Subsidence metric restricts ‘freedom of choice’ in groundwater regulations, LSGCD says

The Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District, which regulates groundwater usage in Montgomery County, is conducting a subsidence study focused on Montgomery County. (Eva Vigh/Community Impact Newspaper)
The Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District, which regulates groundwater usage in Montgomery County, is conducting a subsidence study focused on Montgomery County. (Eva Vigh/Community Impact Newspaper)

The Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District, which regulates groundwater usage in Montgomery County, is conducting a subsidence study focused on Montgomery County. (Eva Vigh/Community Impact Newspaper)

Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District, the entity that regulates the county’s groundwater, is seeking support from local entities for its management goal for the region’s aquifers.

LSGCD objects to the current proposed goal—known as desired future conditions, or DFCs–which was adopted by Groundwater Management Area 14 in April. GMA 14 includes several local groundwater conservation districts, including LSGCD, that regulate the Gulf Coast Aquifer System.

The proposed DFCs statement restricts districts within GMA 14 to no less than 70% median available drawdown remaining in the aquifer system in 2080 and no more than 1 additional foot of average subsidence between 2009 and 2080. Subsidence refers to the gradual sinking of the earth that can be due to excessive groundwater withdrawals.

A final DFCs statement will need to be approved by Jan. 5.

LSGCD is proposing to adopt a resolution supporting a DFC with the 70% drawdown metric but without the subsidence metric, claiming this metric cannot be accurately calculated with existing equipment and restricts entities within GMA 14 from making decisions best suited to their individual needs.

“We take no issue with the first DFC; it’s something we can measure; it’s an aquifer condition, and we believe it protects groundwater usage,” LSGCD President Harry Hardman said at a June 23 Conroe City Council meeting. “We do, however, take big issue with the second DFC.”

During the April GMA 14 meeting, LSGCD was the sole entity opposed to this metric. Now, LSGCD is seeking support from local entities ahead of the Jan. 5 adoption, although ultimately only entities within GMA 14 will be able to vote on the final DFC.

On May 25, Hardman asked county commissioners to adopt a resolution rejecting the subsidence metric from aquifer goals. And on June 23, Hardman approached Conroe City Council to consider the same request.

“One of our goals is ... to educate the public overall on how we are using science to protect your water, your property rights and your freedom of choice,” he said. “We are using science to protect your rights by advocating against some of these arbitrary metrics in the proposed DFCs.”

DFCs are required to be developed every five years. Hardman reminded council that in 2016, the city of Conroe successfully petitioned LSGCD’s DFC; at the time, LSGCD’s board was an appointed board, not an elected board. Subsidence was not an issue in the last DFC, and Hardman alleged the current proposed DFC violates the agreed resolution from 2016.

Hardman also said a one-size-fits-all approach does not work when measuring subsidence as different amounts of pumping in different parts of the county can affect ground levels differently. For instance, most of the county’s subsidence is occurring in south Montgomery County, which could be a result of pumping from Harris County, he said.

Additionally, most of the county’s subsidence-measuring devices are located in southern Montgomery County, making it hard to accurately measure the 1-foot average subsidence, Hardman said.

“If this DFC is implemented, our average would not be an actual average of the entire county but instead would be artificially skewed higher than the accurate measurements because of where all the monitoring stations are forcing higher areas like Conroe to adopt stringent new water restrictions, which aren’t necessarily needed,” he said.

LSGCD is working on a subsidence study that is focused solely on Montgomery County. The district has approved Phase 2, according to a June 15 news release from LSGCD. During Phase 1 of the study, consultants compiled a database of past subsidence studies, assessed historical models and prioritized additional work on the issue.

The second phase, which is expected to be completed in 2022, will build on the initial phase by developing a long-term plan for data collection and evaluation to help policymakers understand the effects of groundwater pumping on subsidence in the county, according to the news release. Future phases of the study include site-specific investigations and field work such as core sampling to better understand the aquifers in Montgomery County.

However, the study will not be complete before the final DFC will need to be adopted in January.

“Moving ahead with this policy before the research is complete is irresponsible to taxpayers. We should be making policy based on research, not the other way around,” Hardman said.

Meanwhile, many residents and stakeholders, particularly in The Woodlands, have pleaded with LSGCD to keep a subsidence metric in its DFC. Residents have cited property damage from shifting ground levels, and data from the Harris-Galveston Subsidence District shows subsidence is occurring across the county at various rates.
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.


student writing on paper
Texas Legislature allows parents to opt for students to repeat grade levels or courses

Senate Bill 1697 is effective for the 2021-22 school year.

Conroe ISD Superintendent Curtis Null announced during a YouTube update on July 28 tat that students, faculty or parents who test positive for COVID-19 are not allowed to come to school. (Ben Thompson/Community Impact Newspaper)
Conroe ISD officials: Individuals with a positive COVID-19 test will not be allowed to enter district schools

Superintendent Curtis Null said the district was granted the authority after state officials updated policies.

Outside of the Alan B. Sadler Commissioner's Courthouse in Conroe
Montgomery County commissioners vote on proposed tax rate, set date for public hearing on FY 2021-22 budget

A public hearing is scheduled for Aug. 20 to adopt the final budget and tax rate for the 2021-22 fiscal year.

The beauty supply store will open in August in Montgomery. (Courtesy Modern Chic Enhancements)
Beauty supply boutique Modern Chic Enhancements coming soon in Montgomery

The beauty supply boutique Modern Chic Enhancements will be located on Hwy. 105.

The district will still offer a la carte items and snacks for purchase. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
Montgomery ISD to offer free breakfast, lunch during 2021-22 school year

In a typical year, a student's household must meet income eligibility requirements to qualify for free or reduced-priced meals.

4 tips on planning for a remodel from Conroe-area home remodeler Roy Janik

Royce Janik, owner of Royce’s Home Improvement in Conroe, offers tips to homeowners on when to invest in a remodel and how to plan for one.

3 tips from Montgomery-area home organization company SORT

As part of our Real Estate Edition, Whitney Jeski, owner of SORT, a home organization company based in Montgomery, offers tips on maintaining an organized home and the value of doing so.

School supplies will be exempt from the 8.25% sales tax Aug. 6-8. (Courtesy Adobe Stock)
What to know before the statewide tax-free weekend Aug. 6-8

Customers will not have to pay the standard 8.25% sales tax on select clothing, footwear, school supplies and backpacks under $100.

Summer Moon Coffee's newest location is at 449 S. Loop 336 W., Ste. 100, Conroe. (Courtesy Summer Moon Coffee)
Austin-based Summer Moon Coffee coming to Conroe

Guests will receive free coffee and "Moon Milk" samples at the grand opening.

Main Chick Hot Chicken opened its first brick-and-mortar location July 23 in Sugar Land. (Courtesy Main Chick Hot Chicken)
Main Chick Hot Chicken opens in Sugar Land; Urban Bird Hot Chicken coming to Cy-Fair and more Houston-area news

Read the latest business and community news for the Houston area, including two new chicken restaurants.

Hope Elementary School will open Aug. 11. (Ally Bolender/Community Impact Newspaper)
PHOTO GALLERY: Ruben W. Hope, Jr. Elementary School to open in Conroe ISD on Aug. 11

Ruben W. Hope, Jr. Elementary School, 14755 Granger Pines Way, Conroe, will open on August 11 for the first day of the 2021-22 school year.