Sine Die! The 85th Legislative Session has come to an end. Many bills are awaiting the Governor's signature, but far more died. Although there were numerous groundwater bills filed at the beginning of the 85th Legislative Session, some of which proposed small changes to the state's groundwater laws, and others which attempted to overhaul the entire regulatory structure for groundwater, the vast majority of the bills that were introduced did not pass. Below is an overview of some of the more notable groundwater legislation from the 85th Session.
HB 4122 by Representative Kacal - Needmore Ranch's bill that would have allowed a landowner with over 1,000 acres and within the jurisdiction of two more groundwater districts to transfer into one district; died in the Senate thanks to the hard work of the community and local representatives.
HB 922 by Representative Workman - Creates a groundwater conservation district in a previously unregulated area of southwest Travis County; revived at the last moment by being attached to HB 4345 as...more
Today, the SOAH Judge denied Needmore's Plea to the Jurisdiction, ruling that House Bill 3405 permits third parties, such as TESPA, from contesting permits. Consequently, TESPA can move forward with a hearing on standing.more
Unfortunately, House Bill 4122 is moving. It will be heard on the House Floor tomorrow, Friday May 5th. As we wrote in a previous post, the committee substitute is slightly less worrisome in that it would allow HTGCD and BSEACD to refuse to transfer territory, but there are too many avenues for the bill to be amended and for the law to be manipulated.
Please call members of the House and ask them to vote AGAINST House Bill 4122 for the following reasons:
- It caters to a special interest, Needmore Ranch, at the expense of smaller landowners, allowing the ranch to circumvent BSEACD's jurisdiction and a proposed permit the district has issued which Needmore Ranch has publicly opposed.
- It unravels House Bill 3405, passed last session, which extended BSEACD's boundaries to protect existing wells.
- It is unnecessary as Chapter 36 of the Water Code currently contains a process where groundwater districts can consolidate territory, and there is no...more
House Bill 4122 has been scheduled for a hearing before the House Natural Resources Committee THIS Wednesday, April 5th at 10:30 AM or upon adjournment in E2.010. Please come testify AGAINST this bill. TESPA's bill analysis is attached for your information.more
The Austin American Statesman reports that State Representative Isaac is committed to fighting legislation that would provide special protections to Needmore Ranch and undermine House Bill 3405.
"LaMantia has asked to pump water at a rate of 550 gallons per minute — enough water to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool every 20 hours."
It is excellent news that Representative Isaac is fighting to stop one landowner from plundering a resource that other people own and all of us need. We need to band together and stop these bills, but we also need to band together and take action to change groundwater laws in this state--laws which are designed to protect a landowner's right to produce groundwater rather than conserve it.
When these bills die, Needmore's proposed permit at BSEACD will still be pending, and TESPA is the only organization taking legal action to protect groundwater in Hays County. When the EP...more
Three bills have been filed: Senate Bill 1814 (Companion, House Bill 4122), House Bill 4045, and Senate Bill 2254, which would result in less regulation over groundwater production from Needmore Ranch. TESPA opposes both of these bills and has prepared this analysis.
Senate Bill 2254
Author: Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa
This bill gives Needmore Ranch MUD groundwater conservation district powers under Chapter 36 of the Water Code. If the district’s creation is confirmed at an election, the territory of Needmore Ranch is removed from BSEACD and HTGCD.
Senate Bill 1814
Author: Juan “Chuy” Hinojosa
House Bill 4122
Author: Kyle Kacal
Senate Bill 1814 and House Bill 4122 would allow the owner of a piece of land that is greater than 1,000 acres and within the jurisdiction of two or more groundwater conservation districts to request that the entire property be transferred into the territory of one of the districts. The landowner must submit a...more
Help TESPA fund the fight against this water grab
Needmore Water LLC has applied to the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BSEACD) for a groundwater permit that would allow them to pump over 289,000,000 million gallons of groundwater a year from the Trinity Aquifer or 550 gallons per minute per day.
This is an excessive and greedy request. This amount would cover the 5,000 acre ranch in 2 inches of water and is enough water for over 39,000 head of cattle at 20 gallons per day per head.
Aquifer tests revealed that pumping at this rate caused over 14 feet of drawdown in a monitoring well almost two miles away.
BSEACD projects that within seven years, drawdown could be as much as 140 feet.
This volume of pumping coupled with other large groundwater development projects planned for the Trinity Aquifer (like EP), could have devastating impacts to aquifer levels and could impact spring flow and flow in the Blanco River.
Despite the severe impacts this pumping will have on its neighbors, Needmore is arguing that...more
This afternoon, pursuant to the briefing schedule agreed to by all Parties, Needmore filed a Plea to the Jurisdiction and Brief on Hearings and Parties, with SOAH, arguing that House Bill 3405 prohibits third parties from contesting permits and that therefore, SOAH does not have jurisdiction to hear the case. TESPA will submit its response brief in two weeks. Click here to read the brief.more
TESPA's request for a hearing on Needmore Water LLC's Regular Permit application before BSEACD has been referred to the State Office of Administrative Hearings and an Administrative Law Judge has been assigned to the case. For your reference, the SOAH docket number is 957-17-2582.
On March 6, the ALJ held a prehearing phone conference with Needmore's attorney, Edmond McCarthy, BSEACD's attorney, Bill Dugat, and TESPA's attorneys, Vanessa Puig-Williams, Jeff Mundy, and Charles Irvine. The parties agreed to a briefing schedule to submit written arguments between now and the end of April. The ALJ will be issuing an order with specific deadlines. The preliminary hearing on standing will likely take place sometime in May, although the date has not been set. TESPA will send an update out with this date.
TESPA needs your help to fund the legal expenses associated with challenging this permit. We cannot do it without adequate financial resources. Individual donations are instrumental in funding this fight!more
Back in November, TESPA's Executive Director, Vanessa Puig-Williams was interviewed by Trib + Water about a paper she published in the Texas Water Journal, Regulating Unregulated Groundwater in Texas: How the State Can Conquer this Final Frontier. You can read the interview here.
In 2015, TESPA was founded as a result of a threats to an unregulated area of the Trinity Aquifer. The paper discuses the problems that occur when groundwater is not regulated in Texas, highlights issues with groundwater regulation, and offers possible solutions to improve groundwater management across Texas.
We hope you find the interview and paper informative!more
Did you know that in times of drought the Blanco River in Hays County provides flow to Barton Springs? And much of the Blanco's flow comes from the Trinity Aquifer. You can read more about the hydrogeological study here.
The Trinity Aquifer is already declining, which means that during times of drought flow at Barton Springs could also decline.
More and more groundwater will be pumped from the Trinity Aquifer in the future as groundwater developers have targeted the Trinity as a source of water supply.
TESPA is committed to ensuring that the State and local groundwater districts do not overlook their Constitutional duty to protect the Trinity Aquifer in the face of pressure to develop groundwater resources.
If you care about Barton Springs, please consider making a donation to the Trinity Edwards...more
Today, TESPA sent BSEACD a letter in response to Needmore's argument that House Bill 3405 prohibits contested case hearings. Needmore's argument would deprive affected landowners of their ability to protect their property rights. BSEACD will consider Needmore's argument at their Board meeting tomorrow night (January 12th, 6:00 PM). Please attend and voice your opposition to Needmore's request that the Board prohibit TESPA from protesting!more
In 2015, Electro Purification sparked outrage in Hays County with plans to pump five million gallons of groundwater a day from an unregulated portion of the Trinity Aquifer in Driftwood. Although the area is now regulated by the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Authority, Electro Purification is still planning on pumping a tremendous amount of water from the Trinity-possibly 2.5 million gallons a day. The company is currently conducting aquifer testing. You can read more about the testing in this recent report by KXAN.
The Trinity Aquifer is already declining. A monitor well located near the city of Wimberley shows a water-level decline of approximately 40 feet between March, 1999, and July, 2016. Jacob’s Well, which feeds Cypress Creek and the Blanco River, flowed through the 1950’s drought of record, yet it has stopped flowing several times in the last decade due to droughts and over-pumping.
Yet more and more groundwater will be pumped from the Trinity Aquifer in the...more
On December 19th, TESPA filed a contested case request with BSEACD protesting the District's proposed decision to issue a groundwater production permit to Needmore Water, LLC in the amount of 289,080,000 gallons a year.
Needmore's attorney, Ed McCarthy also sent the District a letter expressing opposition to the District's decision to require Needmore to reduce pumping if there are impacts to nearby wells. You can read the letter here. One of Needmore's arguments is that under the law that extended BSEACD's jurisdiction to cover Needmore Ranch, Needmore should be entitled to pump the "maximum production capacity" of the well without any conditions requiring them to reduce pumping.
As TESPA explains in its protest, we believe this language in HB 3405, which requires BSEACD to issue the permit for the maximum production capacity of the well, is contrary to the Conservation Amendment of the Texas Constitution and...more
Today, the Trinity Edwards Springs Protection Association (TESPA) filed a protest and contested case request with the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Authority (BSEACD) related to Needmore Water's application to pump over 289,000,000 gallons of groundwater a year from the Trinity Aquifer near Wimberley. You can read the contested case request here. This amount of water would cover the 5,000 acre ranch in about 2 inches of water. It is enough water for 37,542 head of cattle, and is equivalent to 792,000 gallons a day, which would provide for 5,280 households assuming a daily average household usage of 150 gallons a day.
During an aquifer test in March 2016, Needmore Water's Hydrogeologist observed 14 feet of drawdown in a monitoring well two miles from the well on Needmore Ranch. And BSEACD has projected that within seven years the monitoring well will experience 140 feet of drawdown.
Needmore Ranch, a 5000 acre ranch adjacent to Montesino Ranch in Wimberely, has applied to the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BSEACD) for a groundwater production permit for approximately 289,000,000 gallons of groundwater a year.
Recently, on November 15, 2016, BSEACD issued a preliminary decision proposing to grant Needmore a production permit for its requested amount— approximately 289,000,000 gallons a year with conditions that require Needmore to reduce pumping based on measured drawdown in a monitoring well.
289,000,000 gallons is enough water for a 2400 home subdivision or 37,542 head of cattle. It would cover the 5000 acre ranch with about 2 inches of water
BSEACD hydrogeologists have projected that this amount of pumping will cause a total projected drawdown of the Trinity Aquifer of 140 feet as far as two miles from the well, possibly lowering the water level below the top of the Middle Trinity Aquifer.
TESPA plans on contesting BSEACD’s decision to issue a permit to Needmore. Several landowners nearby Needmore Ranch have...more
The Trinity Edwards Springs Protection Association (TESPA) and the Dripping Springs Water Supply Corporation (DSWSC) have reached an agreement over a groundwater production permit amendment pending before the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District (HTGCD). This agreement which was approved by the HTGCD Board at their November 16 meeting achieves the following:
- a 40% reduction in the amount of groundwater DSWSC originally requested to pump, which will be phased in over a three-year period;
- DSWSC will wait six years before requesting any additional increase;
- DSWSC will contribute to a mitigation fund to address any impacts to nearby wells caused by pumping from the DSWSC well field;
- DSWSC will provide funding to HTGCD to drill a new monitoring well;
- DSWSC will participate in groundwater/surface water studies related to the connection between the Trinity Aquifer and Onion Creek to better understand whether pumping from their wells impacts Onion Creek; and
- DSWSC will work with HTGCD to...more
On September 21, BSEACD approved EP's aquifer test permit. EP will begin testing the week of October 17th and plans to acidize three of its wells. Recognizing that the community has concerns related to the testing, BSEACD will be sending out information next week via their eNews subscription. You can sign up at http://bseacd.org/publications/newsletters/sign-up/ to receive updates. TESPA will also remain in touch with BSEACD staff during the testing. Please contact us if you have any concerns.more
TESPA will have a table set up at Barton Springs University on Wednesday the 28th. Check out the link below for details. It should be beautiful weather to enjoy a truly fun and educational event. Come learn about how protecting the Trinity Aquifer also means protecting Barton Springs. And stay tuned for photos!more
Hello friends, supporters and neighbors. The Trinity Edwards Springs Protection Association (TESPA) was formed two years ago in response to a threat to our groundwater near Rolling Oaks and Wimberley posed by Electro Purification’s (EP’s) groundwater development proposal. We filed suit against that project, and we have worked with the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District to achieve the highest level of regulation possible. And we have been successful in several ways.
Today, however, our region is facing more threats to springs, groundwater and surface water than ever before, and TESPA is reorganizing and refocusing to address these threats. We are committed to being a powerful voice for the protection of springs and groundwater of the Hill Country, and we want you to join with us in this effort. And make no mistake about it – we have to work together to help ourselves.
There are three major groundwater concerns on the immediate horizon. These are the Needmore Water, LLC, well application currently pending before the Barton Springs Edward...more
Thank you to all who attended the HTGCD meeting last night. TESPA presented its contested case request to the HTGCD Board. Additionally, DSWSC, represented by Russell Johnson, submitted its own contested case request on the HTGCD staff recommendation to reduce the amount DSWSC requested from 825 acre feet to 399 acre feet (over three years). To give TESPA and DSWSC additional time to possibly negotiate a settlement, the Board agreed to delay action on the DSWSC permit amendment until their next meeting in September. This is good news. TESPA and DSWSC have agreed to negotiate with one another. TESPA is hopeful that the parties can come to an agreement thatTESPA believes will provide increased protection to groundwater and surface water resources than the current, pending permit amendment application.more
Dripping Springs Water Supply Corporation has submitted a permit amendment application with HTGCD requesting an additional 825 acre feet a year of groundwater from the Trinity Aquifer. The District has never required DSWSC to conduct an aquifer test under District Rules, and DSWSC has never monitored wells off site of its property to determine whether the increase in production will impact existing wells. Also alarming is the fact that there is evidence that DSWSC wells are pumping surface water from Onion Creek, yet this has not been considered in the application and the District has not addressed this in its staff recommendation to the HTGCD Board. TESPA believes that the application does not comply with District rules and Chapter 36 of the Water Code and is concerned that these oversights harm its members, many of whom own wells within the jurisdiction of HTGCD. As a result, TESPA filed a contested case hearing request with HTGCD yesterday. HTGCD will determine whether TESPA has standing to contest the permit amendment at their board meeting tonight at the Wimberley Community...more
Private drilling threatens public water supply.
Rumblings from Hays County are reaching the state Capitol, reverberating over a groundwater well project that opponents say could draw more water from the Trinity Aquifer than all the currently permitted well production in western Hays County. In recent weeks, citizens who get most of their drinking water from the Aquifer bombarded state representatives with calls and emails. It was standing room only March 25 at a House Natural Resources Committee hearing on bills filed by Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, to stop the project. Since early February, community meetings have been packed with concerned citizens, thousands have signed a petition opposing the project, and a Hill Country coalition – the Trinity Edwards Springs Protection Association – has filed a lawsuit to stop the drilling.more
Anna Herod, Senior News Reporter
The recent water wars in Hays County have shifted into the courtroom.
The Trinity Edwards Springs Protection Association (TESPA) filed a lawsuit in the Hays County District Courts March 20 against Electro Purification (EP). The lawsuit was initiated on behalf of residents who live within half a mile of the company’s proposed project, according to court documents.more
By Laura Rice
By Richard Parker
WIMBERLEY, Tex. — “WE don’t want you here,” warned the county commissioner, pointing an accusatory finger at the drilling company executives as 600 local residents rose to their feet. “We want you to leave Hays County.”
Normally, my small town is a placid place nestled in the Texas Hill Country, far from controversy, a peaceful hour’s drive west of Austin. Pop. 2,582, Wimberley was founded as a mill town on a creek. Today it’s part artist colony, part cowboy town known for its natural beauty and its cool, clear springs and rivers that wind through soaring cypress trees. read full article heremore
Marissa Barnett, Austin Bureau
WIMBERLEY — Landowners in small-town Central Texas call it a “water grab,” an exploitation of state rules that would cart away millions of gallons a day and destroy the economic viability of their community.
“When you can’t flush your toilet, do your laundry, cook, get a drink of water, life comes to a standstill,” said Dan Pickens. His home in the Rolling Oaks subdivision is less than a mile from a project that aims to pull more than 5 million gallons of water a day for nearby suburbs. “People’s life savings are tied up into their homes, and what’s a home worth without water?”more