Water group concerns grow over EP permit

New data presented by an area water watchdog group shows potential negative impacts to the Trinity Aquifer could be a result of a Houston-based firm’s water production permit.

Those worries were brought up during a June 27 public forum in Driftwood where the Trinity Edwards Springs Protection Agency (TESPA) and local elected leaders presented the threat of Electro Purification’s (EP) proposed permit, which aims to pump close to 1 billion gallons per year.

The permit, which equates to 2.5 million gallons of water per day, has been filed with the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District but is currently contested by private property owners, TESPA and Hays County.

“To me, the preservation of our groundwater supply is probably the most important issue that we will face in the future of Hays County,” Hays County Pct. 3 Commissioner Lon Shell said. “This is one fight we cannot afford to lose.”

TESPA Executive Director Vanessa Puig-Williams said the EP permit, along with a permit filed by the Needmore Ranch in the Wimberley area for 289 million gallons of water per year, would exceed the amount of modeled available groundwater in the area. This is based on analysis from the Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) on the availability of manageable groundwater.

“In our looking at it, this means the district should not be issuing any more permits after that,” Puig-Williams said.

Jacob’s Well may cease to exist
TESPA Hydrogeologist Doug Wierman said pumping 2.5 million gallons per day could have a devastating effect on Jacob’s Well. One to two feet of drawdown in the Trinity Aquifer could “stop Jacob’s Well from flowing.”

Under the maximum pumping scenario of 2.5 mgd, Jacob’s Well could see a 100-foot drawdown. Multiple water experts at the meeting said Jacob’s Well would become an empty, barren hole in the earth with this amount of pumping.

Urging for a moratorium
Worries relating to the impact of EP’s permit are leading TESPA officials to urge the BSEACD to issue a moratorium, or a temporary prohibition, of the permit in order to conduct more analysis.

Although there is no express legal authority for a groundwater district to adopt a moratorium, several groundwater districts across the state have implemented one.

However, a moratorium may open the BSEACD to a lawsuit with EP, which on top of the contested case hearing, would prolong the battle against the permit.

“… Under very similar circumstances some groundwater districts have adopted temporary moratoriums on accepting new permit applications while they conduct more science so they can understand the impact to protect property rights and the (groundwater) resources,” Puig-Williams said.

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