P.O. Box 931
Lee and Bastrop County Well Owners vs. LostPines Groundwater Conservation District’s Proposed “Desired Future Conditions”(“DFCs”) for Our Counties
May 26, 2021
**This is a cautionary tale based on what’shappening today with Lee County Wells**
Whatare “Desired Future Conditions” and why should I care about them?
o I am a landowner
o I have a well for my family and livestock
o I am a citizen of a rural county, town or city
o I am a county, town or city
o I am a river, spring or stream
· First, why wecare about DFC: Groundwater (fromunderground aquifers) is Lee and Bastrop counties’ primary water supply.
· Our groundwaterrepresents our – and our future generations’--- ability to survive and thrive.We need our aquifers to be “sustainable”, not “mined to depletion”. (Think,Ogallala Aquifer in Texas… managed (mined) to depletion.)
· Texas landowners own the water beneath their land. They have a vested interest in being able toconserve or produce their water, but no interest in“losing” it!
· If you are a landowner with a well, or a community that depends on groundwater, you careabout the DFCs because you want your well(s) to be “resilient” ---able to adapt o changes in water levels in the aquifer – so that you can access the quantity and quality of water you need, when you need it.
· We also care about our rivers, streams and springs, because they in turn depend on groundwater for their resilience in times of drought and as a major contributor to their flows.
· We care about the DFCs because they represent what we want each formation of our aquifers to “look like” over time, in rolling 50-year intervals,with new, updated DFCs being set every 5 years.
· Lost Pines is one of five GCDs in Groundwater Management Area 12 (GMA-12) who meet every five years to set their individual “desired future conditions” for the next 50 years in each formation of the aquifers under their district.
· In GMA-12, “desired future conditions” are expressed in terms of how much average drawdown of water levels in each aquifer formation, on a county-wide and district-wide basis, a member district will tolerate before steps are taken to avoid deeper drawdowns.
· We care about the DFCs that are set each 5 years because they represent what we want each formation of our aquifers to “look like” over time, in rolling 50-year intervals.
· DFC’s "must provide 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.” Ch. 36, Texas Water Code
· To achieve that balance, groundwater districts are instructed to weigh nine factors, including impacts of the DFCs on aquifer conditions; State Water Plan needs, management strategies and approved projects; water budgets and sustainability; the environment including surface water impacts, private property rights and socio-economic impacts; feasibility of whether DFCs can be “achieved”, and other issues.
· Use of the word“achieved” is problematic --- as a matter of good aquifer management, don’t we want to keep drawdowns to a minimum and therefore set DFCs to keep that balance between conservation and development?
· But water marketers will argue that “achieve” means just that – we need to allow big pumpers to produce their maximums and set the DFCs (drawdowns) to accommodate them, in order to “achieve” those DFCs.
· In April 2021, the groundwater districts in GMA-12 proposed new DFCs.
· The proposed DFCs accommodate maximum pumping for big permits, but fail to protect household and domestic wells, and the Colorado River system. In fact, the proposed DFC almost double the drawdowns allowed by the existing DFCs.
· We care about the DFCs because they represent what we want each formation of our aquifers to“look like” over time, in rolling 50-year intervals, and we care about whathappens to us and our communities in the meantime!
· Final DFC must be adopted by January 5, 2022, by each district in GMA-12, after a minimum public comment period of 90 days and public hearings.
· The public must get involved to induce Lost Pines and the other districts to reject the proposed DFCs and do the work it takes to do it right!
How did “this”happen?
· “This” is a setof DFCs that completely ignore the other eight factors the Water Code says districts must “consider” in order to balance the impacts on the nine factors --- not just cater to one interest at the expense of all others.
· The GroundwaterAvailability Model (GAM) is a computer model that districts use to predict drawdowns based on various levels ofpumping in the district.
· The GAM is designed to ‘evaluate’ proposed DFCs and proposed permits; it is useful in weighing relative impacts when the nine factors are weighed. ·
Instead, LPGCD used the GAM to first project the drawdowns through 2070 if all big pumpers were allowed to pump their maximum permitted amounts, no matter the impacts on any of the other interests or “factors”.
· That one computer run, Pumping Scenario 12 (“PS12”) produced drawdowns that would almost double the existing DFCs if they became the DFCs. And that is exactly what happened!
· The big permit drawdowns became the DFC, without any further attempt to achieve the required balance of impacts, with lesser drawdowns that might trigger aquifer protection sooner.
· Essentially, the districts are saying DEMAND = DFC, forget the impacts! Just give the exporters what they want so they won’t sue us.
· There is in fact substantial evidence that Vista Ridge threatened to sue the member districts of GMA-12 if the districts did not agree to including drawdowns from full pumping under the Vista Ridge permit in the permitted drawdowns in the DFC, setting a dangerous precedent. We expect the districts to deny these threats influenced their decision on the proposed DFCs.
· Thus, the GAM was used to calculate the DFCs rather than simply helping to evaluate the impactsof various pumping scenarios on the nine factors, and to assist the districts in applying their own judgment to balancing those impacts.
· The GAM is a very useful planning tool, but this is not an appropriate use of ‘best available science’ that the Water Code requires.
· What this means is that already permitted or yet to be permitted mega-projects will be able to pump to the limits of their permits, while household and domestic wells --- and our rivers, streams and springs----will suffer serious impacts from lowered water levels. For example, the Vista Ridge project will pump 16 billion gallons per year through at least 2070. If adopted, the proposed DFCs will set a dangerous precedent for future DFCs.
Using average drawdowns to express the DFCs is misleading
· One reason the true impacts of these proposed DFCs are not glaringly obvious is that DFCs are expressed as the average drawdowns in each formation of the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer, on a county-wide and district-wide basis.
· Averages are very misleading because of many factors, such as the fact some aquifer formations are not even present in some parts of the district. This distorts the averages.
· Most importantly, they obscure the much greater drawdowns that water levels and wells nearest the big pumper suffer.
· What follows demonstrates graphically what the proposed DFC averages fail to disclose, and how serious the problem is.
· Shown below are the projected, tolerable drawdowns (according to GMA-12) in the aquifers if the proposed DFCs are adopted (PS 12), but the graphics after that show reality --- and what actions LPGCD should take to help us all.
· The above dots pinpoint what SAWDF believes are Lee County wells in the Carrizo aquifer. The map depicts computer-projected drawdown levels radiating out from the centercircle around the Vista Ridge well field, just across the Yegua Creek. The creek is the Lee-Burleson county line. The drawdown band nearest Vista Ridge is 300 feet, the outermost circle is 25 feet of drawdown over the next five decades.
· This work was done by SAWDF --- Lost Pines should be doing this and we believe they have made a good start on a mapping effort. What we want is for you to be able say “that’s my well” on a map that tells you what to expect.
· Here’s what elsethe district needs to do:
Also, the WaterCode requires districts to write an Explanatory Report on their adopted DFCs,and to make any necessary amendments to their Management Plans. We believe LostPines GCD must:
· Clearly state in the Explanatory Report what the LPGCD considers to be reasonable/unreasonableimpacts on domestic and livestock wells and how, under the proposed DFCs, the District demonstrates protection of property rights and mitigates damage to landownerwells, as well as how they are protecting the aquifer’s sustainability.
· Provide an accounting in the Explanatory Report of the total loss in appraised value, by county, for all properties that will lose groundwater due to permitted pumping, and why the District considers this reasonable and not a ‘taking’ of private property (groundwater) without adequate compensation.
· Include in its Management Plan, on-going assessment of impacts on exempt (domestic andlivestock) wells:
o Measured waterlevels
o Mitigation, if any
o Socio-economicimpact on property values and business operations; i.e. livestock, farming
The Lost Pines District, in future, should:
· Develop a new methodology for proposed DFCs
· Evaluate and incorporate ‘sustainable’ groundwater production for each aquifer/formation.
· Consult agricultural extension agents, county appraisal districts, Chambers of Commerce, Economic Development corps, City Managers, etc. for impacts in the District. Due to major population shifts from urban/suburban to rural communities due to affordability issues and post-COVID conditions, it isimperative that these interactions occur!
· Use the GAM to evaluate impact of proposed DFCs, not to set the DFCs.
WHAT CAN YOU DO?
· ASK YOURSELF:
o Do YOU want to make sure water comes out of your tap?
o Do YOU want to make sure your household and your livestock don’t go thirsty?
o Do YOU want your rivers, streams and springs to have a chance of survival so your grandkids can enjoy them?
o Do YOU want to leave a legacy of aquifers that last forever to your future generations?---
· Lee County exempt wells, today, and all Lost Pines wells in future, as well as landowner propertyrights in their groundwater, require the public to:
o Be Informed! and Get Involved! with Simsboro Aquifer Water Defense Fund to carry out this fight during the public comment period.
· Sign up on thewebsites of the three organizations who are in a coalition to fight this fight, so we can help you make your voice heard during the public comment period this summer.
· DONATE to your choice of the three, or all three, organizations: SAWDF (501c3), Environmental Stewardship (501c3), or the League of Independent Voters of Texas (501c4).
· These three organizations are are all in this fight to protect our aquifers, our river systems, and, frankly, our way of life.
We all thank you for your generous support!
The volunteer Board of Directors of the Simsboro Aquifer
Water Defense Fund
Ernest Bogart, Esq. (Elgin)
Travis Brown (Blue)
Andrew Wier (Bastrop) (512.426.5002 V/T)
George Witta (Elgin)
Michele Gangnes, Esq. (Blue) (512.461.3179 V/T)