By Andy Sevilla
Hays County residents concerned that Buda’s future water supply plan may suck Trinity Aquifer wells dry are pummeling the city with criticism online and calling for its boycott.
On Jan. 20 the Buda council “reluctantly” reached a water agreement with Electro Purification (EP), a Houston-based private water supplier, for one million gallons of water per day from the Cow Creek Formation of the Trinity Aquifer in western Hays County.
City leaders sought the agreement as its current water supply may run short of demand as soon as 2017.
“It is just irresponsible of Buda to buy this water without first allowing the aquifer districts to collect and model their own data,” Willis Rothelle told the city on its Facebook page.
Before Buda’s council reached its 6-1 decision, countless residents, elected officials, and ground water conservation district representatives spent more than an hour during citizen comment imploring council members to delay the vote and allow water authorities to fully assess the impacts of the proposed drilling.
“Currently we have no site-specific data of this area, and we are concerned of the potential impact,” Barton Springs/ Edwards Aquifer Conservation District board member Mary Stone told the Buda council.
Ultimately Buda leaders voted to approve the contract; the following day the city issued a letter of empathy to residents, which said in part, “In realizing Buda’s water may run short in 2017, the City Council was placed in an unenviable position of securing a plausible water source while considering the effects to our neighbors in the county.”
It continued, “The City secured the needed water, but only on the condition that a water mitigation plan be put in place to support the long term well-being of wells in the area.”
EP also is proposing to supply the Goforth Water Supply Utility District and Clark Wilson, a developer proposing 2,220 high-end homes just outside of Mountain City, with 3.0 and 1.3 MGD (million gallons per day), respectively.
As of yet, there have been no calls to boycott Clark Wilson Homes.
EP’s well field is located in what’s called a “white zone.” It is located in the Edwards Aquifer Authority (EAA) jurisdiction, but that authority only regulates the Edwards Aquifer, and not the Trinity underneath it. The wells are just outside the jurisdiction of the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District (HTGCD).
As such, EP’s wells operate under Texas’s 1904 “rule of capture,” which allows limitless pumping of water with no regard to effects on neighbors.
Buda implemented a mitigation plan in its EP contract, though that obligation is still being hashed out.
According to a Jan. 20 presentation by Drew Hardin of Lockwood Andrews and Newman (LAN), Buda’s existing water supply is 2.0 MGD. Buda will need 5.6 MGD by 2060 to satisfy demand, creating a 3.6 MGD shortfall.
Buda is a member of the Hays Caldwell Public Utility Agency (HCPUA), which plans to provide the city with 3.6 MGD by 2027. HCPUA could provide the city with between 1.5 and 2.0 MGD by 2017, according to LAN.
Buda’s agreement with EP serves as a factor of safety, and will be a second source of water by 2017, the presentation states.
LAN also works for Goforth Water SUD, which has eminent domain authority, to secure right-of-way access to facilitate the building of a pipeline from EP’s well field near Wimberley to its facility in eastern Kyle. That pipe also will deliver water to Clark Wilson’s proposed development, Anthem.
The future HCPUA pipeline is proposed to run along FM1626 from Kyle to Buda. EP hopes to secure an agreement allowing them to use that portion of HCPUA pipeline and get its water to Buda.
HCPUA has not yet agreed to share the future pipeline, but Buda, as a member of the agency, could put pressure to secure an agreement.
Many critics of EP’s water supply plan call for legislative action to update the rule of capture.
Hays County commissioners unanimously voted last week to form a committee bringing all stakeholders to the table and discuss groundwater pumping.
Hays County asked State Representative Jason Isaac and State Senator Donna Campbell to sit on its recently formed committee. Representatives from the EAA, BSEACD, HTGCD, Mountain City, Buda, Goforth Water and EP were also offered a seat at the table.
A website devoted to providing information about the issue surfaced recently — http://www.saveourwells.com