From Hays County
Hays County Courthouse, San Marcos, TX – The Hays County Commissioners Court voted unanimously Tuesday to form a committee that would hold public forums to discuss concerns over groundwater pumping, particularly in areas where conservation districts have no authority, in the interest of protecting private land rights while promoting public responsibility.
The vote came following public comment and discussion from Court members, concerned citizens and representatives and partners of Electro Purification, Inc., about proposed pumping in Western Hays County over the Trinity Aquifer. Electro Purification has current and expected contracts to provide as much as 1.8 billion gallons of water annually within 10 to 20 years to cities, water supply companies and proposed subdivisions primarily along the I-35 corridor in Hays County. Landowners in the same area have concerns that removing that much water from the aquifer would render their wells useless, as the water level could drop far below current levels.
Company representatives assured the Court that while the final amount of water that would be pumped is not close to being set, they intend to introduce mitigation measures to ensure that that private citizens would not have their wells depleted due to pumping, a major concern among citizens who spoke to the Court.
Acknowledging that the County is very limited in what it can legally require in areas not governed by groundwater districts (which are also limited in authority), Precinct 4 Commissioner Ray Whisenant of Dripping Springs said that it would be difficult to say there would be no effect on private wells if that much water is removed and that it could be years before any effect is actually noticed, too late for mitigation. Whisenant formerly owned a well-drilling company in Dripping Springs.
In 1904 the Texas Supreme Court adopted the “rule of capture” that allows landowners to pump and capture whatever water is available, regardless of the effects on neighboring wells. The land in question is privately owned and lies outside the boundaries of any area groundwater conservation districts, which generally have the authority to promulgate rules for conserving, protecting, recharging and preventing waste of groundwater.
“The County’s goal in forming this committee is to learn what actions private companies such as Electro Purification are planning, how it might affect our area now and in the future, and how we can work together with private companies to ensure that our citizens are not deprived of the water they need,” Precinct 3 Commissioner Will Conley of Wimberley said. “We plan to invite representatives from Electro Purification, Edwards Aquifer Authority, Hays-Trinity Groundwater Conservation District, Sen. Donna Campbell, Rep. Jason Isaac, City of Mountain City, Goforth Special Utility District and the City of Buda to join the committee and provide information so that we can hold public meetings to discuss private rights and public responsibility for water capture.”