San Marcos Mercury | Local News from San Marcos and Hays County, Texas

April 6th, 2010
San Marcos residents rise against EAA fees, fines

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Edwards Aquifer Authority (EAA) District 11 Boardmember Mark Taylor, standing left, and area resident Peggy Jones, standing right, at a recent meeting to discuss EAA policies. MERCURY PHOTO by SEAN BATURA

by SEAN BATURA
News Reporter

A group of San Marcos residents has formed to oppose some of the Edwards Aquifer Authority’s (EAA) recent enforcement actions in Hays County.

Coalition of Concerned Citizens Opposed to the Edwards Aquifer Authority (CCCEAA) said they formed after some of their number learned they had to buy water rights to pump from wells they had owned for years, while others joined the group after EAA ordered them to seal their unused wells without compensation.

Others involved with CCCEAA include landlords whose tenants draw water from a single well, and consequently do not meet the EAA’s “domestic use” exemption from annual pumping fees.

CCCEAA spokesman Jon Budd said he bought property in San Marcos 10 years ago that contained an abandoned well, which he opted to keep out of service in favor of city water. Budd said the EAA sent him a notice in November ordering him to commit to one of three actions within 30 days: bring the well into service, permanently seal the well (which can cost $5,000), or temporarily seal the well and incur costs including a $500 fine and a $125 annual inspection fee.

“They have a very active well abandonment program, yet they cannot produce one study showing those wells to be harmful to the aquifer,” Budd said.

The Texas Legislature created the EAA in 1993 in response to a federal court ruling issued the same year — the Sierra Club had sued the Secretary of the Interior and United States Fish and Wildlife Service (USFWS) for injunctive relief, citing failure to enforce the Endangered Species Act (ESA). Spring Lake and the San Marcos River sustain eight plant and animal species protected by the ESA.

“The EAA is more interested in making money than it is in protecting endangered species,” Budd said.

Budd said CCCEAA claims some 100-150 members, some of whom voiced their concerns at the March 2 San Marcos City Council meeting, which coincided with Texas Independence Day.

“We’re just trying to flush our toilets and take a shower, we’re not abusing the aquifer,” said San Marcos resident Rick White to city councilmembers. “Sam Houston and Steven F. Austin would be turning in their graves if they knew what was going on here in Texas.”

After being contacted by city officials, EAA District 11 Board Member Mark Taylor, who represents a portion of San Marcos, called Budd, who organized a meeting in an upstairs room at The Dive Shop on March 19. EAA District 10 Board Member Pat Stroka accompanied Taylor at the meeting, which was attended by more than 100 people.

White and his wife Cinda said they and six other property owners pump water from the same well for domestic use. However, their wells are not exempt from a $39-per-acre-foot annual fee because EAA considers multiple people on the same well the equivalent of a municipality under its current rules. The Whites said EAA is threatening them with fines and back payment requirements for not registering their well and for not paying the annual fee.

The Whites said they missed the deadlines set by EAA for registering wells and acquiring water rights because they never received a notice advising them of the requirements. After the deadlines passed, someone else acquired the water rights.

“And now we have to buy our rights from somebody that lives in San Antonio, Cibolo — whoever it was that signed that paper, wherever they live,” said Cinda White.

Taylor said he was not on EAA’s board in the run-up to the registration deadlines.

“If I would have been on the board at that time — and I wasn’t — I think I would have tried something different,” Taylor said.

Dec. 31, 1996, was the deadline for existing well owners to file “declarations of historical use” in order to secure an “initial regular permit,” and Dec. 31, 2005, was the deadline for registration of all wells — whether they needed a permit or not — under an “amnesty” program under which the EAA waived the well registration fee for wells registered by the deadline.

“Not only did a lot of people not know about the deadline, but some people I talked to knew about the deadline but thought they had an exempt use, and it turned out that they were wrong, the way the EAA wrote the rules,” Taylor said.

White said she asked an EAA staff member why she and her neighbors did not receive notice of the requirement. She said the staff member told her that sending out notifications would have been too expensive. EAA publicized the requirements via newspaper and radio.

A resident at the Dive Shop meeting suggested that a new deadline for obtaining permits and registering wells be set and accompanied by an ad campaign, to which the audience applauded.

“I support having a deadline for getting into compliance,” Taylor said. “And I think we might have a chance of getting that through the (EAA) permits committee and then through the board.”

EAA considers wells to be exempt from permitting and annual fees if they each serve one residence and pump less than 25,000 per day for domestic uses.

Someone from at least one of three families using the same well was in attendance to object to being subject to EAA’s annual fees.

“That would really just take a rule change to allow that situation to continue, and then that would be an exempt well serving three families,” said Taylor. “Right now, if its two property owners served by one well, then it’s not exempt. That’s something I’d like the board to reconsider.”

The owners of the Dive Shop, Don and Teresa Dibble, said they are facing EAA enforcement actions regarding a well they think should be exempt from permitting requirements and for which they missed their registration deadline.

“It’s just so wrong for me to be paying somebody in south Bexar County for my own water,” said Don Dibble.

Taylor said the Edwards Aquifer is the only aquifer in the state where people can purchase a water right from a buyer miles away. Taylor attributed the Edwards Aquifer’s uniqueness to its susceptibility to contamination. Water travels into and through the Edwards extremely quickly.

San Marcos resident Rita Samaniego told city councilmembers that EAA sent her letters ordering her to plug a well on her property that she said had not been used for more than a decade. Plugging a well can cost thousands of dollars, which Samaniego said she cannot afford because she is disabled and her only income is social security.

Samaniego told city councilmembers that she does not want to burden her children with the expense of sealing the well on her property. Samaniego said city officials told her no money is available to help her come into compliance. The EAA board created a an “abandoned well” fund in the current budget year to provide funding to plug wells, and the EAA staff is developing guidelines for use of the fund.

“This fund may allow for the EAA to pay for Ms. Samaniego’s well to be plugged,” Taylor said. “So I have asked the EAA staff to withhold further enforcement actions until the guidelines are developed. If the EAA fund covers the cost of plugging Ms. Samanieago’s well, it will not be a grant. Rather, she will be asked to consent to having a lien filed, and the plugging costs will need to be paid back either over time, or when her property changes ownership.”

EAA allocated $300,000 to the Abandoned Well Closure Fund this budget year. Taylor said EAA’s abandoned well rule should be changed to allow for wells to be capped rather than plugged, the latter of which is more expensive.

Jason Isaac of Dripping Springs, Republican candidate for the District 45 state representative seat, attended the standing-room-only meeting at the Dive Shop. Republican county judge candidate Bert Cobb of San Marcos made a brief appearance at the meeting, which lasted well into night. Also in attendance was Peggy Jones, defeated Republican primary candidate for county judge. Jones said EAA had unjustly fined her hundreds of dollars when she was a single mother facing a divorce lawsuit. Jones said EAA should give the money back.

“That was our grocery money, and I had to come up with it,” Jones said. “And it was a penalty for not filing my permit for the well that had been dug in 1985. It was a cased well. It was a clean well. I use anywhere between 4,000 and 5,000 gallons a month, and you might ask, ‘Ma’am, how do you know that?’ Because I was in the water business and I used to be metered, and I know that my water usage did not go up at all.”

Jones asked Taylor how EAA can require municipal use permits from non-exempt well owners if the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ) does not require them to have certificates of convenience and necessity (CCN), as required of licensed water operators.

“I would imagine that the TCEQ definition of municipal use requiring a CCN is different than the EAA definition of municipal use,” Taylor replied.

After the audience rumbled discontentedly, Taylor said he did not vote on the relevant rule.

At the meeting, Jones announced her candidacy for the EAA board seat occupied by Taylor. Days later, Jones said she found out another person affiliated with CCCEAA intends to run for the seat, so she will not file until she confers with the individual to avoid disrupting the group’s efforts.

“Filing for office will begin after the board calls for the election in July and the deadline will be in August,” Jones said. “Many things can happen between now and then, and I don’t want to commit either way until after the filing begins. I am leaning towards running.”

CCCEAA is circulating a petition promoting state regulation of the aquifer, yet stating that “proper management of the Edwards Aquifer water supply should not (be) limited to a single entity such as the Edwards Aquifer Authority, but should instead be a joint effort that actively includes the Citizens of Texas as well as Local, State, and Federal entities.”

The CCCEAA petition condemns “some aspects” of EAA’s regulatory practices such as “unfunded mandates” and expresses the concern that EAA is operating beyond the mandate set by the Texas Legislature. The petition calls on EAA to cease all enforcement actions pending a review of the its bylaws by representatives of CCCEAA, EAA and the Texas Legislature.

“The active well registration program enforcement thus far has been in Hays County,” Taylor said. “It’s about to go into Comal County, I understand, at the end of this year or early next year.”

EAA budgeted $13,894,320 in total revenue for 2010 and $13,087,157 in expenses. Forty-nine percent of expenses are devoted to staff salaries and benefits. EAA General Manager Karl Dreher’s salary is more than $180,000 per year. Thirty percent of EAA’s expenses are devoted to technical and professional services.

“They’re basically set up to be a profit organization to benefit their management and staff,” Budd said.

Taylor said Dreher is “extremely well-qualified” and was “a bargain.” Taylor said Dreher makes $15,000 less than the previous general manager, Velma Danielson.

Dreher, who began work as EAA’s general manager on March 15, is the former director of water resources for the State of Idaho. According to EAA, Dreher has more than 30 years experience in water resources management. EAA’s board selected him from among more than 150 applicants to succeed Danielson as general manager.

The EAA acquires 99 percent of its funding by charging aquifer management fees. The EAA added three new positions 2010: an engineer to assist in the development and administration of a recharge enhancement program, an environmental coordinator to implement the authority’s new rules regarding firefighting activities on the recharge zone, and a new compliance coordinator to help address the increased number of compliance matters.

The 2010 budget also includes about $1.9 million for funding expansion and renovation efforts to the EAA’s main building. The 2010 aquifer management fee for non-agricultural users increased by $2 for a total of $39 per acre-foot. The fee is assessed based on the total groundwater authorized to be used for the current year. Fees for agricultural users are charged on groundwater actually used during the preceding year. In 2001, the legislature amended the EAA Act to limit the agricultural fee rate to $2 per acre-foot.

Some attendees of the Dive Shop meeting said Bexar County has too many seats on EAA. The counties of Hays, Comal, Medina, Atascosa, Caldwell, and Uvalde have two seats each on the EAA board, compared with Bexar County’s seven seats.

San Antonio Water System (SAWS), a public utility owned by the City of San Antonio, is the largest single permit holder of Edwards Aquifer water. The Edwards Aquifer provides water to about 1.7 million people in Texas.

Taylor, whose seat is up for election in November, used to be the attorney for the City of San Marcos.

“We’re not sure that we don’t like you,” Teresa Dibble said to Taylor on March 19. “We’re not sure that we like you. Is that fair? We’re still trying to feel you out. But you’re not our main concern. There are seven people in Bexar County who are telling us what to do with our water rights when we need people who understand our way of life, who will represent our interests, and fairly.”

On April 5, Budd said CCCEAA is looking for new EAA board candidates to support in the general election and subsequent elections.

“We will absolutely not be supporting Mark Taylor,” Budd said. “We do not believe he is supportive of the well owners of the district he supposedly represents.”

Taylor did not indicate whether he would support making owners of single wells serving multiple tenants exempt from permitting and annual fees.

“I would support a rule change to expand the exemption for residential uses,” Taylor said. “I would want to await public input, and more information about the impact of drawing the line in different places (i.e., the broader the exemption, the more aquifer water that can be pumped over and above the statutory “cap” on permits) before deciding where the line should be drawn.

One attendee of the Dive Shop meeting expressed frustration at the EAA for sending him a letter advising him that he is prohibited from watering his grass or his wife’s flower bed, which the resident said are exempt uses.

“An exempt use means it’s used inside of the home or used to water a garden,” Taylor replied. “Use to keep St. Augustine grass going is not an exempt use.”

Another attendee of the Dive Shop meeting asked Taylor if he supports requiring permitting of — and, therefore, annual fees levied on — businesses that use wells for running toilets and other household-type uses.

“My belief is that small businesses should have permits,” Taylor replied.

Taylor asked his constituents to voice their concerns in-person at an EAA permits committee meeting. Taylor said the permits committee, which is composed of EAA board members, has thwarted his efforts at reforming some of EAA’s rules.

“It would definitely help if I had citizens there to show the real-life problems that the way the rules are written now cause,” Taylor said.

The EAA will hold a public hearing in San Marcos to solicit public comment on proposed rules relating to Chapter 709, Subchapter E “Administrative Fees” and Chapter 713, Subchapter D “Well Closures.” The public hearing will be at Dunbar Recreation Center at 6 p.m. on April 20. Budd said CCCEAA members will boycott the meeting and do not plan on holding a protest.

(Editor’s note: The above has been revised to show that the EAA’s public meeting at Dunbar Recreation Center in San Marcos will take place on April 20.)

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27 thoughts on “San Marcos residents rise against EAA fees, fines

  1. The Edwards Aquifer Authority is basically a bunch of thugs who are presiding over the theft of water rights of Texas citizens. All the mumbo jumbo about protecting the aquifer and the snail darter is just that–mumbo jumbo.

  2. The public hearing at Dunbar Center is April 20 at 6 p.m. The hearings will be in consideration of modifying rules relating to Fees and Well Closure proceedures. I urge everyone to attend. Without public participation, your voice will not be heard.

  3. The idea that a landowner has inherent rights to use as much water as they want (that passes underneath or beside their property) is antiquated and not sustainable for the future. If we suck the aquifer dry, that leaves us in a precarious position as a community. Texas is in the midst of water challenges like other states and countries. We have to figure out new ways to get along on this issue. Simply sticking our head in the sand and saying we should not have to worry about draining the aquifer, that we should not worry about protecting endangered species, does not solve the problem. From a San Marcos community perspective, if we didn’t have those endangered species in the river, then SAWS and individual property owners would have been unfettered in drawing as much water as they want, which would have reduced the San Marcos River to a wet creek only, running only a bit when it rains. Water is a tough issue and we need lots of different perspectives coming to the table to discuss and work these things out.

  4. Steve

    That is certainly true as far as it goes, but I haven’t heard anyone claiming a right to pump the aquifer dry or kill all of the little critters. The problem seems more about the heavy-handedness of the EAA. We created a quasi-governmental body beholden to voters of lands afar and gave them regulatory power to burden or take individual property rights. Their enforcement is spotty and their explanations are non-existent. Now, some people burdened by the overpaid bureaucrats are standing up and demanding some accountability. Good for them. I am sure the truth of water management lies somewhere between their position and that of EAA, but to say we have a water problem is not to endorse disproportionate and pointless actions that are not directly tied to a solution.

  5. John, thanks for the note, and I agree the EAA can improve in a number of ways! My earlier post was a bit knee-jerk to Well Owner’s posting. You are right, solutions will come from various perspectives working with EAA and other entities. From what I read and hear, we have a long way to go, and open dialog will help a lot. From that perspective, heavy-handed top-down one-sided bureaucratic actions do not foster progress.

  6. In reading the comments by attendees, in this aquifer news article, I’m thinking that I’ve stepped back in time to twenty years ago when the lawsuit and arguements about the aquifer went on at the Legislature and elsewhere. This was settled long ago with clear direction from the Legislature to regulate pumping in the aquifer, and some pretty clear instructions about permitting. The courts also ruled on many cases during the past decade or two, and EAA is now operating with the instructions from the Legislature and the courts. Is it possible that all these folks didn’t know all about this, with all the press about it over the past two decades?

    Without EAA and the pumping caps that the Legislature set up, this river in San Marcos would have disappeared years ago. I think most people realize that. The enforcement has been somewhat lax in my opinion in the whole region, but EAA is now working their way across central Texas to search for well owners who did not register the first time around. Mark Taylor and Pat Stroka are pretty considerate and understanding in trying to get rules passed to be easier on those who did not register, and they have agitated for a well closure fund for low income well owners. But he and Pat are not the whole board—as the article said, there are many others on the board from other areas.

    Some may not remember that the Legislature and the federal government were involved in drawing the districts and deciding on the representation on the board. The odds of changing that are next to none. I guess if that issue got opened up again, it is likely that SA would get more board members, since they’ve grown so much. It is hard to face, but anyone who uses water is part of the effort to dry up this river, and that is all of us. This region has drilled so many more wells into the aquifer than the aquifer can sustain now, that we are in serious trouble.

    The most recent computer models show that the entire region would have to cut its use over 80%, every time we go into Stage 1, in order to actually have the San Marcos and Comal rivers survive a long drought like the 50’s. And we keep growing, as though there are no consequences. The next ten year drought when it comes, will mean that industries have to shut down and people will have to move away. It will be economically devastating to the region, just because the public did not believe that they could actually run out of water. We continue to let golf courses build here, and people grow tropical lawns that take most of our water. We discuss “urgent” water issues for twenty years and yet we keep doing the same old thing, year after year, growing like crazy and pouring water out on the ground.

  7. Dianne – I have similar frustrations. However, some of us (rather reluctant) well owners are not necessarily opposed to what the EAA is about…but how they are going about their mission.

    I did not drill my well in 1908. I did not register it in 1996 because I didn’t live in my house at the time. (Shouldn’t the previous owners be held accountable?) I did “voluntarily” submit information in 2004, and regret doing so.

    If the EAA wants to cap as many wells as possible, I am fine with that. I am offering mine up. My wildscape doesn’t need watering. But don’t penalize me for “doing the right thing”, by forcing me to pay fees, fines, plugging costs, and waste my time on this entirely ridiculous process.

    I worry that this method of water control/conservation could inadvertently encourage disrespect for our amazing river.

  8. Steve, I agree that we need preserve our water in San Marcos and Hays. But, this is a program to charge and fine people to cap existing wells. Somebody is making some money off private landowners equatable to a “Jersey Shakedown”. Don’t confuse government over-extension with the greater picture of protection of our resources. We continue to subsidize cheap water through government funding. Yes, heavy handed is not the way to go here.

  9. Ah, such memories! I first saw a study in the early 1980’s, propounded by local expert and domestic well-owning suburbanite, Dr. Glenn Longley, then and now Director of the Edwards Aquifer Research and Date Center at SWT, who taught many of us how this virtually-unique aquifer (our sole groundwater resource, and so for the rest of the region including our giant neighbor to the south and several surrounding southern and western agricultural counties). The trouble began when, using data from the old Edwards Underground Water District, the Texas Water Commission, EARDC and others clearly showed that present usage trends would lead the San Marcos Springs to become intermittently dry, beginning in about 2001. The ‘fifties “drought of record” from 1946-1954 had already dried up the Comal Springs in New Braunfels and brought the San Marcos to a trickle–this in Pearl Beer’s once-heralded “Country of 1100 Springs.”

    We had seen a near disaster when the regional population was only just over one half-million, and the demand, population, and pumpage were growing at a frightening rate, as the supply remained the same as in prehistory (They still are, and accelerating, with nearly two milion people alone, as well as water-consuming industry and crops; we will soon rise to over two million human dependants, not counting chip-makers, food growers and processors, and other heavy users. The San Antonio and San Pedro and other large springs are long gone. At the time the Great Water War began, the entire region depended solely on Canyon Lake and the Edwards–finite resources with a long-known output capacity, tracked through fat times and lean. Bottom line–too many water hogs, too much population, and not enough time to respond. Since some people were going to be left without, the Great War ramped up in the eighties.

    From 1984 on, I was the San Marcos/Hays County representative in talks with all the interests in the counties, water utilities, cities, River Authorities, Groundwater Districts and industrial/ag users. Massive long-range studies were compiled, most notably the “CH-2M-Hill study, which, in confirming earlier fears, also came to the stunningly logical and unavoidable conclusion that only a few strategies were available, ranked in terms of cost and time-span, mainly.
    We could seek other groundwater from someplace else, likely south to the Carrizzo-Wilcox, since the nearby northern sources, the Trinity and Edwards Trinity, serving Hays and other counties, were themselves under the gun.
    Infrastructure, maintenance costs, diverse jurisdiictions, etc., made such a plan VERY COSTLY FOR EVERYBODY and would take DECADES to put in place and adjudicate (always a necessary step in any Texas water issues because of our ancient “cowboy water code. At this point, San Antonio had virtually free water, and was actively using it to propel economic development projects needing huge volumes. Been that way since the Mexican Friars came, stopped, and said, “With all this free-flowing water, we could make a mission and a paradise in the desert.”

    Or we could build dams along our rivers and streams, where the topography would support them. Thus Canyon, a reservoir on the Guadalupe boosted by Lyndon Johnson and overseen in part by our own Ed Cape–a US Army Corps of engineers project that didn’t run full for a quarter-century (1968?). This was not a preferred option, either, since there remained no other suitable topography (canyons to flood). While a way might have come to somebody in a drug-induced dream, we also learned that “if today we had a dam permit in hand, signed off be all the State and Federal Agencies of interest and all the local governments, we would not see a drop of water from such a reservoir for 25 years, IF EVER. Another idea not ready for prime time. And smaller versions cost too much to be paid for by their users, as well as yielding who knows how much reliable supply.

    Third choice–seek new sources from surface impoundments, like rainwater reservoirs, natural lakes, recycled water, etc. The trouble here was: a) there is only ONE natural lake in Texas, the rest being man-made. 2) saltwater might be remotely accessible, but the amount of processing to form a pipeline for human and animal use makes it THE most expensive use, and without proven suitable-scale technology in the world; 3) all surface water in the country is polluted and/or un-suitable without very considerable treatment and the usual problems of allocation and transport; 4) There remains adjudication, (as well as environmental clearance and siting and transport), in which a Court or agency(ies) would write the rules and prices to say who pays, how much, for how much water, and from whose area it would be sucked and how transported to cut losses.

    Last choice, and the cheapest and fairest, since we would all chip in and do it ourselves: We could begin with conservation, everybody lowering his profligate use of the water, measured in towns by gallons per person per day, and in other settings by acre/ft. per year. Voluntary would be good, but some groups refused to play: people with lush grounds full of heavy water-using “non-native” plants like roses, ferns, and St. Augustine lawns; people with pools and other “rec” uses; and the aforementioned ag and industrial folks. Simply, the manufacturers, food guys, and fisheries laid claim to “as much as we need, whenever we want it.” The general chorus was, “I won’t/can’t conserve, especially when those SOB’s upstream have low water rates anyway, and their waterparks and fountain gardens and their impact-head sprinklers (which LOSE by evaporation 75% of what they pump on their crops in the summer) , and their factories which dirty it and pour it out by the lake-full. The Coastal shrimp industry alone, which depends on the bays’ river-outflow mix of saline and fresh water for a (then $3B/yr) crop, along with the crab and sport fishing and hunting folks LOVED THE IDEA OF OUR CONSERVING as a first measure, but didn’t feel they should help pay. The towns downstream agreed with the chemical companies and refineries, and bowed their backs.

    After the Federal suit filed in 1989 against nearly everybody implicated in “waste,” the absolute bedrock of Texas Water Law, the parties began, one by one, to make and enforce means to maintain sufficient volume, purity and cleanliness, starting with the cheap voluntary methods (fixing leaks and turning off hoses) and moving with necessity toward the others in terms of volume, cost, and suitability. According to all the authorities, the dam solution (impoundment of the waters owned by all Texans) would simply NEVER happen. COULDN’T.

    Our little group argued and mediated and sued and whacked the Legislature and San Antonio until 1994, wearing out in the process three or for Chairs of The Water Commission and a handful of mediators, to no avail. Come the “next Big One,” we would run out of water and the LAST TWO major Texas springs would follow the others to oblivion, sooner than later. No significant progress except in San Marcos and New Braunfels, which began immediately to use every means to climb to the top of the heap, doing early what we knew we must do–switching to surface water, building state-of-the-art treatment plants, using regulations and increased costs and conservation education, and continuing to forbid or oppose spills and other sources which would pollute whatever we still had in the Edwards, We taught the kids in schools, the citizens, the carwashes–everybody–it was cheaper in the long run to save, re-use, and discourage new industries with heavy use and pollution potential, including pollution from septic tanks, gas tanks, and, yes, open wells.

    Good news? Doug Miller, then-Mayor of New Braunfels, now House Natural Resources legislator from Comal, and I were delighted when we won the issue, first in Court and then the Lege, despite our being classified as among Texas’ lowest-priority “recreational users!!!.” USFWL and the Endangered Species Act played a central role, since the populace didn’t seem to count, but only our tourists, tubers, fishers and swimmers. We also had the lowest per-capita use. San Antonio at first did absolutely nothing, although they are active now in major ways. Desperate! Now ready to duke it out with Austin and the Colorado River basin folks.

    The farmers of “Briscoe Country” dug in on the basis of their importance as food producers and the belief that “since we took this land from the Indians, we own it and everything under it exclusively and unregulated.” They forced us the last night possible to allot them each 2 acre/feet/year as a RIGHT for each of the 169 active irrigators, enough to grow four crops a year. In case we didn’t go along, they had longtime Texas Speaker Billy Wayne Clayton, the Cattlemen’s Association, the Farm Bureau, and a host of others who vowed to kill the proposed Bill for the fourth Session running (We wore out a bunch of their Executive Directors and lobbyists, too, which was nice.). And you think you have seen brutal power-players!

    So here we are. Mark Taylor was along for the whole ride, and can speak with some knowledge and authority, aside from being an excellent lawyer and a fair, smart, honest man. He works with people to help them learn and comply with as little bruising as possible. He knows that all wells need to be identified, for the sake of the whole region. That unused wells are dangerous to the water supply in our unique fast-flowing, unfiltered aquifer, as well as a direct human hazard. That new wells come in only registered, permitted, and paying a fair share. All wells are rated in the regs by their historical use, and if they haven’t been used during the specified period, they must register as new.

    I was proud to be the first person sworn in on the original EAA Board, but was soon removed on a technicality (probable bias toward SM) by the Attorney General, that great American, Dan Morales. I believed in it then, and still do. It is, first of all, not about “getting our money”–a terrible and unfounded insult to people who work to protect us more and harder than most people work. Indeed, it is not about “taking our property,” but about seeking equity for ALL users, in order that we have sufficient, affordable, healthy water and leave some for our brethren from Luling to the Bay, AND NOT KILL THE LIFE IN THE AQUIFER, THE RIVERS, THE CITIES, AND THE GULF.

    Had the situation been left to fester, we would have continued in the fine Texas tradition, “Whoever has the most and biggest straws in the soda gets it all,” while all the rest just suck. A final warning: the “water problem” is becoming recognized statewide, nationwide, and worldwide as a real and present danger. “Water hustling” will not stop–the pay is outrageously good (See the classic Nicholson movie, “Chinatown.”). Regulations have to get tighter yet, to catch some of the large fish who have avoided the net. Innovation continues, though the original alternatives seem to remain our only recourse. In ten or twenty years, water will be yet a more precious commodity, since human activity requires it. At least we don’t depend on Lakes Mead, Powell, and Lanier, which are silted up, droughted down, and going fast. Please don’t say California and her neighbors deserve to go back to desert–my vegetables are from there.

  10. This new group’s title (“Coalition of Concerned Citizens Opposed to the Edwards Aquifer Authority”) paints it into a corner that many of their “members” surely do not support. Are they really totally and completely against all things EAA? For those who are sincere and have legitimate gripes, then make your voice heard and rally the EAA to improve some of their rules and procedures. For those who are against most any water regulation and want to keep getting free water, well, we need to think big picture and long term, and realize we all need to work together on this so we have water in the future.

  11. Maybe they found “Coalition of Concerned Citizens Opposed to Most Actions but not the General Idea of the Edwards Aquifer Authority” too long. I think it is great that voters are combining to give their concerns a broader voice. I don’t think their ideas and concerns should be dismissed because they weren’t members of the SMRF in the 1980’s or because one former Mayor disagrees. Often an extreme position is very effective at moving the middle to a compromise, and the compromise doesn’t have to be immediate. I am eager to see how this plays out. And by the way, I just changed a lot of assumptions and made a computer model which shows the San Marcos River as wide as the Mississippi after a flood. Anyone who wants to can see it at computermodelscanbemadetosayanything.com.

  12. Maybe I missed making the salient point earlier that if similar attitudes about the components of regulation in general had prevailed during the War, especially with the weight of San Antonio and the poor open-furrow irrigators in Medina, Uvalde, and Atascosa, most of the well-owners in Hays and Comal would by now have had title to empty holes or salt wells. Like it or not, we’re ALL in this together, and we either recognize that and work constructively, or we all choose to dry up together, or start sucking from the pollution plumes already in or near the drinking pool. Our aquifer, unlike more common sand aquifers, transits water very fast within the system (Dye takes little over an hour to flow from Ezell’s Cave and Dead Man’s cave on the western outskirts, to run through into Spring Lake, without and filtration whatever as it courses through the porous, honeycomb limestone). You get what you are given, including your neighbors’ feedlot and pesticide and solvent tailings, waste dump leachate, or whatever falls in or washes in.

    Nobody especially enjoyed that decade of fighting each other and spending that unconscionable amount of money, but for Comal and the San Marcos area in particular, it was about survival at the most basic level. After all, something like 75% of the recharge pouring into the rainfall “catchment basin” and a similar percentage of the “storage area” reservoir is to the south and west, Bexar County and beyond. By the antiquated Texas Water Code, they therefore can RIGHTEOUSLY claim to “own” all that water if they can pump it without waste, and the State owns and controls all the surface water except for stock ponds, etc. Which leaves us WHERE in the case of the resource being shrunken by waste, overdraft, abuse, and overlarge claims, as has historically grown to be the case?

    The other side began with the notion that the free-flowing Comal and San Marcos Springs were just “god-damned leaks” that wasted the water downriver, and if they were plugged with cement, everybody else would be just fine. A very myopic view of a massive and perfectly functional system from the West to the Gulf in this semi-arid land, Their crack (oilfield) geologists, when confronted that there were actual HUNDREDS of SMALL springs forming our outflow at Landa Park and Spring Lake, rather than just huge conduit single-sources, saw their engineers quite stumped about how to do the region this “favor.” Their argument never really changed, despite this.

    Neither was the idea easy to deal with the proven fact that there is, indeed, a “bad-water line” butting up to and lying partly just under the southern part of the Artesian (spring) area that could bleed over in lean times to mingle with the usable water. We drink from the near edge of an ancient salt sea underground, it seems, and “drawdowns” in level
    during times of drought or overuse of the resource can send us into brackish/salty spring and well outflow. Test wells were drilled by the old EUWD, finding the saline line in 1992 to come within 300 yards of the main outflow of Spring Lake.

    One can see anytime the last of these “transect test wells” in the south parking lot of Aquarena Center, inside the fence. Water from this well in particular is so full of hydrogen sulfide (think rotten eggs and death) it smelled clearly and far through its plastic reagent chemical bottle. It is also replete with ordinary salt. Useless to living things, with the sole exception of making easy “Whoopee Cushion jokes, as was done in Hearing for the benefit of the Senators.

    For any wonks out there, the BIG lawsuit turned largely on a traditional point of the English Common Law, “the closing of the Commons,” in which so many wanted to exploit the state-owned common grazing land that it was being destroyed by overuse to the point it was failing. The only way to fix it was to have the state regulate the use of the common lands to allow for individuals to have access as needed and appropriate. Or, of course, get the big-money players to act in the place of the State and sell it as they might see fit to whom and at a price they determined. Now, THAT is invasive and unfair! May we continue to work together as the resource continues in peril for many, and as it shrinks for everybody. The Central Texas aquifers themselves will win any fight in the long run, and the people will lose–not a few, but all. EAA exists solely to avoid disaster, and being given weak powers and no money by the Lege, must do it via fees and market water prices, which it is designed to keep within reason.

  13. There are many informative and knowledgeable comments above.

    None address the simple fact that a common legal and registered well owner like me has been stripped of his water rights and can no longer water a small flower bed or plant and nurture a baby live oak tree without violating EAA rules and suffering its punitive wrath.

    None address the simple fact that a city or a university can use all the water it wants to keep its Augustine grass lush and green and its wind-swept fountains flowing 24 hours a day.

    None address the simple fact that the EAA has and is being arbitrary in its enforcement of rules and “cherry picking” vulnerable individual citizens while it is growing its numbers, strength, and coffers.

    None address the simple fact that the EAA, while formed as an entity for the greater public good, is operating as a ruthless for-profit entity that amassed some $14,000,000 in penalties and fees last year from ordinary citizens.

    None address the simple fact that people properly connected or in the know some time in the past are now selling “water rights” for a dollar (or more) on the dime.

    None address the simple fact that the EAA has demonized a few excessive (rule of the largest pump) offenders and then painted anybody who wants to wash their car or put out a slip and slide for their kids with the same brush.

    I can hug a tree with the best of ’em, but you folks who are supporting the EAA’s thuggish and irrational tactics and actions here in Hays County are being sold a bill of goods.

    This ain’t about the snail darter, folks, it’s about MONEY, plain and simple.

  14. My name is Jon Budd and I am one of the founders of the Coalition of Concerned Citizens Opposing the Edwards Aquifer Authority. I would like to make it clear that a person can be for the Edwards Aquifer but be against the Edwards Aquifer Authority (EAA). Our coalition is 100% for reasonably sustaining the water quality as well as the endangered species that are endemic to the aquifer. However, we find the tactics as well as the behavior of the Edwards Aquifer Authority staff and management questionable.

    Please note that the EAA is currently engaged in a 6.5 million dollar renovation to their headquarters in San Antonio. In addition, the annual salary of their new General Manager, Mr. Karl J. Dreher is over $180,000.00 per year. These are some pretty large and excessive expenditures from a State Agency that should be using some of that money to help cash strapped abandoned well owners plug their wells. This includes many older people on fixed incomes that just don’t have the funds. It seems that the EAA may value high salaries and opulent offices ahead of the preservation and quality of the aquifer and for sure above the quality of life of many hardworking, law abiding citizens.

    Please also note that when asked for scientific data illustrating that abandoned wells are a vector for pollution in the aquifer water, none was forthcoming from the EAA. As a matter of fact, the EAA’s own research shows the opposite. On the EAA’s website, there is a report entitled “Water Quality Trends of the San Antonio Segment Balcones Fault Zone Edwards Aquifer, Texas July 2009. Under the Conclusions Section of that study it states….

    “The extent of the contamination within the Edwards Aquifer is relatively small and the vast majority of the aquifer does not appear to be impaired”.

    The cost of plugging a well can cost thousands of dollars. All of which must be paid by the well owner. If the aquifer water shows no signs of pollution, then why does the EAA relentlessly pursue well owners to plug their wells? One answer might be the $500 the EAA charges for penalties. This is a cash cow for the agency. The EAA made over 12 million dollars in fees and penalties last year off of well owners. As a side note, reason dictates that septic systems would be much more of a threat to the water quality then abandoned wells. Yet, the EAA speaks nothing of this.

    I sincerely hope that the bloggers on this website that defend the EAA never have to experience being on the opposite side of the EAA. If they ever were, they would join our coalition in a heartbeat. The EAA staff is rude, patronizing, overbearing, and in some case downright brutal in their tactics. This is not Stalin’s Soviet Union, not yet. At least, we still have the right to speak up against injustice when we experience it.

    The Coalition of Concerned Citizens Opposing the Edwards Aquifer Authority will be attending the April 20, 2010 EAA board meeting at the Dunbar Recreation Center. Please come out and support the only organized resistance to the EAA. If you would like more information about us, you are welcome to e-mail me at ccceaa2010@yahoo.com or call 512-753-9512.
    Thanks,
    Jon Budd

  15. 4.Steve Harvey April 7th, 2010 8:42 am : “The idea that a landowner has inherent rights to use as much water as they want (that passes underneath or beside their property) is antiquated and not sustainable for the future”

    Steve,

    That has a nice ring to it because it demonizes all those greedy and selfish “excessive” water users. However, it is not most well owner’s intention to use huge quantities of water, and your statement completely misses the point.

    Mark Taylor summarized the EAA’s rules by saying “An exempt use means it’s used inside of the home or used to water a garden,” Taylor replied. “Use to keep St. Augustine grass going is not an exempt use.”

    Think about that for a moment. That means that an exempt well owner like me is no longer allowed to use water for ANYTHING outside my house except watering crops and livestock. That means I can’t: wash a car, water a flower, pressure wash my deck, nurture a young non-fruit-bearing tree, wash the outside of my windows, water a shrub, rinse out my rain gutters, fill up my hot tub, spray the web worms out of my pecan trees, put a bowl of water on the back porch for my cats, let children play in a sprinkler, fill up a bird bath, keep a tub of water out for the deer in the heat of the summer, top off my car’s radiator, wash the dog in the back yard, and on and on and on.

    Do you do any of those things at your house Steve? I bet you do.

    I paid to own and pay to maintain a regular old small-volume water well to meet my family’s water needs. We don’t have city water and don’t even have access to it.

    I might agree with you that water well owners don’t have any significant special water usage rights simply because the water runs under their land, but I certainly won’t agree that they have any fewer rights than you do or fewer rights than the average person using city water.

    The current EAA rules are just plain stupid. Add that to the fact that the EAA is rude, hasty, overbearing, excessively punitive, and somewhat schizophrenic, and you have the makings of a grass roots uprising. Hence, the Coalition of Concerned Citizens Opposing the Edwards Aquifer Authority.

  16. The article below is going to appear soon in some newspapers.

    *********************************************************************************

    Water Is Big Business In Texas, And Business Is Very Good At The Edwards Aquifer Authority

    Think you own a water well? Think again. Think you own the water under your land? Think again. Think you even have the right to use the water from your well for your house, yard, farm, or ranch? Think again.

    The Edwards Aquifer Authority (EAA) owns your well and your water, and, if they are of a mind, can even own your house and land. Imagine that, ­ right here in the great and sovereign State of Texas, the government has taken away your property and your rights.

    Sweeping and unprecedented water right rules went into effect in Texas back in 1994 and the EAA is only now getting around to enforcing them. In our experience the EAA is a hasty, self important, arbitrary, and humorless group that has been harsh, sometimes even merciless, in taking water rights away from some of your friends and neighbors. If you own a well (in use or idle) you are next.

    To my knowledge, the actions of the EAA constitute the largest government “eminent domain” property grab in Texas history.

    So, you ask, “just who are these people, and how can they dictate to me how and when I use my water well?” The EAA is a State Agency created by the Texas Legislature. According to information on their website, the EAA “manages, enhances, and protects the Edwards Aquifer system”. Oh really?

    Many, including your author, believe that the EAA has overstepped its mandate and developed its own set of self-serving regulations that offer little or no benefit to citizens or the Edwards Aquifer but instead benefit EAA’s supporters and its aggressive growth plans, fill its coffers, grow its staff, enlarge and enhance its facilities, and generally just make it yet another bureaucratic empire of dubious value, excessive cost, and staggering power.

    To wit, the newly-hired General Manager of the EAA, Mr. Karl J. Dreher makes $180,000 per year and has a total benefits package that exceeds $180,000 per year. That’s pretty serious money in our current economy.

    The EAA spent some $12,000,000 in 2009, has grown its staff to 82, and has recently ordered a $6,500,000 renovation to it’s San Antonio Headquarters. Also during 2009, the EAA took in approximately $14,000,000, ­every dime of which was generated by fees, penalties, and civil judgments levied against local water well owners. Stated differently, the staff and management of the EAA took 14 million dollars away from local water well owners just like you to fuel the EAA machine so that it can place even more restrictions on you and other local water well owners in the future. The EAA is snowballing down a pretty steep slope, and all water well owners are in its path.

    If you are a water well owner in Atascosa, Bexar, Caldwell, Comal, Guadalupe, Hays, Medina, or Uvalde counties you do not own your water well or the water that you take from the Edwards Aquifer, plain and simple. The EAA owns it, and if it wants it can fine, assess or penalize you for simply having a well and/or for the way you use your water or even for the way you may have used your water in the past.

    If your water well or the way you use your water does not meet the EAA’s seemingly endless (and seemingly situational) maze of rules you can be assessed many different types of penalties or fees, and/or forced to make changes to your water system. Some well owners in Hays County have been hit with charges or changes that total thousands or even tens of thousands of dollars. Believe me, if you have a well on your property, you are in line for similar treatment even if you don’t use the well on your property and even if you are also connected to a public water supply.

    Adding insult to injury, the EAA often is quite harsh, demanding, rude, and impatient with water well owners. My personal experience and the experiences of many I know prove this out. Pushy and self important letters, ridiculously short time frames, excessive fees and penalties, arbitrary targeting of individual well owners, legal actions and threats of legal action, and trespassing EAA staff are just some of the tactics that I have become all too familiar with since I first became introduced to the EAA. The EAA seems to view water well owners not as legitimate and empowered property owners with long-standing water rights, but rather as water bandits or some sort of criminal class to be subdued and financially exploited.

    We have formed a grassroots alliance of citizens to challenge and curtail the tactics and methods of the EAA. Our alliance is called, “The Coalition of Concerned Citizens Opposing the Edwards Aquifer Authority”. Our mission is to help ensure: that water well owners and well users under the jurisdiction of the EAA are treated in an appropriate, fair, timely, consistent, and respectful manner; that the EAA operates strictly and uniformly within the confines of its authority; that the EAA at all times seeks to minimize financial or other burdens it places on water well owners and users”.

    Given the size and power of the EAA, this is a pretty tall order and we can use your help.

    If you have a well (in use or not) you are most certainly going to be hearing from the EAA and you are probably not going to like what you hear. There is strength in numbers, and our organization is rapidly growing. If you would like to be involved or even just kept informed of our actions and progress please contact me. My name is Jon Budd and I can be reached at 512-753-9512 or at ccceaa2010@yahoo.com.

  17. It may be that “Well Owner” has over-read, misunderstood, or used another’s (motivated?) interpretation of the EAA
    Rules, their extent, and their purpose. As one of the contribut0ors to the whole formation process, NB and
    SM acquiesced to none and promoted none of these harsh measures described. The State of Texas still controls the water, using EAA as a functionary agent. According to rule, usage is categorized into a hierarchy WHEN THE RESOURCE BECOMES IMPERILED, beginning at the top with domestic use, then municipal, then agricultural, industrial, and lastly, recreational. Restrictions follow that order. The severity of sanctions likewise, with special attention to those wells being used outside their category, wells being overpumped for the catgegory, and volumes which can be shown wasteful for the use. Almost any user, so long as his well is drilled and closed in to accepted standards, can freely fill his pool, water his petunias, take his showers and furnish his kitchen at will, up to the graduated level of crisis.

    During drought or crisis, water SUPPLIERS face conservation limits bases on how bad the problem is–which is prtty precisely measurable by amount of rainfall, amount of average hiistoric use, level of the test wells and index wells, etc. The easy way for personal or private or p[ersonal users to become noticed and identified and fined, etc., is clear: Don’t register, so nobody can guess how many random, unknown pumpers are out there skewing the data. Use the water, say for a domestic well, to supply a whole subdivision, thereby becoming a “water company,” “supplier,” or “provider” in fact. Waste water via faulty equipment, neglect, deliberate flaunting, etc.–letting tailwater or outflow just run down a street or on the ground, or in drought times, to hose the dirt off the house, outbuilding, boat, etc. Failure to conserve appropriately at the various carefully-calculated drought level restrictions or times–in the heat of August during the daytime, so most of the water actually evaporates, instead of being put to beneficial use. “Waste,” non-maintenance, and use for no individual or regional use–“non-beneficial” puimpage.

    Any informed user, and especially those involved in the Great Water War, plus the Lege and the time-honored but outdated Texas Water Code, will tell you that everybody’s beneficial use is OK, if registered and accounted accurately. One cannot claim new pumpage for wells that have never been pumped, except by special, and LIMITED, permit. One cannot drastically increase pumpage when the region is becoming dessicated to the point that municipal, ag and industrial uses cannot function with a degree of normalcy. All this has been sanctified as just and constitutional and NECESSARY by the Federal Court, various other Courts and agencies, and the Lege, which has had it under continuous scrutiny and tweaking for almost a decade and a half.

    The probllem of helping pumpers come into compliance is minor, although not yet clearly defined. By my very own suggestion, the combatants found a way to use an unspent agricultural emergency fund, for example, to subsidize the 169 Western Big Irrigators, who were using about half as much as the entirety of Bexar County, to replace their wasteful irrigation techniques and equipment–open-furrow, or ditch, irrigation, which let water both evaporate and run off; and impact-head monster sprinklers, which were evaporating up to 80% of what came out of the ground.

    The State, the region, and the EAA helped them to convert to what is basically direct-application, drip irrigation.
    They first claimed it was nobody’s business, then that there was no waste, then that they would love to retrofit, but couldn’t afford to. In return for registeriong and metering and compliance, they were helped to install Low-Energy-Precision-Application (LEPA) equipment, which not only saved a BUNCH of water for the future, but also freed them from some incredibi9le fuel and power costs they had been opposing on themselves by their waste.

    All these improvements involved cooperation and negotiation on both sides, aqlong with the realization that without a regulatory mechanism, San Antonio could simply pump everybody dry–wwhich they indicated they were willing to do, based on just the sort of logic Well-Driller refers to.

    The very bottom line: Yes, the tradition of water-hustling in Texas is still alive, is in fact getting more profitable and enticing as water grows more scarce and population and industries crowd around the pool. Rain is never reliable in Texas, shows no indication of increasing over time, and unfortunately will continue to be fought over. The partial solution over this Balcones Escarpment/Southern Edwards will likely be the model as all the big cities around the State start to tussle with the little guys and try to take it all. The pressure is already pretty fierce around the Ogalalla, a sand aquifer which runs 1100 mi. from the Indian Country of Idaho, through the heartland, to become the only source for the Panhandle and High Plains ag regions. Same for the Trinity, the basin below Dallas and Fort Worth. They just haven’t had their wars YET. And no, the EAA is NOT about the money–the Lege gave them NONE except permits and fees, to enforce the necessary regulations and do all their other duties, including the complicated science.

    It’s worth thinking about that the small towns of New Braunfels and San Marcos had no leverage against the millions in lawyers, lobbyists, trade associations, etc., except to spend MILLIONS and pay more than the rest of the lot, essentially shaming the others to do at least SOMETHING whether they wanted to or not. This is why the pumpers in the two”recreational” counties still have any water at all, to speak of. No private pumpers, association, or organization dropped a dime–only the city utilities and taxpayers. They saved the mule so others could ride it.

    A reasonable conversation and possible solutions can be had, once mistrust and hostility leave the room . We are, after all, all in this together, even as local and other speculators band together and actively plan to build 60″ pipelines and pump water from wetter places to the South and East (starting in Atascosa, likely, and Bastrop/Fayette, fairly soon). we’d damned well better look after one another. The sprawling growth (check the figures–Kyle?) and its new hordes will force stricter regulations and MUCH higher prices than we’ve ever seen. There will be then hardly any flowing private wells, I suppose, as they will be permanently sucked dry or polluted by inflow and runoff, and co-opted by the hustlers.

  18. I appreciate all the comments here. However,

    1. For years I have owned my well and have been a “responsible” well owner. I do not have grass in my yard (although I dreamed of this all my life), I do not wash my cars in my yard, I fix any water leaks quickly, I do take very quick showers and I am very concerned about the water usage from the Edwards Aquifier. I believe most well owners will not only tell you the same but live the same. To compare us to golf courses, fish farms, and other large users is just back-handed and playing on peoples emotions. Great tactic!

    2. For EAA, and others, to intrude into my home and tell me that I am being “piggish” about wanting to use water which helps me survive is surely uncalled for. Just because it is stated does not make it so! Unless, of course, you can take my hard earned money away by changing the rules in the middle of the game,

    3. The EAA is another government agency that might have had good intentions but has used heavy handed and stealth means to accomplish its goal. The goal of being an agency that can claim it is supported without “tax money” is a very powerful vision. The statement implies that it has the support of the general public. If this board is truly about balancing the well owners use and the Edward Aquifiers water please tell me of the rules that the EAA has taken the citizens voices of concern into account. I just do not want to be told what you think but I am respectfully asking to be shown the rules of the EAA Board and how they decided to pass THEIR rules.

    4. The EAA has stated that the board supports it actions. When asked why we were not notified at our individual addresses about the requirements of “permitting our wells” they have had serveral answers. “It cost to much”, “it is your responbility to read and understand every change the Texas Legislature passes every session”, “We did not have addresses for well owners”, “we ran two small notices in the local paper” , and the list goes on. If the EAA truly believed in its mission, what is the harm in allowing responsible well owners to come into complaince with the rules it has on the books, without penalties,interes, and finest?

    5. The EAA is a government agency that has “total control” over who gets to keep their water, how they can use it and when they can use it. What other limits will be imposed upon us if they continue down this path?

    6. I served my country in the Army and did what my country asked of me. I fought for freedom and individual rights. Individual rights that do not impose on thoses around others. I pay my taxes, I follow the laws but when the government can retroactivily take my rights away and penaltize me at the same time I wonder what has happened.

    I know! I kept my head down, tried to play by the rules set by others and hoped that I could stay out of their sights.
    I now know that it was only a matter of time before I fell out of step with their agendas and would be forced to either be quite and play by their rules or stand up and be heard.

    7. I am asking for all those involved be allowed to come into complaince with the boards rules, without any penatilies, interest or fines. Allow the deadline for complaince to expire on March 31, 2011.I am asking that any future cost of keeping in complaice be enough to cover only the basic cost of staff, buildings and equipment. I am asking that the EAA give proper notices of any changes in the future. Proper notice means sending out letters to well owners, several public notices in the newspaper, radio and televison ads. What about cost? How much postage and airtime would 6.5 million dollars buy?

    When I asked these questions and raised my concerns at past EAA public meetings I have been told that these topics were not on the agenda of the meeting. I respect the work CCCEAA is trying to do. The purpose of the CCCEAA is in trying to have EAA be responsible to both the well owners and the Edwards Aquifier. When those of us have contacted the EAA individually, we felt like we were dismissed. We all know that there is strenght in numbers and the CCCEAA is the only place were our voices have been heard collectively.

  19. 19.billygmoore April 14th, 2010 3:24 am : “It may be that “Well Owner” has over-read, misunderstood, or used another’s (motivated?) interpretation of the EAA. Rules, their extent, and their purpose. As one of the contribut0ors to the whole formation process, NB and SM acquiesced to none and promoted none of these harsh measures described.

    BillyG,

    Nope, I didn’t over read, misunderstand, or intentionally misstate the rules. Perhaps you should read the rules and/or talk to a few local well owners who have had the pleasure of dealing with the EAA.

    Mark Taylor summarized the EAA’s rules at a public meeting by saying “An exempt use means it’s used inside of the home or used to water a garden,”

    Ronald H.Vaughn, the EAA’s Environmental Management Officer, informed me in a letter that as the owner of an exempt well I am restricted to using water only for domestic or livestock purposes and that “The Authority’s rules define domestic and livestock use as: Use of water for (A) drinking, washing, and culinary purposes; (B) irrigation of a family garden or orchard the produce of which is for household consumption only; or (C) watering of animals” (livestock).

    Currently the EAA is not being too strict across the board about how exempt well owners use their water. That will change after they have broken us all to the bit and grown so large that they can’t possibly be contested. In the mean time, they selectively enforce their ridiculous rules when and where they want to bully any individual well owner that they decide to single out.

    No such restrictions apply to people using city water (that they pay the government for). In a way your are correct that it’s “not about the money”. It’s about the money AND control. The EAA will not rest until it has capped every well or metered every well so that it becomes a revenue source.

  20. 22.Steve Harvey April 14th, 2010 2:49 pm : Tomorrow at the Capitol, the House Natural Resources Committee takes up groundwater issues. Should be interesting, and definitely of interest to us all.

    Indeed.

    The meeting is at the Capitol Extension Building at 15th and Congress in room E2.010, which I’m told is in the basement.

  21. 7.Dianne Wassenich April 8th, 2010 6:52 pm : In reading the comments by attendees, in this aquifer news article, I’m thinking that I’ve stepped back in time to twenty years ago when the lawsuit and arguements about the aquifer went on at the Legislature and elsewhere. This was settled long ago with clear direction from the Legislature to regulate pumping in the aquifer, and some pretty clear instructions about permitting.

    Dianne,

    Yes, the legislation is old hat, but the implementation is not–it is brand new and many object to the way it is being interpreted by the EAA and the way they are going about it.

    It is not proper for you to be so cavilear about the fact that the EAA is taking simple and small day to day water rights from well owners and the way the EAA is bullying and punishing so many of your neighbors.

  22. The charge the Lege gave the authority included:
    finding all the undocumented wells, both in use and not, as well as those open and uncapped–a mammoth task, but necessary, since 5,000 local and private and well-managed wells can use a huge amount of water even in good times, an unconscionable amount in drought like that of the past three years; causing all open and uncapped wellls, including very old ones particularly, since they easily lend themselves as direct ports into the clean water for any kind of garbage or hazardous substance (Woe be unto the fairly many that have used them as convenient garbage receptacles, drains for animal offal, etc.). Having identified all functional wells, their capacity, their quality of completion, and their pattern of use, plug that data into the inflow/outflow models that are the basis of reasonable drought and critical period management. The ultimate purpose is to save the rivers and springs (and usable wells when usage exceeds recharge, or replenishment.

    In one way, we are quite lucky, since ours is the unique limestone karst-outcropping formation, which is not only sealed naturally against some kinds of drainage and pollution, but, because of the highly porous and fractured limestone, carries water very fast, thus recharges MUCH faster than, say, the more common sand aquifers like the Ogalalla, especially when there are structures built to enhance the capture and recharge like the five dams that also protect our area and the City proper form the typical, periodic flooding–and inflow of pooh-pooh, animal fecal material, and chemicals that could kill or mutate us. Old, leaching garbage dumps, unless retrofitted as per EPA carry the same threats, and there are a bunch of those in the area, notably the Gary Army Air Base dump, which was found to contain anything you might imagine coming from a military operation over a couple of decades, including fuels and lubricants, hydraulic fluids, solvents, PCB’s from electrical transformers and equipment–in addition to pesticide and herbicide runoff from the “campus” and nearby farming/feedlot operations. The City of San Marcos, in self-defense, was once again forced to spend several millions of dollars to amend the situation, bring it up to Federal standards, clean up the toxic “leachate,” and provide multiple bore test wells to monitor into the distant future.

    Mandate? Yes. Expensive as hell? Yes. But the return is not only to protect the two rivers and associated municipal water supplies, and those who use them, but also to protect the freestanding wells,WHETHER OR NOT WE KNOW WHERE THEY ARE, AND WHETHER OR NOT THEY ARE THEMSELVES ARE COMPLIANT. They and future users get this benefit at no cost. Because we must all drink from the same cup in a growing, semi-arid region prone booth to periodic droughts and floods that might carry the old DDT and newer solvents, etc. into the water table for all to share.

    It is in a way sad to think we took a stand that forced us to have some of the cleanest and most potable water in the state, and to be able to treat it virtually clean as it runs down the Blanco, San Marcos and Guadalupe basins for our neighbors all the way to the Coastal fisheries in the bays. And for now, we have the best insurance available for both our underground water supply and the beautiful and fruitful rivers we enjoy, and which had been enjoyed undisturbed for over 12,000 years by hose who came before and who worshipped this place for its bounty and its abundant purity. But that is another wonderful story.

    Bottom line: The EAA is only as arbitrary, capricious, and inconsiderate as it is forced to be to hold the line against very real potential disasters of modern human making. I don’t claim to know, but I do believe that in the individual case, there is some room for discussion with conscientious users. And not just the domestic and livestock ones.

    I wish earnestly that I could at last say I ‘have no dog in this hunt,” but until we can produce a sustainable flow of Evian in the Rivers and protect the resource from modern overuse, every one of us does. New Braunfels gets virtually all its water from Canyon Lake now (They HAD to go first.) San Marcos buys over half its supply from surface supplies at Lake Dunlap, and both cities “flavor” their supplies with the relatively pure water of our rivers–once more, at a high and rising price. As it remains today, under the revered “independent by-God Texas cowboy Water Code” we still live under rules that say, if your neighbors–from however far away– pump your well dry or foul it, say, with the salt water from east of I-35, you are out of the game, with no remedy. And the growing mob of new “settlers” in the suburban and urban areas to the north and south and scattered between, have the appetite and the capacity, political power and money to take away our ENTIRE supply and the springs/rivers with it.

    No hits, no runs, no men left on base, if not for the EAA, GBRA, LCRA, and the creatures in the water that interest the US Government enough to help. Imagine, they give us human beings nor the creatures any value alongside their water entertainments, their fake rivers, their business and industry, power plants, and the lovely imported water-intensive plants (including Saint Augustine grass) they plant around their well-supplied homes, paying the lowest rates in the nation. They have the deep ends of the aquifer and the money and power to grab it ALL, except for the welfare of the tiny, rare creatures that stand between us and them. Kiss a blind salamander today!

  23. It is interesting that the excuses for not notifying well owners was that it was to difficult , to expensive, time consuming, the individuals responsibility, yet when it was time to bully, threaten and pressure well owners it was easy to send the letters. Also, I received a letter for the offices of Patrick Rose with important information and it appeared very easy for him to find the proper address. Other that Mr. Rose, I was disappointed with the lack of knowledge expressed by Hays County commissioners (Karen Ford and Jeff Barton) when I attempted to gain their point of view on this issue. I personally will be writing Texas legislators to inform them about the actions of the Agency and asking how these relate to the mandate to protect the Edwards Aquifer.

    I will be looking to exploring options to the adversarial and condescending attitude being projected by the current EEA management. I believe that concrete action taken on the steps listed below and hinted at in remarks by Mr. Taylor at the April 6th meeting, would help repair some of the distrust and hopefully lead to real, constructive conversations to truly protect the Aquifer for all stakeholders.

    Step one : reopen registration for well owners with appropriate notification by mail.

    Step Two: Explore rule changes to include some type of grandfathering options that would take a look at what was done in the County previous to the creation of the EEA.

    These would work to rectify, at best an inadvertent oversight, at the worst an attempt of over reaching by an agency looking to justify itself at the expense of others.

  24. 25.billygmoore April 15th, 2010 2:46 am : Bottom line: The EAA is only as arbitrary, capricious, and inconsiderate as it is forced to be to hold the line against very real potential disasters of modern human making. I don’t claim to know, but I do believe that in the individual case, there is some room for discussion with conscientious users. And not just the domestic and livestock ones.

    “Forced to be”. Are you kidding me? The EAA runs roughshod over any and all as it chooses. I am not responsible for any “disasters of modern human making” yet the EAA is out bullying and threatening me and restricting my water use to a ridiculous degree. I “forced” them how? By existing? By living? Get real.

    You speak of conscientious users, but fail to mention water well owners. Explain to me please how a water well owner has fewer rights to use water than a person who doesn’t own a water well. Why aren’t you telling the University to turn off their 24-hour a day fountains or telling City Hall to let ITS lawn go brown? How about you go tell all the sports fields in town that THEY can’t water. How about you go up to the State capital an tell them to let their 200 year old oak trees to die in a drought. I have 200 year old oak trees also–Is it ok with you if I water them from time to time? Or, are some oaks more equal than others?

    Everyone (not just you) wants the aquifer to be clean and to be used responsibly. This doesn’t mean that we need another self-important and over-powered government bureaucracy to take common and long standing rights away from ordinary citizens.

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