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Common sense approach on large-volume groundwater pumping

Now is the time for the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BSEACD) Board of Directors to adopt a moratorium on new large-volume production permit applications from the Middle Trinity Aquifer.

It is time to protect our irreplaceable groundwater, springs and aquifers. Groundwater experts, many Hays County leaders, and well owners throughout this region agree that a comprehensive study using new groundwater modeling should be undertaken to determine the Trinity Aquifer’s sustainable yield. Before accepting any additional large-volume permit applications, such as those sought by Needmore and Electro Purification (EP), a numerical groundwater model must be completed so that everyone understands the impact of massive groundwater withdrawals and their effect on wells and springs.

The Trinity Springs Edwards Springs Protection Association (TESPA) has urged citizens and local officials to urge BSEACD to adopt a temporary moratorium on accepting applications for large-volume groundwater permits. TESPA recommends that the Board adopt a moratorium on applications in excess of 41,000 gallons per day, or 15 million gallons per year.

Existing pumping, combined with proposed pumping within the District, surpasses the modeled available groundwater for the Trinity Aquifer. We currently have no way of ensuring that large-volume production projects, such as those sought by EP and Needmore, will not impair the District’s ability to achieve its mandatory Desired Future Condition (DFC) for the Trinity Aquifer.

Furthermore, a groundwater availability model (GAM) does not exist for the portion of the Trinity Aquifer within BSEACD’s jurisdiction. Simply put, well levels will drastically decline, and many wells and springs will go dry, and this situation places everyone at risk. Therefore, the BSEACD should exercise caution, vote for a temporary moratorium, and hold off on accepting additional large-volume permits until long-term impacts on groundwater resources are better understood.

The paramount duty of the BSEACD is to protect the aquifers and groundwater resources, permitted and exempt wells, and our private property rights. Groundwater developers perceive the Middle Trinity Aquifer as an important water supply source and more large-volume production permit applications will likely be submitted in the near future. It is imperative, therefore, that the BSEACD has a better understanding of the impacts associated with additional groundwater pumping before granting any additional large-volume permits. Other groundwater districts in Texas have used temporary moratoriums when faced with similar dilemmas that threatened groundwater resources.

Hays County Commissioners have recently appointed an advisory Task Force on Sustainability on the Trinity Aquifer to provide direction on a comprehensive study of this aquifer. This initiative recognizes the need for more scientific and factual information. In addition, this study will take into account new approaches for groundwater management, sustainability of the aquifers, and how we can accommodate the unprecedented growth and demands for groundwater that we are experiencing. We need a moratorium in place to allow sufficient time for this study to be completed.

The moratorium is a common sense and practical approach to the many issues confronting us. We all want to protect our groundwater, aquifers, and our way of life in the Texas Hill Country.

Patrick Cox, Ph.D., of Wimberley, is a board member of TESPA and former board president of BSEACD.

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