New groundwater rules in Montgomery County abolish previous restrictions

The Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District regulates groundwater usage in Montgomery County. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)
The Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District regulates groundwater usage in Montgomery County. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)

The Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District regulates groundwater usage in Montgomery County. (Community Impact Newspaper staff)

The Conroe-Montgomery print version of this story made several errors, such as stating the new rules allow for the gradual increase of pumpage from 2020-2032, as well as including LSGCD as a plaintiff in the 2015 lawsuit. This online story includes the correct information.

The Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District, an entity that regulates groundwater usage in Montgomery County, adopted new groundwater rules in September, a change that will affect the amount of groundwater entities can now pump.

Since 2016, certain entities that use groundwater in Montgomery County were required to cut back their usage by 30%. The new rules authorize the district to institute cutbacks if needed in the future.

However, some are concerned that without the cap, Montgomery County could pump an excessive amount of groundwater, which could deplete aquifers at a faster rate.

“The new LSGCD rules place Montgomery County in the crosshairs of a critical decision on the future of groundwater,” said Jim Stinson, The Woodlands Water Agency general manager. “Should groundwater be managed on a regional basis that has widespread public benefits? Or is groundwater a private property commodity where everyone ... [has] pumping rights that adversely impact others?”


In 2010, the city of Conroe and a number of other large-volume water users countywide entered into an agreement with the San Jacinto River Authority to reduce their groundwater usage to 70% of their 2009 demand by January 2016.

However, the city of Conroe and other stakeholders filed a lawsuit challenging the LSGCD's groundwater regulations in 2015. After various legal proceedings, it was ruled that the reduction rules were found to invalid, and the district had to revoke the restrictions.

As part of the Groundwater Management Area 14, the district is considering a new desired future condition, or DFC, for the Gulf Coast Aquifer System. A DFC is a long-term goal for the aquifer, such as to maintain aquifer levels for the next 50 years.

The proposed DFC will establish a new volume of available groundwater instead of the current 64,000 acre-feet per year. the proposed DFC will be voted on by groundwater conservation districts in GMA 14. A final DFC will be adopted in January 2022.

Immediate and long-term effects

The immediate effect of the LSGCD’s new rules is entities are no longer restricted to the 70% cap. For example, the city of Montgomery will be able to increase its usage from the Jasper Aquifer from 65 million gallons of water per year to 92 million, City Administrator Richard Tramm said.

“We don’t have to watch as closely the amount of water we are pumping out,” Tramm said.

The change will likely not affect water rates, he said.

In the long term, increased groundwater usage may lead to subsidence, or gradual sinking of the earth due to excessive pumping, said Mike Turco, the general manager of the Harris-Galveston Subsidence District. Data from the subsidence district shows land-surface elevation across Montgomery County has been trending downward, with some records dating back to 2005. In 2015, the subsidence rate stabilized in some areas when surface water was introduced as a source of water. The total subsidence in some areas of southern Montgomery County has been about half a foot per decade.

“We’ve seen the amount of subsidence that has occurred when groundwater is not regulated,” Turco said. “The concern is with the absence of that ... the [subsidence] rates will go back to what they were.”

According to the LSGCD, it is difficult to discern whose pumping—such as Harris or Fort Bend counties—may be contributing to subsidence in southeastern Montgomery County. The district is working on a subsidence study focused only on Montgomery County.

Vanessa Holt and Kelly Schafler contributed to this report.
By Eva Vigh
Eva Vigh joined Community Impact Newspaper in 2018 as a reporter for Spring and Klein. Prior to this position, she covered upstream oil and gas news for a drilling contractors' association.


ManBasics barbershop and speakeasy opened at FM 1488, Ste. 106, Conroe, in November last year. (Courtesy ManBasics)
ManBasics barbershop now offering grooming services and full bar in Conroe

In addition to operating as a barbershop, the business sells personal care products and offers a full bar.

This month, the Greater Houston area will mark the anniversaries of its first confirmed COVID-19 cases as well as the first deaths attributed to the pandemic. (Courtesy Pexels)
Share your story: Have you lost anyone to COVID-19?

This month, the Greater Houston area will mark the anniversaries of its first confirmed COVID-19 cases as well as the first deaths attributed to the pandemic.

The Pavilion is looking to bring live shows back this summer. (Courtesy The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion)
The Cynthia Woods Mitchell Pavilion announces 2021 season update

The Pavilion is looking at bringing live shows back this summer.

People wait in line to receive a vaccine at an Austin Public Health vaccination site. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
Texas offers COVID-19 vaccinations to school, child care workers

Educators, school staff and child care professionals are qualified to receive coronavirus vaccines effective immediately.

In response to Gov. Greg Abbott's March 2 announcement that Texas' statewide mask mandate and COVID-19-related business restrictions will be lifted as of March 10, the Texas Education Agency released updated public health guidance March 3. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Updated Texas Education Agency guidance allows individual school boards to determine mask policies

"Under this updated guidance, a public school system's current practices on masks may continue unchanged. Local school boards have full authority to determine their local mask policy," the release reads.

H-E-B will continue to require employees to wear face masks until further notice. (Nicholas Cicale/Community Impact Newspaper)
H-E-B to require employees, ask customers to be masked despite upcoming expiration of governor's mandate

H-E-B officials announced their employees and vendors would still be required to be masked while on the job, and customers would be encouraged to wear masks while in stores.

A mandate will remain in effect for the time being requiring all riders to weak masks on vehicles run by the Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County, officials announced March 3.  (Courtesy Metropolitan Transit Authority of Harris County)
Mask mandate to remain in effect for all METRO vehicles, properties

The announcement comes one day after Texas Gov. Greg Abbott rescinded his mask order for the state.

The statewide mask mandate will end March 10. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough, local officials weigh in on end of state mask mandate

Montgomery County Judge Mark Keough thanked the governor for planning to lift state mandates March 10.

The Houston Ballet Nutcracker Market is returning in person for its spring iteration. (Courtesy Jennifer Greene/HoustonBallet)
Houston Nutcracker Market to make in-person return this spring

Of the 150 merchants on the roster, nearly 50 will be making their spring debut in 2021.

Texas Gov. Greg Abbott announced March 2 that mask mandates and business capacity restrictions will be lifted in Texas. (Courtesy Office of the Texas Governor)
Gov. Greg Abbott lifts statewide mask mandate, business restrictions in Texas

With vaccine distribution increasing, Gov. Greg Abbott said "people and businesses don't need the state telling them how to operate." Some local officials are pushing back, saying the relaxed restrictions are coming too early.

Hank's Crab Shack gets and sells several hundred pounds of crawfish daily, especially during the peak of crawfish season. (Morgan Theophil/Community Impact Newspaper)
Hank's Crab Shack serving Katy; 16 Spring-Klein business updates and more Houston-area news

Read the latest business and community news from the Houston area.