texas groundwater news september 2018

In New Mexico, Move to Reuse Fracking Water Stirs Cry for Transparency

  • [I include this article because there’s some interest in Texas on this same topic.]
  • “The state formed a working group, with the blessing of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency, to find ways to reuse wastewater from natural gas fracking wells. “
  • “…representatives from more than 15 environmental and community groups signed on to a letter to the EPA that said the agreement between the federal agency and the state violates the Federal Advisory Committee Act (FACA) and requesting the federal agency withdraw.”
  • “Oil and gas companies produced 900 million barrels of wastewater in the Permian Basin in 2015, even before the current oil boom. That’s about 116,000 acre-feet…”
  • “In a 2015 study, scientists noted that continued declines in flows in the Rio Grande due to warming could sink the river system into ‘permanent drought.'”
  • “If the Ogallala in eastern New Mexico continues its current rate of decline, … it’s expected to dry near Clovis within 20 years.”
  • “If New Mexico loses its U.S. Supreme Court battle with Texas and the U.S.government over decades’ worth of compact violations on the Rio Grande, the state could end up owing not only damages but additional water to Texas – at precisely a time it’s simply not available.”
  • “…the state has to consider the health and environmental risks of reusing toxic water. Some of the chemicals used during fracking can include hydrochloric acid, petroleum distillates, ethanol, sodium chloride and trimethylbenzene.”
  • “Under the memorandum of understanding, or MOU, the four agencies agreed to develop a “white paper” within six months that will do four things: synthesize regulatory and permitting issues related to produced water, identify policy or data gaps, identify possible uses of recycled or reused produced water, and “identify any process or other improvement opportunities with respect to such uses.””

Proposed treatment plant could affect Salado drinking water, ecosystem, officials say

  • “The company is proposing to build the plant at the intersection of Hackberry Drive and Interstate 35 near the small unincorporated community of Prairie Dell.”
  • “Local officials’ beef with the proposed Salado Vista Wastewater Treatment Plant is where the water will be discharged: A natural drainage channel that connects directly into Salado Creek and the Edwards Aquifer.”
  • “’If there was a spillage, it would never get to the creek. It would go into the direct conduit into the aquifer,’ said Dirk Aaron, the general manager of the Belton-based Clearwater Underground Water Conservation District.”
  • “Being on a direct conduit, the potential discharge … could contaminate it,” Aaron said. “It would not be days, but minutes before we even realize it entered into our water supply.”

TCEQ announces public hearing dates for Edwards Aquifer Protection Program

  • “The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality will conduct public hearings Oct. 22 and 23 to receive comments from the public on actions the commission should take to protect the Edwards Aquifer from pollution.”

Bastrop grassroots opposition mounts against LCRA groundwater request

  • “Earlier this year, the Lower Colorado River Authority submitted applications to drill eight water wells into the Simsboro Aquifer, utilizing groundwater rights it purchased in 2015 from the Boy Scouts’ Griffith League Ranch. LCRA is asking to pump up to 25,000 acre-feet of water per year — equivalent to about 8.15 billion gallons — by 2026 and export that water to sell to customers within the fast-growing areas of Central Texas.”
  • “We’re not going to defeat permits, because that doesn’t happen under Texas groundwater law. But we can certainly try and limit their amount (of pumping),”
  • “I will say in general we’re not very fond of companies taking water out of the area,”
  • “It’s not publicly known to whom the LCRA will be selling the water it’s seeking.”
  • “Steve Box, executive director of Environmental Stewardship, estimates that 25,000 acre-feet of water could be worth between $25 million and $50 million at a retail level. And while leaders of the grassroots effort say they are averse to litigation, the End Op and Forestar cases show they’re not afraid of using lawyers.”
  • “What do they want this for? They want your water, so they can keep Lake Travis high, so all those folks who are very well-to-do on Lake Travis can launch their boats during periods of drought,”

County officials question century-old water rights law

  • “Rule of capture, a state law that is more than 100 years old, allows landowners the right to capture all groundwater they can obtain.”
  • “Lon Shell, Hays County Pct. 3 Commissioner, said this system has caused problems in the past for Texas and a new form of groundwater regulation would be a more sensible solution for the county.”
  • “The creation of groundwater districts in 1949 was meant to control and regulate excessive pumping, and the law is still in existence today.”
  • “Linda Rogers, president of the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District, said the system does not work and will have to change, as water becomes more of a valuable resource in Texas.”
  • “As long as we continue to value property rights over everything, the system will not change,” Rogers said. “You hear some chatter about it in the legislature every session, but talking about changing property rights is like having a noose around your neck.”
  • “The Rule of Capture may work in other parts of the state, but I do know it does not work here,” Shell said. “We need better rules to protect each others’ rights. Your rights end where someone else’s begin.”

Lange retires after nearly 30 years at Lipan-Kickapoo WCD

  • “After almost 30 years, Allan Lange will be stepping down as general manager of the Lipan-Kickapoo Water Control District.” [that should be Water Conservation District!]
  • “When we used to work with the legislators, it was wonderful, because we could work with them, and they actually listened to what you had to say. Now it seems like legislators don’t listen, they just make up their minds and say ‘this is the way it’s going to be.’ We could go to hearings, and what I see happening in hearings today, is they are having hearings just because they have to have them, but the deal’s already been made, and they don’t listen to anything, and they don’t change anything,” he said, garnering a laugh from the room.
  • “Every living thing must have water,” he said. “And unless we have a plan for the future, we are going to be a desert – there’s no two-ways about it.”
  • “By Lange’s reckoning, the district has issued more than 4,000 drilling permits, and registered roughly 13,000 water wells, in addition to analyzing water samples and manually measuring water levels in about 21,000 locations.”

Researchers: “No Link” between Fracking And Methane in North Texas Groundwater

  • “Researchers at the University of Texas say there’s “no link” between natural gas fracking and elevated levels of methane found in some North Texas water wells.”
  • “Of the more than 450 water wells sampled in the area, researchers say the “vast majority” contained little or no methane.”
  • “…a “cluster” of 11 wells near the line between Parker and Hood counties had much higher levels: more than 10 milligrams of methane per liter of water. … findings suggest that the natural gas in those shallow wells is not the result of fracking…”
  • “…the latest study doesn’t rule out the possibility of isolated contamination from hydraulic fracturing, and separate research from Stanford University has found evidence of that happening in Pennsylvania and North Texas. “

As New Mexico Reservoirs Hit Bottom, Worries Grow Over the Future

  • “…New Mexico’s largest reservoir is at about three percent capacity, with just 62,573 acre feet of water in storage as of September 20.”
  • “There was no spring runoff this year. We started this year at basically the point we left off at last year,”
  • “… less than 45,000 acre-feet of water flowed via the Rio Grande into Elephant Butte. That’s the lowest recorded inflow since the dam was built in the early 20th century.”
  • “This year, about 75,000 of the district’s acres were in production, and farmers received a ten-inch allotment of water from the Rio Grande Project. A normal allotment is 36 inches…”
  • “As in the past, farmers supplemented their irrigation supplies from the river by pumping groundwater. That’s something farmers have done for decades, increasingly so since 2003.”
  • “With improvement unlikely, Esslinger [manager of Elephant Butte Irrigation District] says he’s started considering more radical solutions – like whether western states could share the cost of a canal that would move water from the East, from someplace like the Mississippi River.”
  • “Farmers in southern New Mexico have yet another problem: uncertainty over a lawsuit moving through the U.S. Supreme Court.”

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