By Logan McCullough
The expansion of the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BSEACD) to extend representation to a previously unregulated area of Hays County forced the redistricting of new precinct boundaries.
Although BSEACD was five years away from a planned redistricting, whenever groundwater districts’ boundaries change, the board is required to redistrict.
What triggered this redistricting was the annexation of an area unregulated by the BSEACD that was the product of House Bill 3405 in June 2015.
The legislation gave the BSEACD the authority to manage the previously unregulated resource in a new area.
Hays County citizens are responsible for bringing this issue to the BSEACD’s attention during the Hays County water wars. During that time, residents fought Houston-based water firm Electro Purification, which had a well program that proposed to produce 5 million gallons of water per day from the Cow Creek formation of the Trinity Aquifer.
EP sought water for its customers, which at the time included the city of Buda, Goforth Special Utility District (SUD) and Clark Wilson, who was in the beginning stages of building the Anthem subdivision in the Mountain City extraterritorial jurisdiction. Goforth is the only area customer EP still has at this time.
“Citizens kept asking, ‘where is their water coming from’ and reporting that there was some company pumping water in their neighborhood,” said BSEACD Pct. 1 Director Mary Stone. “They knew if the area is not in a groundwater district, you can pump as much water as you want. The people living next to it who depend on domestic wells nearby began bringing up questions about what would happen to their water.”
Concerns were raised about the effect the pumping would create for the hundreds of domestic wells that were in the direct vicinity.
Texas operates under what is called the “Rule of Capture” when operating on private property that is outside of a district.
“The rule of capture states if it’s your property you can pump as much as you want effective with liability of impact to your neighbor,” John Dupnik, BSEACD general manager, said.
This fear of EP affecting domestic wells is what led citizens to urge lawmakers to create regulations for these threatened areas. The area, however, was in what was called “white zones,” or unregulated portions of the Trinity.
With the passage of HB 3405, the BSEACD was allowed to regulate wells in what were the white zones and determine how much water they could pump.
The biggest obstacle toward redistricting, however, was complying with the complex state and federal statutes of how to redraw districts.
“How do you comply with the population balancing rule, how do you comply with preserving the majority-minority rule, how do you do any of that without splitting up the main urban cities in the district?” Dupnik said. “Answering those questions were our greatest barriers to completion.”
Through the obstacles and legal hurdles, both Dupnik and Stone deem the expansion and subsequent redistricting a clear success for the citizens and the well-being of the county’s resources.
Both board members noted the public’s persistence on bringing the matter to light, along with the high praise of BSEACD’s solution to the problem.
“The fact we were all able to come together and have that legislation passed, I think, is just a testament to people understanding how valuable water is in this area and how it does need to be managed,” said Stone.