Southwest Travis County could see the creation of a groundwater conservation district

Bee Cave representative Rick Scadden expressed the needs for a groundwater conservation district during a West Lake Hills City Council meeting Aug. 28.

Bee Cave representative Rick Scadden expressed the needs for a groundwater conservation district during a West Lake Hills City Council meeting Aug. 28.

There is 500 times more groundwater than there is surface water in Texas and the Trinity Aquifer is the primary source of groundwater for West Lake Hills and neighboring communities.

These areas have seen a surge of developments in recent years, leaving many concerned about the stress on the aquifer system.

Westlake resident Juli Hennings and Bee Cave resident Richard Scadden are members of the potential Southwest Travis County Groundwater Conservation District, which is on the ballot this November. The members presented an outline of the possible district’s functions during an Aug. 28 board meeting.

According to Scadden groundwater is being depleted faster than it’s being replenished and the area is in need of regulation.

West Lake Hills Mayor Linda Anthony said she had previous hesitations when the groundwater was originally up for election in the 2017 election, adding that her opposition was based on misinformation.

“This area is crying out for regulation of groundwater, “ said Anthony calling Southwest Travis County the last pocket of unregulated groundwater in the county.

Unlike surrounding areas, This section of Travis County has never had a groundwater conservation district, consequently, no entity has jurisdiction over the management of the wells.

In Texas, Groundwater belongs to the owner of the land it falls upon and the state abides by the rule of capture, often called the rule of the largest pump. There is currently no law in Southwest Travis County to prevent residents or businesses from pumping large quantities of water.

The formation of a groundwater conservation district would help the community in planning and regulating the use of groundwater, according to Hennings. The area would move from the rule of capture to a system of management.

The district aims to preserve and protect groundwater through education, community outreach and waste reduction, according to Scadden. The preservation of water would be achieved in part by utilizing monitor wells and creating a minimal fee system.

If elected, the district would not cost tax payers money and domestic users pumping less than 10,000 gallons per day are exempt from any fees.

“Taxes are not authorized under our enabling act and the bulk of our revenue will come from high volume users,” said Scadden, adding that an example of a high volume user might be a golf course.

According to Hennings and Scadden, the regulation of groundwater is essential to protecting water, the area’s most essential natural resource.

In accordance with Texas laws, an established groundwater conservation district is the only entity with the authority to regulate groundwater.

The district will be comprised of seven members with one representative from West Lake Hills, Bee Cave, Lakeway and The Hills of Lakeway and four from unincorporated areas such as Briarcliff, according to Scadden.

Hennings, a geologist is the elected representative from West Lake Hills and Scadden, an engineer is the Bee Cave representative.

A depletion of available water can have damaging effects on the community with the potential to decrease property values, exhaust natural lakes and do harm to the agricultural and livestock industries according to Scadden.

The conservation district will appear on the Nov. 5 ballot, if approved it would become the 99th conservation district in Texas.
By Amy Rae Dadamo
Amy Rae Dadamo is the reporter for Lake Travis-Westlake, where her work focuses on city government and education. Originally from New Jersey, Amy Rae relocated to Austin after graduating from Ramapo College of New Jersey in May 2019.