Water’s not such a mystery anymore

When I bought property in Driftwood, TX, I knew that I would need to relearn a few things about living in the country.  I had been a “city girl” for many years but my roots are in small towns of far east Texas. Living in Austin, I was very aware of water.. water that I drank as well as the recreational waters that surround the hill country.  We’ve all experienced the TV daily monitoring of Lake Travis reflecting the effects of our severe droughts, but now I would have to understand the “mystery of groundwater”.  In fact, in the early 1900’s it was declared such a mystery that the legislature passed a “rule of capture” law.  That is, if you can figure out how to capture this mysterious asset then it’s yours.

Today we are so much more knowledgeable about what this mystery is. In fact we have spent years studying the aquifers which flow throughout the state and are fully aware that this water serves millions from a shared resource. Such a sacred resource that we now have in place several organizations to monitor and try to manage the aquifers and attempt to project groundwater availability for the generations of the future.  The Trinity Aquifer is a large area situated under multiple counties and unfortunately some of the Trinity Aquifer protection is sorely inadequate and unfunded to provide sustainable management for the current residents of portions of Hays County.  Where I live in the Rolling Oaks neighborhood of Driftwood, oversight, regulation and management do not exist at all and this “no man’s land” is exactly where large commercial wells are being drilled.  

Here is what I know.  

• This project will be pumping millions of gallons of water a day from the Trinity Aquifer.  

• This project includes the “eminent domain” acquisition of property for pipelines running from the well sites to the receiving cities near IH35, even if that route crosses privately owned property.

• Our neighbors who have leased the rights to this water company are being told that the water depleted by this pumping will in no way affect the surrounding private wells…. that in fact the portion of the Trinity they are pumping from is self contained and separate from all other “layers” of the Trinity.

• Experts, including geologists and hydrologists, do not endorse this idea and in fact many years of study of this area indicates that most layers of aquifers feed from top to bottom, west to east, as rainwater runoff flows across the contributing zone of the Edwards Aquifer, and through to the Trinity Aquifer.

• Drillers and water well providers who service this area are aware of the existence of huge cave formations under the land of the Rolling Oaks neighborhood which provide water flow conduits to the lower layers of the Trinity.  Those I have spoken to believe that all of the Trinity is connected and that pumping in the amounts suggested will mean devastation to area private wells and the loss of many landowners affordable access to water.

We are very concerned and frightened that lawmakers and water management organizations will be unable to respond effectively to this threat and that it will all be too little too late by the time our wells run dry and our land values have plummeted.  This area of the Trinity Aquifer must be brought under some oversight and until all the machinations to do so legally can be completed, it is our hope that a court injunction will be passed to halt the forward motion of this massive project.     

Most people in Central Texas know full well that water is a precious, but limited shared resource and it is the responsibility of each and every citizen to make sure that this resource is managed and protected for all.  Just because our water is under ground does not mean that it is any less precious or limited and it must be managed and protected just as carefully.  We are imploring people to reach out, become involved and help us right this wrong before irreparable damage is done.

Cathy Balch

Resident and Landowner 

Rolling Oaks Subdivision 

Driftwood,  TX

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