Buda shows support of groundwater regulation

By Andy Sevilla

In a nod of support to western Hays County residents concerned over unregulated commercial pumping of the Trinity Aquifer, Buda Council members unanimously approved a resolution supporting groundwater protection. 

Buda’s support, however, comes with a few self-serving injunctions.

The city “supports legislation that does not disproportionally and adversely affect municipal users,” the resolution unanimously approved Feb. 17 states in part.

Hays County’s unanimously approved resolution supporting groundwater protection states that the commissioners court “supports legislation to establish the proper local regulation of commercial and non-exempt groundwater production in aquifer areas currently outside of the respective groundwater conservation districts in Hays County.” 

Buda, however, is under contract with a commercial water supplier, which plans to pump 5.3 million gallons of water per day from the Trinity Aquifer in western Hays County. Council members had to be careful not to pass a resolution that frowned on that agreement.

“Because we have a contract with EP (Electro Purification), we had to make sure the wording of the resolution didn’t violate anything in our contract,” Buda Mayor Todd Ruge told the Hays Free Press.

During executive session, Buda council members hashed out the verbiage of a resolution, all the while not compromising the city’s attempt at obtaining 1 million gallons of water per day from EP, a Houston-based commercial water supplier.  The firm has contracts with Buda, Goforth Water Special Utility District and a private developer to supply a combined 5.3 million gallons of water per day from the Trinity. 

“We felt it was that we needed to do a resolution,” Ruge said. “And obviously we had to bracket it in a manner. But I think, the fact that we support legislation is really a fine line for us to walk.”

Council member Angela Kennedy, the lone official to vote against contracting with EP in January, said her support for the resolution comes out of a desire to regulate unregulated groundwater formations.

“There was a difference between our resolution and the one Hays County passed,” Kennedy said. “I am a firm believer in compromises and meeting everyone’s needs … my main goal was to support that white area where EP’s project is currently being implemented to be put under some sort of groundwater regulation.”

She said Buda’s legal counsel is very protective of the city’s interests and wanted to make sure the resolution made the point that Buda was going to protect those interests. 

“Obviously we had to be very careful,” Ruge said. “It was unanimous that we wanted to make some sort of a resolution. And when you actually read it, it’s actually very, very similar to the county’s (resolution) in wording and in sentiment, except for a few minor changes.”

State Rep. Jason Isaac (Dripping Springs) filed House Bill 1191, which would create a five-mile buffer zone of protection around priority groundwater management areas where an entity seeking to pump groundwater would have to get permitted by the Texas Water Development Board. 

Buda council member George Haehn, after receiving assurances from City Attorney Cynthia Trevino that Isaac’s HB 1191 would not be retroactive, said at the Feb. 17 meeting “the bills are just political cover for Jason Isaac.”

Isaac said at a Feb. 10 town hall meeting in Wimberley that he wasn’t sure if HB 1191 would help Hays County residents concerned over EP’s proposed pumping, but that bills he plans to file March 11 will.

Isaac has said he will push bills to extend the borders of the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BSEACD) and the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District (HTGCD). 

Kennedy said it’s in Buda’s best interest to have the unregulated groundwater regulated so water it is pumped in a sustainable way.

Several other entities in Hays County have passed a resolution supporting groundwater protection in the county, including Mountain City, Kyle, Dripping Springs, Woodcreek, BSEACD, and the San Marcos and Wimberley school districts, among others. 

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