Hank Vat, owner of Studio One Three Media, hosted the symposium as the first step in the creation of a consortium covering the topics of both groundwater and surface water in the future.
The public forum included a series of discussions by officials in the field geared toward resolving the issues of sustainability, affordability and subsidence mitigation.
- Jim Spigener, president of the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District
- Mike Stoecker, president of the Stoecker Corporation
- Simon Sequeria, owner of Quadvest
- Harry Hardman, council member from the city of Conroe
- Webb Melder, former mayor of the city of Conroe
A closer look
Speakers at the symposium addressed issues regarding subsidence, alternative water sources and aquifers.
Stoecker, a real estate developer in Conroe, touched on subsidence, which is land sinkage. He said he believes the installation of an extensometer would help begin to address the issue by gauging subsidence.
- According to the United States Geological Survey, an extensometer measures the compaction and expansion of an aquifer system.
- The machine can provide depth-specific data that can help scientists better understand the rate, extent and at what depths in the system subsidence is occurring.
In a video presentation, Sequeria, owner of Quadvest, a privately owned water and sewer utility company, shared his thoughts behind switching to conjunctive use as a cost-saving method.
- Conjunctive use, according to the U.S. Department of the Interior, is the practice of storing surface water in a groundwater basin in wet years and withdrawing it from the basin in dry years.
Other topics discussed during the symposium included how to manage aquifers; the potential use of a desalination plant, which separates water molecules from seawater; and how to get the community more involved in the water conservation conversation.
Taking a step back
Montgomery County has been dealing with water issues for the past several years, including ongoing court cases.
- In March 2020, the Texas Supreme Court ruled in favor of the San Jacinto River Authority in its dispute with the city of Conroe over the validity of existing groundwater reduction plan, or GRP, contracts.
- In December 2022, a new ruling in the six-year legal contest among the SJRA, Quadvest Water & Sewer, and Woodland Oak Utility declared the GRP contracts between the organizations as valid and enforceable.
What happens next?
Vat said the water symposium was the first in a series of ongoing discussions.
“We’re here to plant the seed or maybe the formation of who will eventually be in charge of water in the county,” he said. “We need to find some sort of commissioned consortium or authority. It’s the overall reason why I wanted to put this together. I want to plant the seed in the folks' minds in Montgomery County that we need to do something, but we don’t have anyone in charge right now. We need to create that.”
Vat said another symposium will be held with a larger panel within the first quarter of 2024. He is hoping to make it a quarterly event.