Groundwater metrics in Montgomery County are one step closer to approval for the next five years after an Oct. 5 vote by the Groundwater Management Area 14 approved a nonbinding resolution to change the proposed language.

Harry Hardman, president of the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District, which oversees groundwater in Montgomery County, said the organization was “very pleased” with the results of the meeting.

“We hope to be able to get moving forward and get everything completed in January,” Hardman said.

Changing wording

Groundwater metrics in a management area such as GMA 14 are set by rules known as desired future conditions, or DFCs. The DFC indirectly establishes how much water groundwater conservation districts in the area are allowed to pump.

GMA 14’s proposed goal includes no more than 1 additional foot of subsidence, or land sinkage, from 2009-80 for the aquifer system. The LSGCD, one of five districts within GMA 14, opposed the mandatory subsidence metric and proposed amended language that made the metric optional.

The amended resolution that was voted on but not adopted, according to GMA 14 General Manager John Martin, reads, “In each county in Groundwater Management Area 14, no less than 70 percent median available drawdown remaining in 2080 or no more than an average of 1.0 additional foot of subsidence between 2009 and 2080.”

“We did not want to relegate other GCDs if they wanted to include a subsidence metric,” Hardman said. “We just did not want that to be saddled because it was an arbitrary number and did not have pertinence.”

Although the LSGCD was the only district to oppose the changed language in April, three other GCDs, Brazoria County, Blue Bonnet and Lower Trinity lent their support to the October nonbinding resolution. The final GMA 14 GCD, the Southeast Texas Groundwater Conservation District, abstained from the vote.

The final DFC, which would be up for review in 2026, is set to be voted on at a Jan. 5 GMA 14 meeting.

Future of subsidence

Residents and officials in The Woodlands have expressed concern about the regional effects if subsidence proves to be greater than anticipated. As of April 27, the Houston-Galveston Subsidence District said it has measured 26.7 centimeters of subsidence in The Woodlands area since 2000.

Hardman said the LSGCD’s rationale for pushing for the optional subsidence metric is the district has not conducted enough studies and does not know enough about the impact of subsidence in its areas.

The LSGCD is in Phase 2 of a four-part study evaluating subsidence in Montgomery County. Hardman said another challenge the district faces is having the necessary equipment to evaluate subsidence.

“This study will determine what type of equipment and where it should go,” Hardman said.

In an emailed statement, Jim Stinson, the general manager for the Woodlands Water Agency, which is the central agency for municipal utility districts in the area, said the goal should be management on a zero-subsidence goal.

“Subsidence is an indicator that water is being depleted from the aquifer at an unsustainable rate and irreversible environmental and economic damage is occurring below the surface,” Stinson said.