Regional Water Plan
The current and worsening drought underlines the importance of Hays County having a sensible future water plan. CARD is pleased that recent actions by the Hays County Commissioner’s Court show the court is aware of this need, and willing to take action. However, CARD is concerned about the advisability and, frankly, costs of these particular plans. Many of you read the following CARD op-ed on a water plan for Hays County in the Thursday, April 10, Wimberley View. We would like to share it with any of you who missed it.
With area lakes going dry and new people flocking into Central Texas, area officials are searching for additional long-term, reliable sources of water.
Hays County has agreed to pay Forestar Real Estate $1,000,000 per year (beginning in October 2013) to reserve 14.4 billion gallons of water annually pumped from well fields leased in Lee County by Forestar. However, Hays has no pipeline or pump stations to deliver that water.
Even though they signed the contract, the Hays County Commissioners Court had some question as to its legal authority to sign such a contract with Forestar Real Estate, which requires paying the reservation cost with tax dollars. The Texas Attorney General has declined to help Hays County’s lawyers with its legal question.
However, the local groundwater conservation district in Lee/Bastrop Counties has agreed to allow only 3.8 billion gallons to be pumped annually, noting that more pumping would ultimately deplete the aquifer and damage local water supplies. Forestar has sued the local groundwater district – and its elected board members - to attempt to force them to grant the full amount requested.
Ironically, Hays County officials agree that they will not need the Lee County water for many years and that it is far more than is needed for Hays County for the foreseeable future.
To support the decision of the Hays County Commissioners to reserve such a large amount of water, Hays County Judge Bert Cobb has contacted other area counties and cities to see if they would join with Hays County to create a Utility Development Corporation (UDC). The UDC would allow Hays County and other entities to work together to ultimately build pipelines along the IH 35 corridor and east to the various well fields and deliver water to areas where it is needed. Hays would like to share its reserved water with other counties and cities.
The Hays Commissioners are also considering joining the Lone Star Regional Water Authority (LSRWA) in Williamson County. Its purpose is focused primarily on the needs of Williamson County and several small municipal utility districts that belong to the LSRWA. At the meeting on April 1st, the Commissioners Court agreed to table a vote until the April 15th meeting at which time Judge Cobb and Commissioner Whisenant will provide the Court with a recommendation.
The Citizens Alliance for Responsible Development (CARD) has attempted to monitor and comment on the Hays County planning for future water supplies. CARD’s paramount concern is the cost impact of these water ventures upon area taxpayers and ratepayers.
Also of major importance is that any plan must be evaluated for very long-term sustainability. In the case of an aquifer, the amount of pumping from the aquifer should never exceed the amount of recharge water going back into that aquifer. Without such a limitation on pumping, the aquifer will ultimately go dry, as has happened in many parts of Texas and around the world.
Finally, CARD believes that before Hays County and the region’s elected officials embark upon another water contract or regional enterprise, a regional water plan should be developed to guide the decision-making process. The planning process should be conducted in the open with the public being given access to all important elements of the plan as it is developed, much like the current regional transportation planning process.
CARD Steering Committee