member and our favorite computer geek teamed up with his equally brilliant son to try and determine the number of wells in Lee County and Bastrop County that have at least 40 feet of screen in the Carrizo.
They estimate those numbers as 258 total, 150 in Lee and 108 in Bastrop. Andy cautions that not all the serious impacts we are hearing about can be explained by the data he has accessed --- we hope to learn more about the “shallow” Carrizo area, for example, around Lee County Roads 411 and 415 that are 10 or more miles from Vista Ridge’s wellfield. There could be different or additional explanations for their serious impacts.
(Andy is a party landowner to the ongoing contested case against the pending Lower Colorado River Authority application to pump 25,000 acre-feet [8 billion gallons] per year in Bastrop County. He was the leading spokesperson for over 100 landowners who protested that permit, and he is, in SAWDF's estimation, the future of energetic, informed, committed *young* people who can change Texas water policy.
Since heavy pumping in one aquifer or aquifer formation can affect other formations above and below the formation being pumped, we need to hear from you whether or not you know which formation your well is in.
In fact we would like to hear from as many well owners in northeastern Lee County, whether or not you are experiencing impacts --- please submit our Well Survey which is attached to a broadcast email or which is available on our website. Just go to https://simsborowaterdefensefund.org/home
We are also talking to long-time Lee County well driller, Mr. Wayne Iselt, about his data.
“Why does pumping in another county affect my well?”
The reason you are being affected by pumping in another county is that the aquifer does not observe political boundaries ---the Carrizo-Wilcox "dips down" toward the Texas coast from a shallow, "unconfined" area (the "outcrop" or "recharge area" [where rainwater can infiltrate the aquifer]) to deeper and deeper underground “confined” areas of the aquifer, which is under pressure from above and below:
A confined aquifer is an aquifer below the land surface that is saturated with water. Layers of impermeable material are both above and below the aquifer, causing it to be under pressure so that when the aquifer is penetrated by a well, the water will rise above the top of the aquifer.
Vista Ridge is pumping in the deeper portion of the Carrizo, while northern Lee County is in the more shallow parts of the aquifer ---our working hypothesis is that their pumping is inducing water to flow away from your well, so you are essentially being drained by their pumping.
Rivers, streams and springs impacted too
Even before your wells are affected, water that would ordinarily feed our rivers, streams and springs is instead sucked into the aquifer as a result of heavy pumping over time, reducing vital fresh water inflows to surface water ---- groundwater plays a big part in making our rivers and streams "gaining" streams, not "losing" streams. Vista Ridge impacts alone are projected to turn the Colorado River into a losing stream in later years.
Our colleagues at Bastrop-based Environmental Stewardship, a 501c3 that guards the Colorado River, are very interested in these effects on surface water, so SAWDF often teams up with them, with similar goals of maintaining both groundwater and surface water as sustainable natural resources, rather than resources that are depleted or even destroyed by being over-developed, past the point of recovery.
Environmental Stewardship is now directly engaged with us on the well impact issues, as is the League of Independent Voters of Texas, a Bastrop-based 501c4 organization that has always had protection of natural resources, especially Texas groundwater, as one of its core issues --- the League has been a formidable opponent of Vista Ridge, in particular, ever since the San Antonio project was announced in 2014.
SAWDF has deep roots in this region
SAWDF was founded by veterans of the Alcoa-San Antonio Water System water project that first threatened all our counties over 20 years ago. In 2005, the two parties abandoned that project, which the then President of Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District called “unsustainable” for our aquifers. That project was set to pump a minimum of 54,000 acre-feet per year; Alcoa’s water rights in Milam and Lee counties have been up for sale ever since.
On December 16, the Lost Pines district will consider appointing a well monitoring committee to begin addressing well impacts (we hope in a timely manner) and have included money in the district’s 2021 budget to equip landowner wells that volunteer to be monitor wells. We hope you will consider volunteering!