Wimberley Valley Watershed Association
Feburary 1, 2012
The Texas Water Development Board (TWDB) was scheduled to review two challenges and decide on the reasonableness of the Desired Future Conditions for the Trinity Aquifer in the Texas Hill Country at their February 1st board meeting. At the request of WVWA, the Board President granted a continuance yesterday and moved the agenda item to the March 1st scheduled board meeting. TWDB is expected to rule on a protest to the Desired Future Condition (DFC) goal adopted by GMA 9, a goal that some argue is not sustainable. The proposed DFC allows for an average of 30 feet of additional groundwater decline over the next 50 years (an average of 19 feet across Hays County). History of the DFC issue.
Learn about Groundwater Planning in the Hill Country.
Due to the fact that it takes only a 2 to 3 feet drop in aquifer level above Jacob’s Well to cause the spring to stop flowing, WVWA appealed the ruling to the TWDB on the grounds that this level of decline is unreasonable and unsustainable as it fails to protect the flow of water to individual well owners and to the springs and creeks that are the economic engines of the Hill Country. Read more about WVWA’s appeal.
The impacts of this action threaten not only public treasures like Jacob's Well, but the productivity of private and public drinking water supply wells and natural springs across the region. The WVWA is not alone. Public comments recorded at numerous meetings throughout the Hill Country over the past five years showed the public's overwhelming desire to set Desired Future Conditions with a goal of zero drawdown on the aquifers. One hundred and sixty interested parties filed 777 pages of notarized statements with the TWDB in support of WVWA’s appeal.
In addition to the appeal by WVWA, TWDB will also consider and rule on an appeal of the DFC petition that was filed by the developers of the Flying “L” Guest Ranch, Ltd in Bandera County. In their appeal, Flying L appeal argued that the proposed DFC allowed for too little drawdown and would make it difficult for groundwater districts to guarantee existing permitted uses.
TWDB staff released a 65 page briefing memo on January 25 that outlines the two petitions and recommends that the proposed 30 ft DFC is somehow reasonable, even though it will allow a large increase in aquifer pumping and most likely cause Jacob’s Well spring and other springs across the region to stop flowing for longer periods of time. The full text of the memo can be read here. The staff memo bases its argument of “reasonableness” mainly on the fact that the process that GMA9 followed to adopt the DFC was administratively complete and met all of the legal requirements in terms of what was considered in its adoption. The TWDB report notes that “the statutes do not contain a requirement that the DFC ensure the aquifer is managed sustainably.”
What the memo does not adequately address, however, is the massive amount of technical information and scientific evidence presented by WVWA that demonstrates the many negative impacts that such a large drawdown in the aquifer will have on the Wimberley Valley, its economic base, and its natural resources.
Such negative impacts include domestic (privately owned) wells going dry more frequently under even short periods of dry weather, not just with severe droughts; Jacob’s Well and Cypress Creek flowing only intermittently, except in wet years; a reduction in income for businesses throughout the Hill Country that rely on a flowing river to draw people to their doors; and a reduction of sub surface flows from the Trinity to the Edwards Aquifer, recharge that sustains Barton Springs during times of severe drought.
In their recommendation, TWDB staff state that ”the reasonableness of the DFC with respect to socio-economic impacts, environmental impacts, and the exercise of personal property rights will depend on the way in which the Districts incorporate the MAG into their management plans and rules and make related decisions regarding permit authorizations and administration.” The report does not seem to consider the significant impact that the DFC and the associated large increase in pumping will have in an area that is already experiencing groundwater decline under current pumping.
Local Groundwater Conservation Districts are the State’s preferred method of groundwater management, but it is important that state and regional planners provide much-needed leadership for balancing the very complex issues involved in groundwater management. The WVWA encourages the TWDB members to consider advising GMA 9 to revise the DFC in Hays County to address the needs of private landowners and businesses reliant on flowing springs and rivers. The current board of the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District (HTGCD) has not proven itself trustworthy in the task of balancing these competing needs. They have continued to issue new permits in the absence of an approved MAG (including a new golf course next to Jacob’s Well), and voted for an aquifer drawdown that will ultimately compromise the economic security of the Wimberley Valley and its future water supplies.
Regardless of how the TWDB Board rules on March 1st, their decision is not binding on the GMA 9 or the local Districts. This makes it imperative that residents and landowners hold their District accountable for managing our groundwater in a sustainable way and oppose aquifer mining. Board members of local GCD’s must understand the limitations of the Groundwater Availability Model and take responsibility for impacts of their decisions on the economy, environment, and private property rights of their constituents.
TWDB is scheduled to hear arguments and rule on the DFC appeals at their board meeting March 1st at 10:30am.
WVWA encourages residents and concerned citizens across the region to attend the meeting on March 1st to show support for adoption of a new DFC that will sustainably manage the Wimberley Valley’s precious groundwater resources, one that protects local drinking water supplies, Jacob’s Well, Blue Hole and the future of Cypress Creek. If you cannot attend the meeting, please email the TWDB at firstname.lastname@example.org with your comments.
The meeting is scheduled for Thursday, March 1st, at 10:30am. Stephen F. Austin Building, 1700 N. Congress, Room 170, Austin.
The bidding is now open for the Rainwater Revival’s art barrels – professionally designed and decorated rain collection barrels sure to add a delightful yet purposeful accent to your yard. Funds from the auction support rainwater collection and conservation program grants to Hill Country schools. Learn more
Driving through western portions of Austin, maybe you’ve noticed scenic, tree-covered hills spreading across the landscape and wondered when they will become a new shopping area or residential development. While growth is inevitable, it is also important to preserve land for the environmental benefits it provides. Learn more
Water is a hot topic in Texas – and it’s getting hotter. Register for Trib + Water to stay informed. This bi-weekly newsletter is brought to you at no cost by The Meadows Center for the Environment and The Texas Tribune.
“The project is much too important and costly for San Antonio not to have a full and complete understanding about the reliability of the groundwater supply.” Read more from this by Dr. Curtis Chubb, rancher and groundwater expert, published in the Rivard Report. Citizens have the opportunity to address the San Antonio City Council each Wednesday at 6:00 pm. The Alamo Group of the Sierra Club has created a clearinghouse of articles and reports to keep you informed. SA City Council is likely to vote on the project Thursday, October 30th.
“This historic decision puts us within reach of purchasing the entire tract of land and protecting the habitat Bracken’s bats have used for thousands of years.” Read more from Bat Conservation International. “San Antonio is one of the fastest growing cities in the county, in part because of the vast natural resources of the region. It’s our responsibility to ensure we protect and conserve what makes this region incredibly special.” Councilman Ron Nirenburg, quoted in the Rivard Report.
"Everything from urban development to dance hall preservation was on the agenda at the Hill Country Alliance 2014 Leadership Summit, held Thursday at the Nimitz Hotel Ballroom." Read the full article from the Fredericksburg Standard.
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Most food growers rely on tap water to keep their plants alive during dry weather, but gardeners are discovering that chemicals in tap water harm the soil organisms that plants depend upon to absorb nutrients. As a result, more and more gardeners are storing rainwater. Read more from Sustainable Food Center.
For the past year, San Antonio City officials, Bat Conservation International, The Nature Conservancy and many other organizations and community leaders have been searching for a solution to avert a 3,500-home development over the Edwards Aquifer and adjacent to Bracken Cave Preserve. Next week, San Antonio's city council will meet to vote on whether to invest $5 million from their Edwards Aquifer Protection Program toward the purchase of the property and a conservation easement to protect aquifer recharge. Learn more from BCI.
City Council chambers filled Wednesday evening with more than 100 people who signed up to speak for or against the proposed SAWS-Vista Ridge Consortium water agreement. Individuals were given two minutes to express their views, while group representatives were allotted five minutes. Read more from the Rivard Report.
“I have never understood why in Texas zoning laws are good for city mice but not for country mice, especially as we lose more and more of the open land that is necessary to our survival as a species every year, but that is the way it is and there seems to be no way to change it until Texans get tired of seeing our state gobbled up by strip malls and truck stops and march on the state capitol armed with shotguns and pruning hooks.” Read this personal story about the Hill Country, by Lonn Taylor, featured in The Big Bend Sentinel. Learn more about County Authority in Texas here.
The public is invited to learn more about the process to develop a Roadway Character Plan for FM 150 from near Arroyo Ranch Road northwest through the Driftwood to RR 12 in Dripping Springs at an October 16 meeting. Hays County Commissioners Will Conley and Ray Whisenant are hosting the meeting to share information about the roadway and gather ideas from the public about what this important cross-county road needs to look like as changes are phased in to improve mobility and safety. Details
“..the effects of human endeavors all around the planet can be gauged by listening to the sounds of different habitats. Wild, urban, rural — they all can be interpreted.” Read more from Bernie Krause in “Call of the Wild,” featured in Sun Magazine. Find out what neighbors are doing through the Noise Pollution Clearning House.
“Through Texas Land Trends, we have been able to raise awareness that ‘Yes, we have a lot of land in Texas,’ but we are losing it at a faster rate than most other states in the country, and that loss is having profound impacts on our agricultural base, our water resources and our native wildlife habitat,” Fitzsimons said. Read more about Land Trends.
A community workshop will be held October 9th from 6–8 pm as part of a “Context Sensitive Solutions (CSS) process,” a planning approach that invites the surrounding communities and neighborhoods to influence the design, so that it reflects their cultural and historic values and aesthetic preferences. Learn more about the event hosted by the CTRMA and TxDot. Explore http://Fix290.org for more information.
HCA has released their 9th Texas Hill Country Calendar. Once again, this calendar delivers stunning photography while remaining an informative resource on Hill Country conservation. The stunning photographs featured throughout the 2015 calendar were chosen from nearly 400 submissions to HCA’s 2014 Photo Contest. Learn more
San Antonio is one step closer to buying some of the most expensive water ever sold in Texas, just as the deal is drawing more critics. Read more from Texas Tribune.
at Cibolo Nature Center & Farm on Oct. 6-11 Volunteers interested in learning about Hill Country wildlife and contributing to its scientific study are encouraged to become citizen scientists during the Wildlife Field Research “bio-blitz” taking place Oct. 6-11 at the Cibolo Nature Center & Farm. Wildlife Field Research is open to participants of all ages and skill levels. Learn more
The Highway Beautification Act will be 50 years old next year. As envisioned by Lyndon and Lady Bird Johnson, it was supposed to protect the natural landscape from billboards. Ever since its passage, scenic activists and billboard companies have been at war over the views along American highways. More from NPR.
The San Antonio Water System Board will vote Monday on a $3.40-billion landmark water deal that would pipe in 50,000 acre-feet of water to San Antonio annually as soon as 2019, enough to meet 20% of the growing city’s future water needs. Read more from the Rivard Report.
Monday’s vote by SAWS is step one, San Antonio City Council will ultimately consider and vote on the Vista Ridge Pipeline Project. Who is this water for? Where will it ultimately go? Who will ultimately pay and what are the long-term financial implications? Show up at UTSA Monday night for a balanced panel discussion. Get educated and get involved. Event details
“The 522 page draft contract for this $3.4 billion deal was posted on-line on September 23rd, giving the SAWS Board and the public less than a week to review a deal that will have far reaching implications for our community, including an estimated 16% rate hike for SAWS customers.” Read more from GEAA. As Margaret Day of the Alamo Sierra Club points out “to be sustainable, aquifer drawdown should be no greater than recharge.” Read this opinion piece from the Alamo Sierran Word.
Travis County is seeking public comments by Wednesday, Oct 1st on their Land, Water and Transportation plan. Read the plan, take the survey and/or send your comments via email. Meanwhile, CAMPO is taking comments until Oct 6th on a variety of projects including a study to construct a major tollway across sensitive preserve lands. “Traffic solution costly, harmful to environment” Read “City to oppose proposed tollroad” in the Austin American Statesmen.
The League of Women Voters of Comal Area invites the public to attend “The Trinity Aquifer: A Shared Resource/ A Shared Responsibility,” to be held October 7 in Canyon Lake. “If you drink water in Comal County, you are likely to be drinking Trinity water, or you soon will be. It is up to all of us to learn more about this resource, no matter where in Comal County we live.” Learn more
It's no secret that drought has been a major factor in the declining water levels of our lakes and reservoirs here in Texas. But there is another factor that has has received very little attention - evaporation. Read more from Texas Living Waters.
The stars may seem a little brighter over Kerrville next year. The Kerrville Public Utility Board last week set aside about $734,000 to upgrade 2,000 city street lights to “full cut-off,” high-efficiency LED lamps that won’t shine light upward. Read More from the Kerrville Daily Times.
Last week’s “Water Crisis” event hosted by The Hays County Citizens Alliance for Responsible Development (CARD) drew a huge crowd and continues to create a lot of meaningful conversations about how rural lands west of I-35 will be developed. Learn more
Even as Cibolo Nature Center staffers celebrate a major milestone with the completed restoration of the historic Herff farmhouse, they're setting ambitious new goals. Read more from SA Express-News.
Central Texas is having a pretty decent year, rain-wise. Were sitting just below normal. But these big rain events all have something in common: They really haven’t fallen where we need them most. “The watershed that helps our water supplies isn’t here in Austin; it’s way up into the counties to the north of us." Read more from State Impact.
Land fragmentation has been a growing problem for Texas, and by all appearances it isn’t going to slow any time soon. The state’s population continues to grow rapidly, and those residents have an insatiable appetite for land. Read more from Livestock Weekly.
As the current drought reminds us, water continues to impact the sustainability and growth of Texas' economy. Unfortunately, land is disappearing faster than in any other state, threatening the water resources on which our economy depends. Land conservation is a cost-effective water resource protection strategy. Join TALT October 1st in Austin.
With cool weather around the corner, the Texas Outdoor Family program has scheduled outdoor recreational workshops statewide though the beginning of December. The workshops offer a low-cost weekend trip where families can un-plug, reconnect with nature, and learn the basics of camping. Read more from Texas Parks and Wildlife.
Water marketers who want to sell to cities say there’s plenty of groundwater, however landowners and conservationists warn that this precious resource could drain in a few decades. Whats the long-term impact on the Colorado River as the groundwater table declines? Who exactly is this water for and what are they willing to pay? Read this excellent article by Neena Satija, Texas Tribune.
ACC Professor Don Jonsson takes an interesting look at various degrees of consensus about what geography is included in the “Hill Country.” His data shows Luckenbach as generally the mean center of the region and the Pedernales River Basin 100% Texas Hill Country. View his project findings, map and summary. HCA has a plethora of helpful Hill Country map resources available online and as well as an interactive map viewer.
Landowner groups and Wildlife Coops – Here’s something worth passing along to your member lists. Wild Pigs are an issue throughout the Hill Country region. Here’s an opportunity to learn from the comfort of your own ranch/home computer. Dial in September 18th to from noon to 1:00. Find out how to access this webinar made possible by the Texas Wildlife Association.
“The effects of population growth on traffic are easy to understand. More people equal more cars on the road. More cars on the road equal more congestion. Duh! The real culprit is the rate at which new people are moving here.” Read one bold Austinite's views (who happens to also be a Real Estate Developer) about the real issue facing Austin (and the Hill Country) population. Ed Wendler, Special to the Austin American Statesman.
to host a free community meeting this Thursday to discuss why water is an increasingly critical issue, and how we can all be part of improving the outlook. Speakers include Andy Sansom, Executive Director of the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment, Steve Clouse, Chief Operating Officer of San Antonio Water Systems, Ray Whisenant, Hays County Commissioner, Peter Newell, Water Resources Engineer at HDR Engineering, and Bech Bruun of the TWDB. Details
The Fix 290 Coalition, a group of over 40 organizations and businesses and 2,800 petition signers, have been advocating for a “parkway" concept to move traffic through Oak Hill and protect the original character and unique natural environment of the area for more than a decade. The City of Austin is now asking for a study of this community driven “parkway” alternative to TxDot’s traditional elevated/frontage road model. Read more from Fix290.
On Saturday, September 6th the Hill Country Alliance hosted a landowner workshop for those landowners potentially impacted by the LCRA's proposed Blumenthal substation and transmission line project. The workshop featured an update from the LCRA on the status of their application to the Public Utility Commission, and a panel discussion of landowner rights during the transmission line routing and construction process. To read a more detailed summary of the event and access speaker presentations, click here.
A decade ago, prospective water marketers easily secured the rights to pump more than 20 billion gallons of water annually from the Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer in Central Texas’ Burleson County. The company now holding those rights, BlueWater, is negotiating a $3 billion deal to send much of that water to San Antonio. Read more from The Texas Tribune.
October 15 in Junction - SLWA Guadalupe Bass Workshop - Details
October 16 in Driftwood - Public Meeting: Vision for FM 150 - Details
October 16 in San Antonio - Teaming with Wildlife: The State of Nature in Texas, presented by Compassionate San Antonio - Details
October 16 in Boerne - Hill Country Water: Myths and Truths - Milan J Michalec of the HCA and CCGCD will lead a hands on presentation on the myths of groundwater supplies, policy, and planning - Details
October 16 in Boerne - Hill Country Agri-land workshop - Details
October 17-19 in Alpine - Society for Ecological Restoration Annual Conference: Ecological Restoration in the Southwest - Details
October 23 in Boerne - 2014 Boerne Water Forum: Community Growth and Water Quality ARE Compatible - Details
October 24 in Utopia - Stars over Utopia - Learn how to protect our night skies and do some stargazing - Details
October 25 in Dripping Springs - HCA's 5th Annual Rainwater Revival! - Details
October 25 in Wimberley - A Whole Farm Approach to Improving the Water Cycle, presented by HMI - Details
October 29 in Austin - Great Places and Healthy People, presented by Congress for the New Urbanism - Details
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Imagine a place where vibrant communities draw strength from their natural assets to sustain their quality of life. A place where citizens care about protecting the special qualities of a region – their region. A place where people and partners band together to envision a better economic future, tackle shared challenges and care for the natural, scenic, and recreational resources that define the place they call home.
~This is a Conservation Landscape
Helpful Mapping Resources - Beautiful and informative maps of the region to print and share.
HCA Dynamic Mapping Tool - Interactive online GIS mapping tool