Kathy Turner Jones has served as general manager of the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District since its creation in 2002. Jones has 26 years of experience in the groundwater industry, which she has used to lead the district as it establishes groundwater use regulations throughout Montgomery County. In 2009 the district adopted a policy stating large volume groundwater users could not pump more than 64,000 acre-feet of water from the Gulf Coast aquifers per year.
Previously, Jones served as president of the Texas Alliance of Groundwater Districts. Jones also serves as chairwoman of Groundwater Management Area 14—which consists of Montgomery County and 19 surrounding counties—and is a member of the Region H Water Planning Group.
What is the LSGCD?
Unknown to many local citizens, Lone Star is a countywide [groundwater] conservation district charged by law with protecting the property rights of all Montgomery County citizens—whether big water users or small water users—and the groundwater beneath their land. Because groundwater flows underneath property lines in a common pool, Lone Star is one of 100 such districts across the state that are charged by the Legislature with conservation and management of these common pools. Lone Star regulates the drilling and pumping of water wells. Lone Star is committed to ensure that a sustainable and cost-effective water supply will be available to meet our community’s current and future needs, and to protect area property values for home and landowners.
What is the LSGCD attempting to achieve?
After its creation in 2001, Lone Star embarked on a series of technical studies to gain an understanding of the nature of the groundwater resources available in Montgomery County. The Lone Star board of directors adopted a policy to manage the groundwater resources in Montgomery County on a sustainable basis, primarily to address rapidly falling water [well] levels and land subsidence.
During initial studies, annual recharge to the Gulf Coast Aquifer System in Montgomery County was estimated to be approximately 64,000 acre-feet [of water] per year. Recognizing that additional studies would be conducted in the future to better refine this initial estimate ... [the] annual recharge [rate] was adopted as the amount of groundwater that could be produced on an annual basis and still achieve sustainable water levels in the county.
Now that the regulations are in effect, what is the LSGCD doing to study potential effects on local aquifers?
The LSGCD is continuously monitoring pumping levels from each of the Gulf Coast aquifers and their corresponding water levels, as well as levels of land subsidence. Utilizing this basic monitoring data, the LSGCD then engages in studies, such as [our] ongoing Strategic Water Resources Planning Study, to better understand the impacts of current and future pumping on [groundwater] levels and [land] subsidence in Montgomery County. One of the key elements of Lone Star’s ongoing Strategic Water Resources Planning Study is an evaluation of how the aquifers respond to the 2016 groundwater pumping reductions as well as modeling and analysis of opportunities to develop additional groundwater resources in the county as we move forward.
What is a groundwater reduction plan?
A groundwater reduction plan, or GRP, is the plan that each large volume groundwater user submits to Lone Star to show how it is planning to comply with [groundwater] pumping rules [while meeting] its needs in the future. Under Lone Star’s rules, each large user is free to change their GRP to another water supply strategy at any time. If a large user decides, on its own, to enter into a binding contract with another party ... that is beyond the control of Lone Star.