Lone Star Groundwater District drops 2020 water rates, names general manager

This article has been updated to include comment from the LSGCD.

On Aug. 14, the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District lowered its groundwater use fee rate from $0.105 to $0.085 per 1,000 gallons for the 2019-20 fiscal year, a 19% reduction.

The drop comes after district staff worked with the board of directors on the FY 2019-20 budget to forecast reasonable anticipated revenues, expenses and activities, LSGCD officials said in a statement.

Also at the Aug. 14 meeting, the district named former Interim General Manager Samantha Reiter as official general manager of the LSGCD.

After the meeting, Reiter said the prior increases to the LSGCD's water use fees were due primarily to litigation costs of a lawsuit, now resolved, surrounding groundwater use by large-user entities including the city of Conroe. However, in a separate debate, the Texas Water Development Board also rejected the LSGCD's groundwater management rules, a decision the LSGCD is appealing.

"Although the total costs associated with the management plan appeal are not known, the [LSGCD] board reviewed the [LSGCD]’s Operating Budget, and determined the [LSGCD]’s current financials support a decrease in water use fees ... for the 2020 calendar year," Reiter said. "The [LSGCD] board will continue to review fees in connection with maintaining a balanced budget and reserves the right to increase fees due to increased operational expenses, including without limitation, litigation expenses."

The rate decrease applies to all groundwater produced from the Chico, Evangeline and Jasper aquifers. However, the Catahoula aquifer, designated as an alternative water supply, will see its fee rate unchanged at $0.06 per 1,000 gallons.

This comes after the San Jacinto River Authority raised its groundwater use rates for the 2020 year.
By Jules Rogers
Originally from the Pacific Northwest, Jules Rogers has been covering community journalism and urban trade news since 2014. She moved to Houston in June 2018 to become an editor with Community Impact Newspaper after four years of reporting for various newspapers affiliated with the Portland Tribune in Oregon, including two years at the Portland Business Tribune. Before that, Jules spent time reporting for the Grants Pass Daily Courier in Southern Oregon. Her favorite beats to cover are business, economic development and urban planning.