By Kim Hilsenbeck
Should property owners in western Hays County with wells panic because a private company is planning large draws on the aquifer underneath their land?
Electro Purification (EP), a water company from Houston with planned wells between Wimberley and Driftwood, says the recent consternation over its plans to pump water out of the Middle Trinity Aquifer is unfounded.
The firm says there is plenty of water and presented a report with the data to back that assertion at a last minute press conference Monday in Buda.
EP officials and their hydrogeologist, flanked on either side by approximately 10-15 individuals, said they have data showing there is more water in the Trinity Aquifer than previously thought.
The officials spoke to a crowd of about a dozen members of the media in a conference room at the Comfort Suites hotel in Buda. The room was packed to near capacity with reporters and camera operators, as well as members of the families who are leasing their land to EP and other interested stakeholders.
Using a series of oversized maps and graphics, along with technical terms and some industry jargon, hydrogeologist Kaveh Khorzad of Wet Rock Groundwater Services in Austin, said, “There is more water in this area than people think … because they never put the groundwater model in this area. They never thought there was water in the Middle Trinity Aquifer.”
EP contracted with Khorzad’s firm to conduct research on its seven test wells near Wimberley and Driftwood and make determinations about the findings.
The big question: will there be a negative impact to other wells near the EP field?
Khorzad said part of his job was to determine the extent of drawdown to other Middle Trinity wells in the vicinity of the test field.
“The highest drawdown we experienced [during testing]was 25 feet,” he told reporters. “We had a number [of wells]with zero.”
Khorzad added that the issue is not just drawdown but how wells are connected underneath the ground.
Should local residents still be concerned about their wells going dry?
“If your well is in the upper Trinity, Edwards or Lower Trinity, you’re not connected [to the Middle Trinity],” he said. “If your well is in Middle Trinity, we’re trying to determine the extent to which wells are connected.”
When pressed by media, he conceded that most well owners within two miles of the EP well field would not see a significant impact on their well production.
According to Buda resident John Hatch, a spokesperson for EP, Khorzad is the immediate past president of the Texas Groundwater Association’s Groundwater Science Division.
“He’s the Bill Nye Science Guy for Texas groundwater,” Hatch said. “There is no more other preeminent hydrogeologist in this part of Texas.”
Tim Throckmorton, a partner in EP, said initial discussions with Buda and other entities to provide water began about five years ago. Khorzad has been working with EP on this project for nearly that long.
Is the aquifer data coming a little late in the game?
Khorzad doesn’t think so. He said it just takes this long to drill, test and analyze wells.
“You don’t know what you have … until you actually drill a well and test the well,” he said. “You can do modeling and look at other technical reports, but to know what you have, you have to drill a well. Actual data is better than modeled data.”
Khorzad said EP is also working with groundwater districts to develop a monitoring network surrounding the well field. Hatch said EP volunteered to set up the monitoring and is helping pay for the system.
How about future long-term modeling of the groundwater availability in the Middle Trinity?
“The groundwater availability model isn’t extended into this area,” Khorzad said.
“When the model was constructed they never thought there was water here,” he said.
Moving forward, he told the crowd EP is using the best available data.
“Our study was looking at the test wells we drilled. [We asked] what can these wells produce on a daily basis?” Khorzad said.
He said the findings of the test show the wells can yield 2.47 million gallons a day.
Since the contractual obligation EP has with its local customers is 5.3 million gallons per day, Khorzad said EP would need to drill more wells to make up the difference. In his report, he also recommended abandoning one of the test wells because its production value and water quality was lower than the other six wells.
Hatch told reporters EP would not talk about the lawsuit filed by a newly created anti-EP project group, TESPA, this past Friday, nor the recent water legislation filed by Rep. Jason Isaac that would expand the boundaries of two groundwater conservation districts to cover what was thought to be an unregulated area. As indicated in the lawsuit, it is possible some question remains about whether the Hays-Trinity Groundwater Conservation District already has jurisdiction in the so-called white zone where EP drilled its test wells.
“The purpose of this conference is to release the report that everybody says they’ve been waiting for; the scientific data of the test wells,” Hatch said.