Buda City Council adopts resolution for groundwater control, adds caveats

Buda City Council unanimously passed a resolution Feb. 17 supporting legislation to manage unregulated groundwater in Texas but not in a way that unduly affects the city's own water supply.

Several weeks after the city entered into a contract with Houston-based water provider Electro Purification to secure its water supply through 2060, Buda has faced criticism from its western neighbors including Wimberley and Driftwood residents, who fear the middle Trinity Aquifer will run dry due to proposed pumping.

After convening in closed session, the council moved forward with the resolution first passed by the Hays County Commissioners Court Feb. 3, which has since been taken up by several entities in the region.

Buda's version contained more specific language that called for legislation that strikes a balance between municipalities needs and conservation of unregulated groundwater.

The Hays County Commissioners Court version appeals for local regulation of commercial and non-exempt groundwater production in aquifer areas currently outside of respective groundwater conservation districts.

After the resolution passed, Conley said it was the first step in addressing the issue of pumping from unregulated groundwater areas.

"I would encourage all jurisdictions in Hays County and surrounding areas to pass similar resolutions," Conley said in a Feb. 3 email. "It's important our state officials hear from our entire community. This issue impacts all citizens in Hays County."

Conley and state Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, have raised suspicion that the company could be exploiting the fact that the area from which it plans to draw water is not regulated by a groundwater conservation district.

Isaac has filed three bills related to groundwater conservation in the 84th Legislature. He said he plans to file two more bills to bring the area of Electro Purification's production site under local control, by either extending the jurisdiction of a nearby groundwater conservation district, establishing a new one or creating buffer zones around the Hill Country Priority Groundwater Management Area. The bills may be filed as early as March 11.

Water conservation featured in other Buda City Council agenda items, including a presentation by Planning Director Chance Sparks on options for incentivizing conservation measures. One option on the table is direct potable reuse, a method of recycling water used from the city's water supply.

"Recent events have shown we are in a crisis when it comes to rounding out our supply and demands," Councilwoman Angela Kennedy said. "Direct potable reuse is probably one of the best ways we can make use of our current resources. I would love to see the city move further with this option."

Other measures included giving residents a rebate for installing rainwater collection systems and dual flush systems in their toilets.

At a later meeting staff is set to present proposals with conservation methods the city can adopt as well as the price tag to implement them.
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