By David Patterson
This week, Ruben Becerra, and Mark Jones who are running for Hays County Judge, answer this question: “With this explosive growth, is Hays County ready for the next seven year drought like we had in the 1950s?” During that drought the average annual rainfall was seven inches. Our normal annual rainfall is 32 inches.
The population of Hays County during 1957, the last year of that seven year drought, was about 16,800. During that drought the farmers abandoned their fields and slaughtered their livestock.The current Hays County population is over 350,000. Hays County grew by 84,000 from the 2010 to 2020 census.
If Hays keeps growing the way it is, by 2030 Hays County will have a population close to 450,000. Let that soak in for a minute. Hays County doesn’t have the Highland Lakes chain like Austin and Travis County. So where are we going to get the water for these folks during a multi-year drought?
I’m not sure all the folks flocking to Hays County know where their water comes from. I hope articles like this will raise awareness about our limited underground water resources. I think it is imperative that our County Commissioners work for their existing constituents to protect their wells as hard as they work for the developers and large landholders.
That is why I am asking these questions of our elected officials and candidates running for Hays County Judge, and County Commissioner.
Here are the answers from Ruben and Mark.
Ruben Becerra, Hays County Judge:
No. Unfortunately, for over a decade the majority of Commissioners Court has governed only reactively. This is negligent, especially for a county like Hays experiencing explosive growth. I believe in being proactive, and for that reason on Aug. 9, 2022, I brought an agenda item to commissioners court to discuss and approve a resolution requesting the LCRA work with local leaders and stakeholders to accelerate and update its water management plan in an effort to implement a more protective approach in managing the Highland Lakes (a critical water source for Central Texas).
Per stats provided to us from the Central TX Water Coalition, during past years the Highland Lakes maintained over 80k acre feet of water, during the last historic drought the lakes maintained 40k acre feet of water, and in July 2022, 586 acre feet of water. Due to this drastic drop, I asked the commissioners to consider the resolution. Unfortunately it was not approved.
We must be proactive when it comes to water resources in our area, waiting to act until there is a problem is the reason we have current residents struggling to get water in their homes.
Mark Jones, County Commissioner:
I think some of our cities and water districts are more prepared than others. It’s hard to compare Hays County now to Hays County in the 50s. There are so many more residents and so many more straws pulling water out of our aquifer. There is not enough water available in Hays County to meet our needs, so the efforts being made to pipe in more water are one solution. Another one would be more people using rainwater collection and, where possible, using purple water where appropriate.
With current regulations and laws on what Counties can control, the most effective tool the County has is land preservation for water quality and parks.