The Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District monitors 3,362 wells in the water district. These wells produced an estimated 40,000 acre-feet of water in 2022.
Jim Totten is the general manager of Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District. Under Texas law, the conservation district is designed to protect Bastrop and Lee counties' water supply for residents. Water levels fluctuate annually, but can be impacted by regional and localized trends based on proximity to pumping systems, Totten said.
Totten said it’s not uncommon to see wells within the district drop 50 to 60 feet during the summer months and rebound over the winter. However, according to Totten, this summer saw more calls about people having trouble with wells.
“As demand increases, water levels are going to respond to increased production,” Totten said. “Unfortunately, it's not just an industry issue.”
Large pumping projects in south Bastrop County will go online next year, Totten said. The projects will pump water out of Caldwell County to the I-35 corridor. As Texas is under the rule of capture, landowners are free to unlimited capture of the water beneath their property.
“A combination of regional pumping and local pumping are going to have impacts ... on groundwater going forward,” Totten said.
The district has little authority over managing domestic personal wells, which are known as exempt wells. According to Totten, the only real knob the water district has to turn in response to production is managing nonexempt water production. This type of production is conducted by municipal water supplies; water export projects, which pump water out of the county; and some industrial users.
In June, the water district changed the rules on how nonexempt wells are permitted, making a more restrictive environment for larger, more impactful permits that draw more water. House Bill 3059 authorized groundwater districts across the state to implement mitigation programs to help people whose wells are impacted by low water levels.
A $250,000-$400,000 mitigation plan awaits approval by the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District in aid to owners of exempted wells that do not resell water. The plan is expected to be finalized in December with an official budget and will help landowners repair impacted wells.