Commissioners debate the creation and funding of a groundwater conservation district in southwest Travis County

Commissioners debated the need for a groundwater conservation district in Southwest Travis County at a meeting on Feb. 20.

Commissioners debated the need for a groundwater conservation district in Southwest Travis County at a meeting on Feb. 20.

Commissioners debated Tuesday over whether to hold an election to create and fund a conservation district that would regulate, protect and conserve the groundwater supply derived from the Trinity Aquifer, one of nine major aquifers in the state.

In January 2017, the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality, or TCEQ, recommended to the 85th Legislature that a regulatory entity be created to protect an area over the Trinity Aquifer which is not covered by any groundwater conservation district. State Rep. Paul Workman, R-Austin, filed House Bill 922 on Jan. 11, 2017 to establish a groundwater conservation district in the area, his third such attempt in three legislative sessions.

County Judge Sarah Eckhardt said the Legislature could not drum up a reason to fund the project and the unfunded mandate has now been passed to the county.

“We have struggled for many years to get some regulatory structure over this remaining hole over the aquifer in western Travis County,” Eckhardt said. “This is an example of an unfunded mandate and the cost of direct democracy rather than representative democracy.”

The Southwestern Travis County Groundwater Conservation District would encompass all of the county south of the Colorado River and west of the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District’s border, which runs southwest from the Colorado River along Westlake Drive and Camp Craft Road in West Lake Hills. The district would cover roughly 200 square miles, making it smaller than many in the state.


The group behind the district requested the county pay $500,000 to hold a May election during which voters would choose whether to create the district. They also requested $5,000 to help get the district's efforts underway.

Commissioners expressed concern over funding and holding an election so soon. They asked county election officials to explore the option of holding the election at a later date in order to be as fiscally conservative as possible.

“To put a [May] election together in March is cost prohibitive,” said Commissioner Jeff Travillion. “Can we demonstrate our intent to comply with this [request at a cost] close to $100,000 rather than $500,000? [The legislature and TCEQ] could’ve done this, but they didn’t do it. We need to do this in a timely manner at a rate which will cost us 80 percent less [that what is currently being proposed].”

Following an executive session, commissioners postponed the vote and are expected to take up the item again during their Feb. 27 meeting.


Dripping Springs has received two grants from the Texas Department of Transportation to complete sidewalk improvements projects. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
Dripping Springs receives $2.8 million in TxDOT grants for local sidewalk projects

Projects will include work along Rob Shelton Boulevard and that will connect Dripping Springs Middle and High schools.

A photo of the Dripping Springs ISD board of trustees
Dripping Springs ISD presents on growth, debt ahead of regular board meeting

Dripping Springs ISD ranks 14th for debt among comparable districts.

Early voting for the March 3 primary elections began Feb. 18. (Community Impact Newspaper)
Southwest Austin 2020 Primary Election Guide

Find out which candidates will be on Southwest Austin ballots.

State Sen. Kirk Watson announced his resignation from state government Feb. 18. A number of local politicians have expressed interest in the seat.
Who is interested in Kirk Watson’s Senate seat? Here is where local members of the state House stand

State Reps. Gina Hinojosa and Eddie Rodriguez say they are "seriously considering" a run for the District 14 seat.

Austin ISD Superintendent Paul Cruz addresses the media on Feb. 20 after announcing plans to resign.
Outgoing Superintendent Paul Cruz says 'work will continue' in Austin ISD as transition plan is developed

A timeline for Cruz's departure has not yet been established by Austin ISD.

Austin taps downtown homeless shelter operator to expand permanent supportive housing program

Experts hold up permanent supportive housing as crucial to ending chronic homelessness.

Gold's Gym now open on South Congress near Slaughter Lane

Gold's Gym opened its new South Austin location in late January.

Dimassi’s Mediterranean Buffet now open on Stassney Lane

The Texas restaurant chain offers a lunch and dinner buffet.

54th Street Grill is expected to open a South Austin location in 2021. (Courtesy 54th Street Grill)
54th Street Grill planning South Austin location

54th Street Grill will open a South Austin location in 2021.

A photo of young adults creating artwork.
Cordovan Art School & Pottery Parlor to open new location in Southwest Austin

The new art school will open on West Hwy. 290 on March 1.

Velocity Credit Union will break ground on a Dripping Springs location this year

Construction will begin on a new Velocity Credit Union branch this summer.

Back to top