Pumps in residential wells near Electro Purification's groundwater pumping site in central Hays County will need to be lowered due to drawdown, and the aquifer could be at stake if pumping occurs beyond 30 years, an attorney for a nearby landowner said at a March 24 Hays County Commissioners Court meeting.
David Braunan attorney representing the Halifax Ranch, a 2,000-acre nature conservancy near Kylepresented the results of an LBG-Guyton Associates hydrological evaluation at the meeting.
Braun said the hydrologists evaluated 12 scenarios of various pumping levels over various periods of time. The study found pumping would have effects on residential wells within a five-mile radius of the site where Electro Purification plans to pump more than 5 million gallons of water per day from an unregulated portion of the Trinity Aquifer.
"It will have impacts on neighbors, so if you take that water, those impacts need to be mitigated," Braun said. "It will have long-term consequences" that could depressurize the aquifer after 30 years. "The question [the entities that contracted with EP] should be asking is, 'Can you supply this [water] beyond 30 years?'
Depressurizing the aquifer could pose a threat to its sustainability, he said.
Goforth Special Utility District, a residential development on the outskirts of Mountain City and the city of Buda have reached 30-year agreements with the Houston-based private water supplier.
Buda, which signed on in January amid protests from Hays County residents who fear the project will drain their water supply, was the only entity to include a mitigation planin its contract. Once the terms of the mitigation plan are laid out, a fund would be created for EP to compensate private well owners who have to lower their wells due to drawdown from EP's project.
EP is moving forward with its feasibility period to determine the quality and quantity of water in the Middle Trinity Aquifer. The company has said if its test wells do not prove up the groundwater, its three water supply contracts would be voided.
The Trinity Edwards Springs Protection Association on March 20 filed a lawsuit in a Hays County district court claiming the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District has jurisdiction over the supposed unregulated area because state legislation was passed that protects Hays County groundwater through groundwater conservation districts. TESPA's lawsuit also claims the Texas Supreme Courts ruling in a 2012 case over groundwater rights conflicts with the century-old rule of capture, which states that property owners have a right to groundwater beneath their property even if that affects adjacent property owners wells.
EP responded March 23 in a press conference.
"We have heard rumors for weeks about the threatened lawsuit to be filed by TESPA that was filed today," Tim Throckmorton, EPs manager, said. "Upon a cursory review of the lawsuit, it appears their intent is to overturn every Texans fundamental right to capture and beneficially use without waste the groundwater beneath his land."
Throckmorton said the company is working with the groundwater conservation districts and landowners to gather data related to the effects of EP pumping on the Trinity and other aquifers. He said the injunction that TESPA has sought would block attempts to gather data and deny the opportunity for an informed decision to be made.
State Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, has filed several bills aimed at bringing the area under local controleither under the Hays Trinity or Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer conservation district.
Isaac and state Sen. Donna Campbell, R-New Braunfels, worked together on HB 3407, which would strip Goforth SUD of its ability to use eminent domain outside of its service area. Goforth SUD has previously stated that it is authorized to condemn property in connection with the construction of the pipeline for the EP project. The city of Buda would maintain its right to use eminent domain.
Commissioner Mark Jones asked at the March 24 meeting whether mitigation of residential wells can be required if Buda is not part of the project.
Braun said public pressure could be placed on the participating entities but no legal requirement exists for mitigation. Jones then asked whether a groundwater conservation district, presuming one of Isaac's two bills succeeds, could require mitigation.
BSEACD General Manager John Dupnik said the district could require mitigation through special conditions of a groundwater permit.
The negotiation of a mitigation plan will be of vital interest to the citizen moving forward, Commissioner Will Conley said.
"That's going to have to be well-calculated," Conley said. "The process needs to be thorough, and an inventory check needs to be done. The process needs to be clear and transparent."