Major drawdown predicted if EP permit is approved

New data on the potential effects of Electro Purification’s (EP) permit to pump 2.5 million per day from the Trinity Aquifer indicates the permitted amount of water would have dire impact on the aquifer. 

Houston-based firm EP’s pending permit with the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BSEACD) is currently being contested by a number of entities, including the county and landowners. 

On April 12, 2019, James Beach with WSP Consultants in Austin, gave an alarming testimony in the suit, citing his data found significant drawdown of the aquifer if the permit were approved. 

Beach found the EP and Needmore water permits could result in a 35% loss in water volume in the Trinity Aquifer. 

His calculations indicated that the Cow Creek wells near O’Neill Ranch would experience a permanent decline of 60-feet after one year, 120-feet after seven years and 175 feet after 30 years. 

“These simulated results suggest that the pending EP and Needmore permits pose an extreme threat to the continued groundwater use of all our landowners in O’Neill Ranch estates, but also to neighbor wells in Dripping Springs,” read a letter to groundwater district and local elected officials by O’Neill Ranch Estates Homeowners Association president Keith Hawkins. 

The letter was sent to Hays County Precinct 4 Commissioner Walt Smith, who was concerned with the conclusions of Beach’s analysis. Subsequently, the commissioner is looking to establish a new task force to assess the amount of water in the aquifers. 

“We’ve been looking at the water availability for quite some time with major concerns,” Smith said. “The fact is the water districts don’t have the tools to adequately know the amount of water in the aquifer, and they’re just not anywhere where I believe they are.”

The purpose of the Hays County Precinct 3 and 4 groundwater modeling task force is to assist the groundwater districts with adequate groundwater modeling. 

Smith said he believes the groundwater districts are doing a great job with the resources they have, but this initiative would help them going forward. 

“I don’t know the modeling we have is anywhere near adequate to constitute anything EP is wanting to pump,” Smith said. “With our growth in Hays County, we need a system with updates to manage how much water we have. The numbers aren’t worth the paper they’re written on if in three months we have an additional 1,000 homes or 300 businesses.” 

For now, residents across Hays County, specifically in the O’Neill Ranch Estates, wait in limbo for the results of the contested case. 

Based on Beach’s analysis, the neighborhood, “appeal to BSEACD Board to decline these requests in the interest of sustainable groundwater water use by all citizens in Hays County Precinct 4,” Hawkins said.  

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