Wednesday, February 26, 2014

Hays County Water Security - At What Price?

Hays County is gambling one million tax payer dollars a year on our water future. Citizens Alliance for Responsible Development believes our elected officials need to show the taxpayers of Hays County that this is a sound bet, not wasted tax money that will never hold water.

In October, 2013, Hays County Commissioners Court approved a multi-million dollar contract with the private Forestar Real Estate Group to reserve and purchase groundwater pumped from the Simsboro aquifer in Lee County, 70 miles east of San Marcos. The Texas Attorney General's office has been asked to give "an opinion confirming Hays County's authority to enter into and carry out the transactions contemplated by the agreement, including the use of ad valorem (property) tax revenues for payment of all costs." That opinion is still pending.

The contract calls for Hays County to pay Forestar a "base rate" of $1 million every year, beginning October 1, 2013, to reserve 45,000 acre-feet (14.66 trillion gallons) a year. With growing concerns of future water shortages, this may sound like a foresighted hedge against Hays County citizens running out of water. But is it that simple?

  • Currently Hays County has no identified customers for this groundwater. No engineering study shows that Hays County needs, or will need, this amount of imported water. It can be argued that future growth and possible continued drought and climate change will make it necessary. But when?
  • Forestar, which has applied for the pumping rights from the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District, has been approved for ONLY 12,000 acre feet of groundwater, a mere 27% of what they are "reserving" for Hays County's $1 million tax dollars. It appears that Forestar intends to seek the additional 33,000 acre-feet per year through a lawsuit filed against the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District. Hays County will support Forestar, but a decision could take years, during which Hays continues to pay $1 million annually.
  • The million dollars a year, while significant, is just a drop in the water bucket. If Hays County ever wants to obtain and use that water, it faces major additional expenses. The costs of the pipelines, storage facilities, treatment facilities, pump stations, rights of way and so forth to bring the groundwater from Lee County into Hays County have not been identified. These costs are expected to be in the hundreds of millions of dollars, to be paid by water customers or tax payers. These facility costs would be many times greater -- and in addition to -- the cost of the reserved and delivered groundwater from the Forestar well fields. Where is the engineering study showing tax payers the true cost of this venture?
  • While all contracts such as this are presented in open court meetings, most tax payers in Hays County are unaware of the financial implications of this massive undertaking to import groundwater for future use within Hays County.
Hays County Judge Bert Cobb has stated: "We must reserve water in the name of Hays County now, before we are forced to buy water from private companies at whatever price they demand. It is my goal to keep water in Hays County. This water reservation contract represents an insurance policy for Hays County and its citizens."

There is little doubt that future water shortages are likely, and good water conservation practices and regulations are increasingly urgent. CARD applauds efforts to solve these problems with plans supported by engineering and economic studies. If there is compelling evidence that this expenditure with Forestar is sound policy, and will actually supply water, then it needs to be shared with the public, which will soon be paying its costs.

County Commissioner Will Conley has said the County may terminate the contract with 90 days' notice and will review the termination option annually. CARD representatives have met with Commissioner Conley about the Forestar contract. Conley said the Commissioners Court intends to hold a public "water meeting" to provide insight into the County's vision for the reserved water and allow the public to ask questions. Months have passed. A date for the meeting has not been set. It should be soon and well publicized.

CARD calls on the Hays County Commissioners to schedule this public "water meeting," and suggests that Hays citizens attend this meeting, ask questions, make suggestions and carefully follow this important discussion. These are your tax dollars being committed by the Commissioners Court.

CARD Steering Committee

TRIB+Water Volume: 2 Issue: 5

Welcome to Trib+Water, a water news wrap-up and analysis prepared every other week by The Texas Tribune and the Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University. We bring you the latest news and events concerning the river systems of Texas and important water issues on a state and regional level.

Vol: 2 Issue: 5:
by Andrew Sansom
An open letter from Andrew Sansom of The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment on the launch of the revamped Trib+Water newsletter.

The Texas Commission on Environmental Quality has decided not to take action yet on a controversial plan that would almost surely cut off water from rice farmers in the lower Colorado River basin for a third straight year. 

In this week's Q&A, we interview Robert Gulley and Todd Votteler of Water Dispute Resolution LLC.

In this week's Bookshelf, our content partner Kirkus Reviews highlights Blue Revolution, The Next Tsunami and The Ripple Effect.

Yakona, a film that documents an impressionistic journey down the San Marcos River, from source to sea, will make its world premiere in Austin at South by Southwest.
Gov. Rick Perry has appointed Kathleen Thea Jackson, an engineer and former public affairs manager for Exxon Mobil Corp., to the Texas Water Development Board.
Kayakers and canoeists around the state are being invited to join the Texas Stream Team, a citizen science program that has been monitoring water quality in Texas waterways for 23 years.
According a new study financed by the University of Texas Energy Institute, the amount of water used in drilling and hydraulic fracturing in the Barnett Shale area in 2011 amounted to about 8.5 billion gallons, or about 4 percent of the water used in the 15-country region.
Despite the multiyear drought that has caused ranchers to sell millions of heads of cattle, Texas led the nation in livestock sales over the past five years.
California Gov. Jerry Brown is proposing a $25 billion plan to fix the state’s major water transport system, which transfers water by means of pumps and aqueducts from the Sacramento-San Joaquin Delta to farms in the San Joaquin Valley and the state’s major coastal cities.
Using data from the Texas Water Development Board's reservoir status tracker, our auto-updating map visualizes the current state of Texas reservoirs.
Sponsored Messages
SouthWest Water Company: Serving Texans with clean, safe, and reliable water and sewer services. Learn More.
You are currently signed up to receive Trib+Water newsletters. To change how you receive email from The Texas Tribune, click here. If you no longer wish to receive any emails from us, click here.
View Trib+Water online here.
To contact The Texas Tribune, go to
Tweet    Facebook     Google+    LinkedIn    Share   Forward 

HCA Press Release - Photo Contest Kicks off March 1


What’s your view of Hill Country Stewardship? 
The Hill Country Alliance Photo Contest kicks off March 1st

2013 Grand Prize Winner: Tim Huchton
(February 27, 2014) - The Hill Country Alliance (HCA) is seeking photographs that tell the story of our region’s stewardship ethic for publication in its 2015 calendar. The Texas Hill Country is a cherished place, yet it is threatened by land fragmentation, over-allocated rivers and aquifers, incompatible land development practices and a lack of understanding about appropriate stewardship.

The contest opens March 1 and runs through May 31. Winners receive cash prizes and appear in the popular HCA calendar and in various HCA educational products. Entering the contest is done easily online through the Hill Country Alliance website (

Each year HCA produces a calendar featuring stunning photographs taken by amateurs and professionals – photos that target those special places that attract people to the Hill Country to visit and to live. “This year we are encouraging images that illustrate responsible stewardship choices, including native landscapes, riparian habitats and vistas created by local land conservation initiatives,” said HCA President Milan J. Michalec. “We will also consider photographic illustrations of a Hill Country that is stressed and not well stewarded. Such images can be a reality check about what’s happening on the ground. Our intention is to create a calendar that is a beautiful and educational reminder of all that the Hill Country is now, and the need for all of us to take care of it for the future.”

Too often we try to change the landscape we love to fit an image of what we perceive makes it even more beautiful. “In a way we are loving the Hill Country to death,” says Sky Jones-Lewey, HCA board member and past-president, “Unfortunately it can be a consumptive kind of love, love for sculpted and landscaped river banks, love for reflecting ponds filled with precious groundwater, love for hill top vistas and roads to get us there, and love for big green thirsty lawns. But there are better ways and we want to illustrate these better choices so Hill Country citizens can see them and be empowered to alter our course.”

HCA is a collaboration of diverse people and organizations whose purpose is to raise public awareness and build community support around the need to protect the natural resources and heritage of the Texas Hill Country. According to Michalec, “Our goal is a Texas Hill Country whose charm is sustainable into the future for all to enjoy.”

Friday, February 21, 2014

Forestar Bulletin: Second Rehearing Request Denied

Last night the Lost Pines GCD Board of Directors re-reaffirmed their decision to limit the Forestar permit to 12,000 acre-feet per year when they denied Forestar's SECOND request for a rehearing (a re-rehearing).  This action once again makes final the Board's decision on the Forestar application.  We anticipate that Forestar will file suit against the Board any day now.    
We continue to be very proud of the Lost Pines Board and thank them for standing strong in light of the harassment, intimidation and threats they have faced from Forestar ... a not-so-friendly corporate citizen.   
We understand that this struggle is not over, and look forward to working with them over the next year to strengthen their ability to manage our precious water resources.
Thank you, we have your back.       
Other actions last night: 

In addition to denying Forestar's request for a second rehearing, the Board also denied its request for a contested case hearing on the Griffin Industries application for one existing well in Bastrop County to pump 224 acre-feet per year.  Apparently the Board agreed with Griffin's attorney and the public that this small well, some 23 1/2 miles away from the Forestar wells, is not a threat to Forestar, but rather, as stated by Griffin's attorney "a frivolous request to throw rocks back at the District."  We considered the request by Forestar to be an obstructionist action following on its earlier threat to close down the Board's permitting.  The Board then took action to allow the Griffith Industries well.

Finally, the Board approved Aqua Water Supply Corporations application to amend its permit thereby allowing Aqua to aggregate two wells so that an aggregate of 1,633 acre-feet per year may be produced (no increase in total production).     
 To those who support our efforts and who support the Lost Pines Board: 
ES logo jpg
January 2013
Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District Hearings

DrawdownDraw-down:  A Visual Perspective
What does "draw-down" resulting from groundwater pumping look like on a map?  As you may know, the Desired Future Conditions are established in terms of the draw-down, in feet, of aquifers in Bastrop and Lee counties and throughout the District. 

Recently, Environmental Stewardship obtained visual images based on the Groundwater Availability Model (GAM) used by the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District to evaluate the impact of proposed pumping from current permit applications on the Simsboro Aquifer.  Draw-down, measured in feet, is indicated on the contour lines of the maps below.  Click on Maps below to Enlarge

NOTICE:  Please keep in mind that the images below (except for Image 1) are for the PROPOSED permits ONLY (124,226 acre-feet/year) and DO NOT include EXISTING permits (45,365 acre-feet/year). 


Image 1.  PERMIT THIS - The draw-down, in feet, expected when the Adopted Desired Future Conditions (DFC) are met in Bastrop and Lee counties. The dark area in Burleson County is from Post Oak Savannah GCD pumping.  Click on Map to Enlarge

Image 2.  NOT WATER BANKRUPTCY - The draw-down, in feet, expected if ALL current applications are approved and pumped to the maximum permitted.  Notice the red area in Lee county where draw-down is 1000 ft, and orange area in Bastrop County where draw-down is 750 ft.  Click on Map to Enlarge

 Image 3.  WATER BANKRUPTCY - The majority of draw-down, in feet, in Lee County is from the proposed Forestar well field.  Click on Map to Enlarge

Image 4.  WATER BANKRUPTCY - The majority of draw-down, in feet, in Bastrop County is from the proposed End Op well field, which is directly below Houston Toad habitat.  Click on Map to Enlarge

If permitted at all, individual permits should first be reduced to levels actually supported by the application and then all permits reduced overall as necessary to an aggregate level that, including existing permits, protects the Adopted Desired Future Conditions.  In summary, if permitted at all, Forestar and End Op qualify for less than 5% of the water they are seeking.  In addition, the district needs to factor in the impact of existing permits before issuing any new permits. This has not been done. (See Image 1). 

Image 5.  This image depicts Forestar pumping reduced to 25% of requested pumping volume but DOES NOT include existing permits.  Click on Map to Enlarge

Image 6.  This image depicts End Op pumping reduced to 25% of requested pumping volume but DOES NOT include existing permits.  Click on Map to Enlarge

websiteblog New Website and Blog
WebsiteHeaderLaGrangeWe are excited to announce that we have a new website and blog.  The site contains the same information that was on our old site, but now includes the ability to BLOG.  This means the site is MUCH MORE INTERACTIVE by allowing you, the reader, to make comments on specific pages and information posted.  We look forward to having a conversation with you about your interests and concerns. 

To visit our new website and blog click on this link.

Click here to link to our RSS Feed
If you find this information useful and informative, please forward it to a friend and invite them to join our e-News mailing list. 
                                                                             Forward to a Friend

Be a Good Steward

Stay Informed

Be Involved


Join Our Mailing List
Forward to a Friend

Our Mission

NF Archery

Environmental Stewardship is a charitable nonprofit organization whose purposes are to meet current and future needs of the environment and its inhabitants by protecting and enhancing the earth's natural resources; to restore and sustain ecological services using scientific information; and to encourage public stewardship through environmental education and outreach. 

We are a Texas nonprofit 501(c) (3) charitable organization headquartered in Bastrop, Texas.  
Quick Links
Join Our Mailing List
Forward to a Friend

Environmental Stewardship | P.O. Box 1423 | Bastrop | TX | 78602