"Watershed News" will have the dual mission of reporting the work of our volunteers and keeping you informed of the issues concerning land and water in the Wimberley Valley. Together, we are all working to protect Jacob's Well and the waters that make this place so beautiful.
Tuesday, February 3, 2015
The Water Wars of Hays County
Our Water and the Threat to the Heart of Our Existence
By Patrick Cox, Ph.D.
Everyone should understand the tremendous importance and impact of
the water wells that are now being drilled in the heart of Hays
County. This issue has made people a lot hotter than Willie
Nelson's Picnic on the Fourth of July. But this act deserves
this type of heat and concern - it's a thrust into the heart of our
Hundreds of residential wells in the Trinity Aquifer are threatened
by Houston-based company Electro Puriﬁcation (EP). This private
company has secured contracts to provide water from the Hays Trinity
aquifer for a minimum of 1.9 billion gallons a year to several public
entities and developments - which equates to 5,830 acre feet of
water. If one acre foot ﬁlls about 22 average size swimming
pools, that's more than 128,000 swimming pools - almost unimaginable.
That's a lot of water by anyone's measure. Based on news
reports and independent analysis, the EP reports of available ground
water is highly suspect. Furthermore, they have seriously
undercounted the number of private wells in the surrounding area that
rely on water from this segment of the aquifer. Yet the train
To further illustrate this audacious act, if EP is withdrawing
approximately 5 million gallons of water per day, this is more than
double the average daily pumpage of water from Wimberley Water Supply
Corporation, Aqua Texas, and Dripping Springs Water Supply
combined. And all of that water will be gone forever.
This action clearly ignores Chapter 36 of the Texas Water Code that
conﬁrms that a landowner, including a landowner’s lessees, heirs, or
assigns, is entitled to produce groundwater below the surface of real
property, “without causing waste or malicious drainage of other
The EP plans are the "rule of capture" taken to its most
extreme and by any measure provides a real threat to our livelihood.
If successful, this project will not only signiﬁcantly alter the
future of Hays County. This will send a clear message to
everyone in Texas and beyond that any entity can take all the groundwater
they can pump, ship it anywhere, make a lot of money, and leave a lot
of people and businesses high and dry. This sounds like a tall
Texas tale - but it's a hard reality.
This move not only shows disrespect for the thousands of people who
rely on groundwater as their primary source of water. This is
also a calculated scheme to ﬁnd a loophole in the law, launch a fast
and unpublicized plan, and once discovered, create panic and put
neighbors at odds with one another in a ﬁght that should never have
happened. Anyone remember the movie Chinatown?
So what should we do? Throw up our hands because these clever
folks have outsmarted us and are living by the law of the biggest
pump. No - there are some essential actions to take right
now. And with this crisis, we can also look beyond this initial
battle to a more deﬁnitive set of solutions that will help not just
people in Hays County but all of Texas.
For the immediate future, here's what we need to do:
• call and email elected ofﬁcials of our concern and need to protect
our property and water;
• attend public meetings and forums urging elected ofﬁcials to oppose
this unseemly action;
• contact Buda, Goforth, and Anthem who have signed EP contracts to
voice our concern and opposition;
• circulate petitions to oppose EP wells and extensive drilling that
•urge all public entities, cities, organizations and homeowners
groups to pass resolutions in opposition to this action;
• encourage and require objective, independent scientiﬁc studies of
aquifer capacity, recharge and conservation;
• distribute information to friends, neighbors and businesses on
importance of this issue;
• provide locations, data and logs on our private wells to the Hays
Trinity and/or the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Districts that will
allow for accuracy and a complete data base.
In the longer term, we need more permanent solutions:
• provide sufﬁcient funding for groundwater districts and
jurisdiction over all aquifers within their boundaries;
• align groundwater districts along hydrogeologic, not artiﬁcial
political boundaries that ignore natural aquifers and waterﬂow;
• mandate effective, realistic drought and conservation plans for all
• initiate a cultural change that encourages and rewards water
efﬁciency, reuse and conservation and treat water as a
precious, valuable resource;
• expand the water development fund and simply the process to include
groundwater studies, rain water collection systems, and conservation
• require publication and time for citizen comment and reaction to
all major initiatives - in the impacted area and not miles away or on
some obscure web page.
Wallace Stevens wrote a very pertinent statement about water:
"Human nature is like water. It takes the shape of its
container." In this drama, as the human containers and
consumers of our water, we each have responsibilities to
assume. We need to be aware of where the water comes from
- and it's not the faucet. So we should all agree make a concerted
effort to change our own behavior along with fair and equitable rules
and laws that govern this essential natural resource.