Courthouse Connections: A column
by LIZ SUMTER
Hays County Judge
Water is the topic of the day, the fight of the future and the “I told you so” of the past. While we can’t avoid it being the topic of day, particularly in the middle of a drought, we can lessen the fight of the future and maybe even eliminate the “I told you so” of the past.
The Trinity Aquifer is being over-pumped today. We are depleting our groundwater resources faster than we can recharge them. If we are to avoid pumping the aquifer dry, we must take a comprehensive water management approach. That approach must give us the ability to manage our groundwater resources, enforce strict conservation methods during drought conditions, encourage conservation during water rich periods, bring in surface water to relieve the over pumping pressure off of the aquifer and make all of us equal partners in our water management future.
The notion of equal partners is extremely important, so let me define partners for you — water utility providers, well owners, rainwater system owners and government entities that determine policy that affects water usage, management, and movement.
We cannot be successful if we undertake one aspect of water management, such as bringing surface water in to relieve the pressure off of the aquifer, without tending to all of the other steps simultaneously. To do otherwise puts the burden on one or more partners, while the other partners enjoy the benefit. Everyone must share equally — financially or otherwise, the burden and the benefit of water to be successful.
Now is the time to take several steps simultaneously toward a sustainable water future. The legislature should give Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District full Chapter 36 status with one exception — current residential well owners should be allowed to continue as they are today — provided this exception comes with the following conditions: (1) the current residential well owners, in times of drought, should abide by the same drought management plan everyone else does in the district, (2) the pumping limit should be lowered from 25,000 to 10,000 gallons a day and (3) if the well owner repeatedly wastes water then the exemption should be removed. Further, the exemption of a current residential well owner should expire and be permitted when one of the following conditions change: the owner of the property changes hands or the usage of the water (residential) changes.
At the same time, surface water should be secured and brought into the district solely for the purpose of reducing pumping from the Trinity Aquifer. Remember, we are currently over-pumping the aquifer. In times of drought, we need to reserve water for existing wells and replenish rainwater tanks. Unfortunately, for the foreseeable future, surface water for certain areas in the district will be tenuous, at best. Our rights to water will be junior to anyone else’s rights from which we secure surface water. We must be sustainable with our one groundwater resource and encourage as much rainwater collection as possible.
It is a tall task, but I am confident that all of us — elected leaders, water utility providers, well owners and rainwater system owners — are up to the challenge, and that we will insist that the right thing be done.Email | Print