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 implement a water conservation program with a goal of lowering daily water use from approximately 218 gallons per person per day to 100 gallons per person per day.
TESPA was formed to protect wells and springs in Hays County. Its initial focus was on the Electro Purification commercial groundwater project that is still being pursued and of concern to TESPA. Over the course of that opposition, TESPA’s board realized the threats to both the groundwater supplies of the Hill Country and specifically the threats to springs, surface water flows and rural groundwater wells was much greater than previously appreciated. As a result, TESPA has expanded its area of concern to include most of the Texas Hill Country.
“TESPA opposed DSWSC’s request to increase pumping because we were concerned about the impact on nearby water wells, springs and surface water flows in Onion Creek” said Vanessa Puig-Williams, the executive director of TESPA. “In reaching this settlement, we tried to keep in mind that DSWSC was providing public water supply for residents within the District. At the same time, we are doing our best to protect our Hill Country streams and rivers such as Onion Creek, which could be impacted by DSWSC pumping.”
Pamela Ryan, owner of Tingari Ranch, has wells just a few hundred feet from the DSWSC well field. Onion Creek flows through her property. Ms. Ryan joined TESPA to protest DSWSC’s request to increase production. “This settlement agreement helps ease some of our concerns about the quality and quantity of water for future generations in this area,” said Ms. Ryan. “We are pleased to see that DSWSC is making an effort to protect the interests of the community.”
According to TESPA Board Member Robin Rather, “The threat to our Hill Country rivers, creeks and springs is very real. TESPA is identifying the most damaging proposed withdrawals and contesting these permits. On the other hand, we will try to make reasonable agreements when applicants will work with us such as is the case with DSWSC.”
“No one wants to lose the wonderful Hill Country springs and creeks” added Jim Blackburn, another TESPA board member. “Many groundwater districts are afraid to deny permits because they can be sued by applicants for a taking of private property, the groundwater. We believe that there is a direct relationship between private groundwater rights and the public ownership of the water in creeks and rivers. There is a lot of law to be developed here.”
As a result of the opposition to the DSWSC permit, TESPA came to realize that HTGCD’s rules and regulations were inadequate to protect the Trinity Aquifer from over pumping.
According to Ms. Puig-Williams, “The rules exempt DSWSC—the largest groundwater user in HTGCD’s jurisdiction – from conducting an aquifer test. The rules also do not require permittees to reduce production based on measured drawdown in the aquifer as the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BSEACD) requires. TESPA plans to work with HTGCD on a rulemaking to require all permit holders to conduct an aquifer test when seeking an increase to their production permit and to strengthen its rules using BSEACD’s rules as a model. HTGCD regulates the same aquifer as BSEACD. To effectively manage this shared resource, the rules should be similar.”
With this agreement, TESPA is excited to support DSWSC in its efforts to advance conservation in its service area and will work closely with DSWSC and HTGCD to forge a new vision for sustainable management of the Trinity Aquifer in Hays County.