BASTROP AND LEE COUNTIES, TEXAS – More than 195 domestic and livestock wells that pump water from the Carrizo formation of the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer in Bastrop and Lee counties will run dry under newly proposed allowable drawdowns in the region.
At least 19 more of these wells in the Carrizo will need to be redrilled and their pumps lowered. Hundreds of domestic and livestock wells in other formations, such as the Calvert Bluff and Simsboro, will likely be impacted, too.
Those are projections by the Simsboro Aquifer Water Defense Fund (SAWDF), based in part on existing conditions in Burleson and northeastern Lee counties. Carrizo wells in that area already have already been compromised by pumping for the Vista Ridge project.
SAWDF director and Bastrop County landowner Andrew Wier has analyzed data on wells in Bastrop and Lee counties and how they might be impacted by large groundwater export projects, including Vista Ridge.
Massive pumping is also projected to decrease flows in the Colorado River, according to another group, Environmental Stewardship (ES).
Both SAWDF and ES have called on Groundwater Management Area 12 (GMA-12), which is charged with setting limits on allowable groundwater drawdowns in a region that includes Bastrop, Lee, Burleson and Milam counties, to factor in adverse impacts on domestic and livestock wells, and on both the Colorado and Brazos rivers when setting those limits.
GMA-12 members voted in March to approve a plan that increased the allowable drawdown in the Carrizo formation in Bastrop and Lee counties to 138 feet over the next 50 years. Similar increased drawdowns in other formations affected by large export permits also were approved.
SAWDF director and Lee County landowner Michele Gangnes said the increased drawdown numbers give mega-projects the green light to pump their maximums and drain even more domestic wells in the process.
“And as long as those drawdown numbers aren’t exceeded, groundwater districts cannot order those exporters to cut back on their pumping,” Gangnes said.
Both ES and SAWDF have asked GMA-12 members, and specifically the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District, to retain existing drawdown limits for another five years to allow new data on wells and surface water to be fully considered.
GMA-12 is scheduled to meet again on April 20 to further consider proposed revisions to allowable drawdowns.
The following day, April 21, the Lost Pines district, which includes Bastrop and Lee counties, is scheduled to meet and discuss the drawdown numbers set by GMA-12.
In December, Environmental Stewardship presented data to GMA-12 that showed current allowable drawdowns will result in less groundwater flowing into the Colorado River.
The Texas Water Development Board estimates that up to 30 percent of the water in the state’s rivers comes from intersecting aquifers, said Steve Box, executive director of ES.
“During the recent drought of record, almost all of the water in the Colorado flowing through Bastrop and Fayette counties was contributed by the aquifers,” Box said. “Current allowable drawdowns by GMA-12 will turn the Colorado from a ‘gaining’ to a ‘losing’ river.”
In March, SAWDF asked GMA-12 and the Lost Pines district for maps showing the projected drawdowns for the next 50 years. Wier said the group will submit public information requests if that drawdown data is not provided.
“Landowners should have the right to know how much of their groundwater will be drained and where it is going,” Wier said.
Weir said landowners must be able to plan for the increased cost of pumping groundwater, or for the possible loss of water altogether for their houses and livestock.
Well data collected by Wier for SAWDF also showed that land served by the endangered Carrizo wells in the Lost Pines district may represent at least $110 million in county property appraisals.
Landowners in northeastern Lee County recently began reporting well failures only months after the Vista Ridge project began pumping from the Carrizo and Simsboro formations and exporting that water via a pipeline to San Antonio.
At the same time, the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District, which covers Lee and Bastrop counties, is considering granting another permit for extensive pumping and export of Simsboro groundwater.
The permit request pending before the LPGCD is from the Lower Colorado River Authority, which seeks to pump and export up to eight billion gallons annually from eight wells it plans to drill in northeastern Bastrop County, near Paige.
SAWDF was formed in 2016 by veterans of several local groups who have battled to protect Texas aquifers for two decades.
For more on the April 20 GMA-12 meeting, go to: GMA 12 Agendas & Minutes – POSGCD. For more information on public input on this issue, go to