Water for sale? Water supplier looks to Buda well owner

By Moses Leos III

To meet expected future water demand, the Creedmoor-Maha Water Supply Corporation is eyeing Buda resident T.J. Higginbotham’s well to pump 270 million gallons from the Edwards Aquifer under his property.

But with the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BSEACD) yet to approve the conditional permit, both parties are now in limbo. 

“We’ve got to see how (Higginbotham) comes out,” Charles Laws, general manager of the Creedmoor-Maha Water Supply Corporation, said. “We are also looking at other places. I’ve got other places I’m looking at.” 

The water company is located east of Tollway 130.

In January, Higginbotham submitted a conditional use permit application to BSEACD to pump 270 million gallons. The fee for the application was $600.

Soon thereafter, Creedmoor expressed interest in purchasing water from Higginbotham for its residential and commercial customers. However, the deal was contingent on approval of the permit. 

Laws said it’s part of Creedmoor’s attempt to accommodate for future growth in the service area. 

Creedmoor currently serves customers across Travis, Caldwell, Bastrop and Hays Counties. The company is requesting 400,000 per year from Higginbotham. Data from the Texas Water Development Board indicates an increase to 550 million gallons by 2060 to meet demand. 

According to Higginbotham, applying for the permit has been in the works for seven years.  In 2006 he hired the Thornhill Group to conduct a hydrogeological study on an existing well on his property. 

The study results, submitted in Higginbotham’s original application for 100 million gallons per year, found drawdown at nearby domestic wells shouldn’t exceed 10 feet from current water levels. 

Thornhill Group assumed no more than 30 feet of drawdown in the aquifer should occur if the well pumps 500 gallons per minute. Higginbotham’s well has a capacity for 1,500 gallons per minute. 

According to the permit application, the pumping from his well is sustainable on the Edwards Aquifer for 270 million gallons annually. Higginbotham’s well would be subject to water conservation rules of the BSEACD, according to its General Manager John Dupnik. 

In addition, since it’s a conditional permit, in times of more severe drought, permits such as Higginbotham’s would require shutting down the well.

BSEACD has the right to require an updated well flow study since the original is more than three years old. But since there have been few new wells or withdraws from the Edwards Aquifer near the same area as Higginbotham’s well, and since the original test was done in accordance with BSEACD guidelines, Dupnik said the district may not request another one.

“We are looking at his permit application now,” he said. 

Dupnik said BSEACD has 90 days to provide a deficiency list to anyone who submits a permit application. 

What kind of deficiencies?

“We’re looking at the technical completeness of the application,” Dupnik said.

Examples include proof of ownership documentation, additional information on the receiving customer (in this case, Creedmoor-Maha) and the permit number.

Following the first review, the applicant can make corrections and resubmit. BSEACD then has an additional 90 days to make a final decision.

“We’re about halfway through the first 90-day review period,” Dupnik said.

Andy Barrett, an attorney for Higginbotham, said the original study remains valid and even though it’s been nearly a decade, “geology doesn’t change in nine years.” 

“Another one would be a waste of time and money,” Barrett said. “I think nothing has changed. It’s still valid.”

At this time, no infrastructure is in place to funnel water from Higginbotham’s property to Creedmoor-Maha.

“You don’t spend money until you have a customer,” Barrett said. “Then you decide who’s going to pay for what.”

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