texas groundwater news august 2018

Texas-New Mexico water fight could be impacted by SCOTUS ruling

  • “A U.S. Supreme Court decision on Wednesday in a water fight between Florida and Georgia could have implications for a similar legal battle between Texas and New Mexico over the Rio Grande water supply…”
  • “the high court remanded the case to the court-appointed special master responsible for issuing recommendations to the court. The special master ruled that while Georgia’s overuse of water might have caused ecological and economical harm, Florida’s case should be dismissed for failure to prove a possible resolution to the problem. But in a 5-4 decision, the court decided Wednesday that Florida only needs to prove harm, lowering the burden of proof for states locked in similar water battles with upstream neighbors.”

Hays County residents fear the fight to protect their water was all for nothing

  • “Hays County well owners thought they won the water fight against Houston-based Electro Purification three years ago. Now, regulators are left trying to balance residential priorities with business interests.”
  • “Electro Purification has seven wells built on property leased from two local landowners. Should the permit be approved, the water would travel by pipeline to neighborhoods and businesses serviced by the Goforth Special Utility District, satisfying a contract between the two.”
  • “The balance between the science and the policy and the regulation and what’s allowed by law — that’s essentially the real big issue that we deal with with these permit decisions,” Alicia Reinmund-Martinez, executive director of the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District, said. “Science drives policy decisions; it has to.”
  • “…the district thinks it’s crafted a permit that both satisfies Electro Purification’s rights to water development and protects residential wells.”
  • “…the district plans to closely monitor the wells — if water levels drop to a certain level, EP’s pumping would be scaled back or come to a halt, Brian Smith, the district’s aquifer science team leader, said.”
  • “EP would also be required to lower the well pumps for any resident within a two mile radius of the well field who believes drawdown levels would affect their well.”
  • “…opponents “don’t believe it protects the long-term sustainability of the aquifer and property rights of the landowners,” said Vanessa Puig-Williams, executive director of the Trinity Edwards Springs Protection Association.”
  • “The permit has already been challenged by the Trinity Edwards Springs Protection Association. “

Depletion of Ogallala Aquifer affecting region’s migratory birds

  • “‘There are 40 saline lakes in this region, and fewer than 10 have active springs,’ she said. ‘So the water crisis that people are having in this region is affecting snowy plovers, too.’”
  • “Snowy plovers also have higher levels of arsenic and selenium in their blood in more recent years, which could be because there is less water available and more concentrated levels of the metals.”
  • “They have seen a 75-80 percent decline in populations on three saline lakes in Texas.”

EPA finds near unsafe levels of chromium in some Odessa groundwater

  • “The chromium levels in wells at 42 homes and businesses are “close to unsafe levels” according to EPA officials.”
  • “The Chief of the Arkansas and Texas Superfund Section, Carlos Sanchez, said one location exceeded the drinking water standards.”

County leaders support contested case for water permit

  • “Concerns over the long-term impact of a Houston-based firm’s controversial water request led Hays County Commissioners Tuesday to support contesting its proposed permit.”
  • “EP, which had been at the center of the 2013 Hays County water wars, submitted a permit application with the BSEACD in 2017 to draw 912.5 million gallons of water per year for wholesale water supply.”
  • “In early 2018, BSEACD officials recommended phasing in how much EP could pump from the Middle Trinity. The plan, or draft permit, would involve five phases of pumping, starting a .5 million gallons per day and going up to 2.5 million GPD by Phase V. “

Well’s gone dry: aquifers taking a hit during the drought

  • “In Williamson County, the Trinity aquifer is being taxed by both residential and industrial use.”
  • “‘We’re digging to the same depth but the volume of water produced is not what it used to be. We’re setting pumps deeper because of draw-down (of the aquifer). There’s only so much water.’”
  • “‘What’s interesting is that you have people who moved to the country 10 years ago and put in a well that is now dry, and they blame it on the ‘new’ people who just moved in,’ Gattis said. ‘It just goes back to the sheer number of people: It’s a combination of everybody over the years.’”

Water Crisis in the Making: Antiquated Texas Laws Meet a Hotter Climate

  • “Noted water expert Robert Gulley, who has been working on water issues both inside and outside state government for decades, is … blunt. ‘Texas,’ he says, ‘has repealed the laws of hydrology.'”
  • “With global warming exacerbating both extreme weather and drought, the laws of nature are becoming even less friendly to a state that ignores them.”
  • “As Texas Supreme Court Justice Nathan Hecht put it in his concurrence to a 1999 case that reluctantly again upheld the Rule of Capture, ‘Not much groundwater regulation is going on.'”

Commentary: Welcome to California: LCRA joins ‘Siege on the Simsboro’

  • “LCRA’s application for eight more Simsboro wells — and 8.15 billion gallons of water a year — is pending at Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District. “
  • “If trends continue, Texas law and policy will ensure our aquifers are “mined” to depletion, and rural landowners are marginalized.”
  • “LCRA won’t say where the water will end up other than disappearing into LCRA’s huge water delivery system. The prevailing rumor is that the water will be piped to Austin to offset that city’s Highland Lakes demand.”

Commentary: Why the LCRA needs groundwater rights in Bastrop County

  • “In addition to our many other efforts to increase water supplies for booming growth in Texas, we are seeking permits to produce up to 25,000 acre-feet of water annually from groundwater pumping rights we own at the Griffith League Ranch in Bastrop County. “
  • “In a region like ours that is prone to both droughts and floods, groundwater supplies such as those available from the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer should be part of a diverse water supply portfolio.”
  • “Modeling by the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District, which is working on a draft permit after receiving our application, shows the aquifer can supply the water requested in our application without harming the aquifer.”

Post Oak Savannah GCD Announces New Conservation Program for Landowners

  • “The purpose of the [Post Oak Savannah GCD Aquifer Conservancy Program {PACP}] is to encourage and reward landowners to conserve their groundwater by placing their resource into this long term act of stewardship.”
  • “The PACP will be funded by fees collected by the District and participation in this innovative program will be completely voluntary.”
  • “In addition to a financial reward for this legacy effort, landowners can still drill or maintain wells for domestic or livestock use which are exempt from permitting under District Rules.”
  • “Length of time for PACP terms will be 5, 10, or 20 years. Exact amounts of payment are yet to be determined, but preliminary estimates are $5-$6 per acre per year, with bonuses paid for longer terms.”

Farmers are drawing groundwater from the giant Ogallala Aquifer faster than nature replaces it

  • “…the current drought plaguing the region is unusually strong and persistent, driving farmers to rely more on the aquifer and sharpening the debate over its future.”
  • “Between the late 19th century and 2005, the U.S. Geological Survey estimates irrigation depleted the aquifer by 253 million acre-feet – about 9 percent of its total volume. “
  • “Analyzing federal data, The Denver Post found that the aquifer shrank twice as fast from 2011 through 2017 as it had over the previous 60 years.”
  • “…once the Ogallala is emptied, it could take 6,000 years to recharge naturally.”

DNA-based tracers to help researchers map aquifer for groundwater modeling

  • local researchers are using a new class of DNA-based tracers to map the flow path of the aquifer.
  • “Because DNA is made of the four basic molecules that can be combined in any random order, the DNA-based tracer system allows for the fabrication of thousands of unique tracers.”
  • “In addition to being cost-effective, the DNA-based tracers the researchers develop will allow for a large number of individual tracers to be simultaneously distinguished from one another.”

Oil Boom in Southern New Mexico Ignites Groundwater Feud With Texas

  • “…because of differences in state law, oil companies have found the groundwater harder to access in New Mexico. So they are laying pipes across the state line, pumping groundwater in Texas to serve oil wells in New Mexico.”
  • “…all the groundwater comes from the same aquifer – the Pecos Valley Aquifer – that straddles the state line.”
  • “Much of the groundwater serving oil wells in New Mexico comes from just across the border in Loving County, Texas.”
  • Not correct: “Many such districts in Texas, for instance, ban exporting groundwater outside their boundaries.”
  • “[The state land commissioner] blamed the state engineer … for failing to protect New Mexico’s groundwater. [The state engineer] … should sue the state of Texas to force it to enact groundwater regulations along the state line.”

Hindering oilfield water imports from Texas would harm NM

  • “…the commissioner’s latest conflict with the Lone Star State — over the oilfield water trade — potentially impacts billions of dollars in annual oilfield activity and could imperil New Mexico’s budgetary health.”
  • “Most of New Mexico’s drilling and production activity takes place in Eddy and Lea counties –precisely where operators source frac water from landowners on the Texas side. They import water from Texas wells because New Mexico’s restrictions on groundwater extraction make water supplies tight and expensive…”
  • “Many New Mexico farmers already have voted with their plows and pocketbooks on this issue — as the legion of fallowed fields near Carlsbad and Loving attests.”

of interest…

I’ve been following Cali’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act because (1) it’s interesting as hell and (2) I’ve been wondering about the focus of the article below (how do you get the pumping cat back in the sustainability bag):

California Groundwater Law Means Big Changes Above Ground, Too

  • “The state’s Sustainable Groundwater Management Act is likely to result in fallowing thousands of acres of farmland.”
  • “The rules do not require critically overdrafted aquifers to achieve “sustainability” until 2040.”
  • “Kern County was the most productive farming county in the state last year in the nation’s most productive farming region. […] Lots of that success was built on groundwater overdraft – which must soon end.”
  • “All but three of the 14 groundwater basins in the San Joaquin Valley are ranked as critically overdrafted. “
  • “Protecting recharge zones from urbanization will become a new focus of growth management…”
  • “She estimates 10–12 percent of farmland in the San Joaquin Valley will have to be fallowed as a conservation measure to reduce demand on groundwater.”
  • “SGMA has been criticized for its distant deadlines, because hundreds of new wells are being drilled in the meantime, putting additional strain on groundwater. But it may turn out to be a good thing that this law creeps along like a wagon train. It will take years to manage all the land use changes that will accompany changes in groundwater use.”

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