Monday, March 30, 2015

Hay's County Struggles as it's Population Surges


   One of the fastest-growing counties in the nation is feeling the pinch as its resources are stretched thin.

 ByAsher Price and TaylorTompkins

Construction crews continue work on the Green at Plum Creek apartment buildings just outside Kyle on Thursday. The population boom in Hays County has stretched its water, housing and government resources in ways that will take years to address. PHOTOS BY LUKAS KEAPPROTH / AMERICAN-STATESMAN

A sign along RM 150 in Kyle illustrates how the water supply in Hays
County has become a topic of concern as the area’s population continues to grow. Local communities depend on a haphazard mix of river water and groundwater sources.

Single-family homes go up in the Blanco Vista neighborhood of San Marcos last November. Due to the scarcity of available housing in Hays County, homes in San Marcos are on the market for an average of 133 days, according to a Realtors’ association official. If no new homes were put up for sale, the current housing inventory in Hays County would be sold in just two months, according to the association. DEBORAH CANNON / AMERICAN-STATESMAN 2014

Hays County residents gather outside the Hays City Store in Driftwood last month to protest the controversial Electro Purification well field being developed near Wimberley.

On the face of it, Hays County’s population boom — its growth is the second highest in the country among heavily populated counties — has been good for business.
Median income outstrips the rest of the state, with the average Hays household earning $58,651, compared to $51,900 in the rest of Texas.

But the boom has stretched the county’s water, housing and government resources in ways that will take years to address. The jail is overcrowded. The scramble is on to secure more water for growth. A lack of major arterial roads means too much traffic is forced onto Interstate 35.
And more people are on their way to Hays every day, many of them migrating from the two metropolitan centers it sits between.

County Judge Bert Cobb said the cost of living in Austin is a direct factor in Hays County’s growth. “The feeling that a lot of people have is, ‘Well, if we don’t build it, they won’t come,’ and that’s destructive,” Cobb said. “They’re coming here for all the reasons everyone comes here — there’s space. As Austin gets worse, they’re driving them into San Marcos and Kyle and Buda.”
Newcomers get their first glimpse of the county’s struggle to meet demand as they shop for a place to live.

There is a severe lack of housing that is driving up prices while making it harder to find a home in Hays County, according to James Walker, vice president of the Four Rivers Association of Realtors, a nonprofit trade group that includes Hays County.

“We’re a very fast growing area and there’s very little inventory out there, particularly in the affordable housing arena,” Walker said. “There are some developments that are coming; they’re just not here yet. Unfortunately, in the past, particularly in San Marcos, they haven’t been real receptive to the idea of bringing in new housing developers.”

Homes are on the market for an average of 133 days in San Marcos, and once a home is put on the market it quickly receives multiple offers, some in cash, Walker said.
If no new homes were put up for sale, the current inventory would be sold in just two months, according to numbers from the association.

Yet even without an abundance of housing, people keep coming.

According to new Census figures released Thursday, Hays is the nation’s second-fastest growing county with a population of at least 100,000. The county saw a 4.8 percent population increase between July 1, 2013, and July 1, 2014.
And the growth is not likely to slow.

Currently nearing 180,000 people, Hays County could grow by 30,000 people in the next five years and to 440,000 people by 2050, according to projections by the state demographer.
Finding the water to serve all those people is a work in progress.

Waters for fighting

Hays County’s communities depend on a haphazard mix of river water and groundwater sources that have a spectrum of oversight. Working to meet their growing needs, the communities are trying individually strike deals with a variety of water suppliers, even as the county tries to shepherd them into a unified plan.

The broader issues at play with water — issues of private property, of resource preservation, of population growth, of rural versus urban interests, of patchwork regulation — are on display in the fight involving Electro Purification’s groundwater project. The project would pump up to 5.3 million gallons a day to meet the burgeoning drinking, washing, lawn-watering and bathing needs of a rapidly growing area along I-35.

The company says it is lawfully pulling up water and selling it to communities that need it. Neighbors of the project say it will rob them of their own groundwater and that the company has exploited an unregulated store of groundwater.

“We need to take a stand against living unsustainably,” said Purly Gates, who lives in a subdivision adjacent to the Electro Purification well field. “We’re ruled by economic gain. We need to listen to the land. We’re stealing our resources for private gain. We’re fouling our nest in the name of growth.”
But the Goforth Special Utility District, which has a contract to take the lion’s share of the Electro Purification water to serve its 5,600 connections spanning Hays, Caldwell and Travis counties, says it needs the water to meet rising demand.

Goforth, in a lower-income area, has seen a 6 to 8 percent growth rate in its area over the past decade, said the utility’s attorney, Leonard Dougal. Going forward, “our engineer says just expect more of the same,” he said.

Playing catch-up
Growth is at the heart of a web of issues facing Hays county government.
“The organism has to work as a whole,” Cobb said. “If you concentrate on just one aspect of it, you cheat another part of it.”

One piece of the puzzle is transportation.

Commissioners have a transportation plan that would give the county a much needed east-west roadway by connecting RM 150 to Texas 130 in the east and U.S. 290 in the north.
The proposed roadway could take some of the congestion off of Interstate 35 headed into Austin and is waiting for funding from the Texas Department of Transportation, Cobb said.

“Right now it’s easier to get to downtown Austin than to get to Dripping Springs from Kyle,” Cobb said.

Money problems also plague the Hays County Jail, which is outdated and overcrowded.
The jail maxes out at 311 inmates, and the 25-year-old facility has sent inmates to neighboring jails on and off since last July.

While there is talk of building a new facility, county commissioners are looking at the judicial system as a whole. Special courts, such as a veterans court, psychiatric court and drug court, have been or are being developed to save jail space for people who pose a bigger threat to public safety, Cobb said.
The labor cost of those who would work on new dockets is a concern in addition to the cost of building a jail. A study is being done to analyze the needs for a jail facility in order to not build too much or too little, Cobb said.

Like the other struggles that the county is facing, the jail issue requires action soon.
“The problem will only get worse unless we do something,” Cobb said. “Inaction is a decision. We can’t afford to do that any longer.”

American-Statesman data editor Christian McDonald contributed to this report. Contact Asher Price at 512-445-3643. Twitter: @asherprice

Friday, March 27, 2015

Muse: Short-term water, long-term consequences for Hill Country

By Christy Muse - Special to the American-Statesman 

The Vista Ridge water project in San Antonio threatens to follow a dangerous precedent: draining water from one region to another in a way that will only increase exurban sprawl in the Hill Country. If this solution seems familiar it should: It’s the California model that has led to that state having one year of water left.

The Vista Ridge pipeline is a multibillion-dollar project to pipe 50,000 acre feet of water a year, 142 miles across five counties. That is hugely expensive infrastructure, especially considering there is no assurance about how reliable this groundwater supply will be for the long haul. Aquifers are not unlimited resources.

This is just one of many proposals to pump and pipe water from the Carrizo Wilcox aquifer. It’s one thing to assess the impact of a single project over the next decade or so, but groundwater runs freely beneath several counties and several groundwater districts with differing management plans. We don’t have the science needed to demonstrate the cumulative effect of developing this much water long-term. Unless we manage groundwater withdrawals in a way that takes no more than nature can replenish, we will deplete the resource. Then what?

San Antonio has managed to successfully grow at a steady pace and at the same time reduce water consumption with forward-thinking proven conservation strategies.
The San Antonio Water System openly states it won’t need this water for many years to come. So to help pay for the Vista Ridge pipeline, SAWS is looking for customers along the way, which is prompting eager developers to jump at the opportunity for short-term profits. One question is how will these new subdivisions continue to provide water for new residents when their contracts are up and San Antonio decides it needs the water?

Flash back 10 years — the Lower Colorado River Authority seemed invincible as it obliged developers with water lines west of Austin. In the end, that hotly debated infrastructure proved to be unsustainable. The Lower Colorado River Authority divested itself of the failing water systems, and water is now scarce for the new developments LCRA facilitated, which have actually increased groundwater pumping and pollution. This is a cautionary tale.

Those of us who opposed the water lines 10 years ago argued that we needed to plan for growth rather than fuel unmanageable growth. For the Hill Country Alliance and others who would like to see a more sustainable future, serious questions demand answers before any of these water lines take another step forward.

SAWS isn’t kidding when it says “game changing” water project. Texas is unique in that we don’t have basic rules about land use and land development outside of our cities. The intensity, location and type of development that occurs in unincorporated areas is currently not planned but is happening anyway at alarming rates.

Piping large volumes of water to rural lands will change the landscape from rural to suburban and exurban. With no rules in place there is little oversight on how this development should occur. Density, wastewater management, water quality, transportation systems, scenic views, ranchland protection, cost of schools and public safety, impact on existing tax-payers — these important issues are not being considered comprehensively.

We submit that a better way is possible and that protecting the Hill Country is worth it. A multi-jurisdictional regional plan could determine what areas can accommodate large densities and what areas need a more conservation-minded approach. Water infrastructure could be planned in concert with other infrastructure needs in a consolidated, conservative and affordable way. To do so, counties would need to be given land use and land development oversight. Any path forward must include a guaranteed commitment to water and land conservation.

“The Hill Country is a beautiful area with limited surface water, limited groundwater and no big city to spread rates across,” Robert Puente of SAWS stated. “We would answer the desperate call.”
We agree with the first part of Puente’s statement, but do not hear that “desperate call.” In fact, we believe most people of the Hill Country want thoughtful, appropriate growth that is compatible with our region’s unique qualities. We must plan to avoid California’s fate. Texas can do better.

Muse is executive director of the Hill Country Alliance:

Muse: Short-term water, long-term consequences for Hill Country

Thursday, March 26, 2015

Misinformation Campaign Against
Wimberley Citizens and Our Property Values

Dear concerned citizens,

Many Wimberley area citizens have written to their legislators regarding the EP situation, asking that the legislature expands Groundwater Conservation District coverage to include the white zone east of Wimberley (the EP well area). On Wed., Rep. Isaac’s bills went before the Natural Resources Committee. The same day, many of those same citizens began getting emails from legislators indicating that they are being told Wimberley citizens are against Wimberley being included in a Groundwater Conservation District. Unbelievable, since we are already in a GCD.
This is part of a note from Rep. Lyle Larson to a Wimberley constituent:

"It is my understanding that the last few sessions, the folks in Wimberley have opposed being included in a groundwater conservation district. Hopefully we can get this issue worked out this session. I look forward to the discussion that will take place this afternoon and will work with Rep. Isaac to develop a solution to ensure water security for the Wimberley area moving forward."

This smells of a classic misinformation campaign, similar to what EP is doing in other areas the last few days, such as the misleading press conference and the disturbing robo-calls from a former Buda mayor - in the water supply business - trying to stir up antipathy from Buda citizens against the Wimberley area victims of the EP water grab. Read more from the Texas Tribune.

Do not let them get away with this. Let your legislators know how totally absurd this is.

1. Wimberley is in the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District (HTGCD) and has been since that district’s creation.

2. Wimberley area meetings supporting the white zone residents - and concerned about Wimberley property values being threatened by the EP wells - have been packed and totally in favor of the GCDs (both the HTGCD and the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District - BSEACD).

3. In just a few weeks, more than 2,300 citizens of the Wimberley area have signed the CARD Citizens Petition supporting expanding and funding the HTGCD. In addition, almost 4,000 people have signed the similar Hays County Groundwater Watch Dogs petition on Facebook.
Please write the members of the Natural Resources Committee by going to this page. When the page opens, click on the representative’s photo to get his contact information.
And if you have friends in Buda, please, assure them that no one is trying to block their water supply; we are just trying to keep our life water from being stolen for future developments.

- CARD Steering Committee

Saturday, March 21, 2015

TESPA Files Suit To Stop Electro Purification in Hays County District Court

The Trinity Edwards Springs Protection Association (TESPA) filed suit in Hays County District Court Friday morning seeking to stop any further work by Electro Purification unless and until they obtain groundwater use permits from the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District. TESPA filed suit on behalf of members living within 1⁄2 mile of the Electro Purification project. The suit names Electro Purification and the landowners who leased the groundwater to Electro Purification as defendants. 

The suit was filed under provisions of Chapter 36 of the Texas Water Code that allow landowners to sue over water well construction on adjacent property when the wells were constructed without appropriate permits. The suit also complains that the rule of capture applicable to groundwater in Texas under older case law violates the new property right in groundwater established by the Texas Supreme Court in the case of Edwards Aquifer Authority v. Day, particularly given the extensive well drawdown anticipated on adjacent properties due to the Electro Purification project. 

According to Vicki Hujsak, a founding incorporator of TESPA, “TESPA was formed to take action to protect our aquifers and springs. It feels good to be fighting back.”
Jeff Mundy, lead trial lawyer for TESPA summarized the main points of the case. “First, our legal research revealed that the Legislature already passed legislation which attempts to protect all of the groundwater in Hays County through groundwater conservation districts. The Legislature gave the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District default jurisdiction over groundwater in all of Hays County, to the extent jurisdiction has not otherwise been given to another groundwater conservation district. The HTGCD has a legislatively mandated duty to protect groundwater to assure it is used wisely and in a sustainable manner.

Second, if for some reason the courts find that the HTGCD does not have jurisdiction to protect this groundwater, TESPA is requesting the Supreme Court of Texas to review and overturn the ‘rule of capture’ as it applies to groundwater, which will have statewide impact in areas not protected by groundwater conservation districts or other water conservation districts. We hope to bring the common law of Texas into accord with the laws promoting groundwater conservation as passed by the Legislature and as mandated by the Texas Constitution.” 

According to Vanessa Puig-Williams, an environmental attorney helping TESPA, “The rule of capture is harsh and archaic, dating back to a 1904 decision that referred to groundwater as secret and occult. We are well beyond the occult in our understanding of groundwater today, and we feel that the time is ripe to challenge this doctrine that has long outlived its usefulness.” 

As filed, the suit seeks a temporary injunction to stop Electro Purification until the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District decides how to respond to the allegation that they have regulatory responsibility for these contested wells. The Hays Trinity District was served Tuesday with a letter giving them notice that they had 90 days to determine what action, if any, they wished to undertake. 

TESPA is holding a public meeting at the Wimberley Community Center on March 21 at 6:30 where members of the legal team as well as other community leaders will speak on the litigation and the challenges that lie ahead in moving toward effective action to protect our aquifer and our springs.

Tuesday, March 17, 2015

District Targeted in Water Conflict


District targeted in water conflict

Niederwald-area utility would be barred from using eminent domain.

By Sean Collins Walsh


To report this story, the American-Statesman submitted Texas Public Information Act requests for copies of all written communications between the Goforth Special Utility District and many players in the Electro Purification plan.
Goforth provided some emails but is withholding many others, including all those related to a 13-mile pipeline critical to the project’s future. Goforth is asking the state attorney general’s office to allow it to seal communications that fall under exceptions to the disclosure law for attorney-client privilege and potential real estate transactions. The office has until April 15 to make a ruling.

As outrage has mounted this year over the Electro Purification well field being built in Hays County, officials from Buda and the planned Anthem subdivision — two customers of the project — have dutifully showed up to town halls and round tables, subjecting themselves to the jeers of their neighbors.

But missing from every public meeting has been the most critical player in making the project a reality: the Goforth Special Utility District, a Niederwald-area water provider that has the largest contract with Houston-based Electro Purification’s venture in Hays County.
Goforth is now front and center because of a bill filed last week by state Rep. Jason Isaac, R-Dripping Springs, that is designed to stop the project in its tracks. The measure would prohibit Goforth from using eminent domain outside of its service area, preventing the utility from acquiring the right of way needed to build a 13-mile pipeline connecting the Wimberleyarea well field to its customers along the Interstate 35 corridor.

The American-Statesman in January requested copies of all written communications between Goforth and Electro Purification through the Texas Public Information Act. The utility provided a trove of emails but is withholding many others, including all emails related to the pipeline.
Although incomplete, the emails provided from December 2012 to January 2014 offer a window into the planning that went on for years before the project became the subject of outrage in late 2014. The emails show that water quality was a chief concern for the utility in the early stages of the negotiations and that the company sought lower standards for the water. They also show that Electro Purification was eager to move the project along, urging the district at one point to move more quickly.

Electro Purification manager Bart Fletcher wrote in March 2014 that “we need to move forward as soon as possible on the pipeline. We would like the board to approve the delivery of water to Goforth the summer of 2015 tonight, so we can get started on the project.”
The timing could become a critical issue as Isaac and the Trinity Edwards Spring Protection Association — a nonprofit formed by residents near the wells, which plans to sue the company — race against the clock to stop the project before it begins delivering water. Doing so, many believe, could make it harder for Electro Purification to claim it should be grandfathered into any changes in law that would govern the project, which has found a loophole in Texas law that will allow the company to pump from a distressed water source with little oversight.
The wells are being drilled into the Trinity Aquifer but they are in the territory of the Edwards Aquifer Authority. As a result, the authority cannot regulate the project because it isn’t using Edwards water, and the nearby Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District has no jurisdiction because the wells are outside its territory.

Without district oversight, the project is subject only to Texas’ century-old “rule of capture,” which gives property owners nearly unfettered rights to pump water from beneath their land
— even at the expense of their neighbors.

Electro Purification has contracted to deliver up to 5.3 million gallons per day out of its well field off of RM 3237 between Wimberley and Kyle, alarming the hundreds of residents in the area who rely on private wells. Goforth’s reservation for 3 million gallons per day is the largest.
The Trinity Aquifer is generally considered to have poorer-quality water than the Edwards, which is where Goforth’s water supplies currently come from. In January 2013, Electro Purification sent Goforth a draft version of the contract that included suggested changes, including one that deleted a clause that said the water “will meet any more stringent standards reasonably required by the Buyer to ensure acceptable total dissolved solids (TDS), salinity, taste, and odor.”

A month earlier, Fletcher sent Goforth an email saying that the company wanted to use the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality’s water standards, not the more stringent rules set by the federal Environmental Protection Agency. A hydrogeologist at Electro Purification, Fletcher wrote, “advises us that very few water systems in Texas meet EPA standards but meet TCEQ standards.” The executed contract uses the TCEQ standards.

During a February 2014 exchange that set up a meeting for the Goforth board of directors to taste water from Electro Purification’s test wells, Mario Tobias, the utility’s general manager, warned that they might not want to drink untreated water. Leonard Dougal, Go-forth’s general counsel, then volunteered to do so himself: “I will drink it. If I survive, I expect the directors will feel OK about it. So, let’s proceed.”

In the end, the directors tasted the water and were satisfied. Tobias then wrote to the company asking if it was OK to pour out the leftover water. Tim Throckmorton, an Electro Purification manager, said the company did not need the water but joked about disposing it: “Sure put on the plants, that is expensive water!”

In a written statement Monday, Throckmorton said that his company’s relationship with Go-forth began five years ago, when the utility was searching for new ways to provide water to its fast-growing customer base.

“They understood they are required to provide water in their service area, thus they were looking for alternatives to providing for their customers,” Throckmorton said. “Electro Purification and Goforth entered into a contractual agreement in order to meet part of their long-term water needs.”
Although the Statesman requested all communications since January 2008, the earliest email provided by Go-forth was from December 2012. Goforth has asked Attorney General Ken Paxton to allow it to withhold communications requested by the newspaper that Dougal believes are exempted from the Public Information Act, including those covered by attorney-client privilege and discussions on potential real estate transactions or eminent-domain takings for the 13-mile pipeline.
Property owners along FM 150, a potential route for the pipeline, have received letters from the Lockwood, Andrews & Newnam engineering firm, which Goforth has hired to help it acquire right of way for the pipeline.

The firm is attempting to negotiate for the easements, but some owners who oppose Electro Purification have vowed not to give up their land. The utility has not yet authorized the use of eminent domain, Dougal said, but it may do so at a future meeting.

The next meeting is March 25. Goforth canceled its February meeting after throngs of angry Wimberley-area residents began showing up to meetings of every governmental body with a connection to the project. Organizers of Electro Purification’s opponents say they are planning to attend the March 25 meeting, which had been scheduled for Wednesday.

But a message on the Goforth website suggests they might not all be able to get in: “There is limited seating (30 seats available) in board room.”

Contact Sean Collins Walsh at 512-912-2939.
Twitter: @seancwalsh

Monday, March 16, 2015

TESPA Announces Water Defense Plans at Saturday Meeting

March 16, 2015: For immediate release
Contact: Vicki Hujsak, TESPA President: 512-847-5639.

TESPA Announces Water Defense Plans at Saturday Meeting

The latest developments in the fight to protect our groundwater in Hays County go public at the TESPA Water Meeting, 6:30 p.m. Saturday at the Wimberley Community Center.

TESPA, the recently formed Trinity Edwards Springs Protection Association, wasted no time wading into the major threat to Hays County water and prosperity presented by Electro Purification’s plans to drain 5.2 million gallons a day from the heart of our water-fragile community. Just weeks after the announcement of TESPA’s founding, the group is ready to take its actions directly to the people threatened by EP’s aquifer-draining plans.

"I am excited about this public meeting,” said TESPA co-founder and local resident Jim Blackburn. “We on the TESPA team will present the surprising results of our legal research and discuss moving forward to stop the Electro Purification water development plan. I hope everyone who cares about the future health and prosperity of our area will join us."

It’s no secret that Hays County, recently declared the fastest-growing county in Texas, has long had a serious water issue. Western Hays’ primary water source, the Trinity Aquifer, is already being depleted far faster than it can be renewed. For years county officials have sought alternate water sources for a fast-approaching shortage. Despite this, EP found a county area unprotected by any Groundwater Conservation District, and quietly acquired water rights and signed contracts allowing them to annually suck 1.8 billion gallons of water from the Trinity.

Taking so much water would quickly drain scores and eventually hundreds of local wells. That would not only ruin many homesteads, but would eventually damage property values area wide. Dozens of local organizations and thousands of citizens have reacted with signs, resolutions and outrage.
TESPA was formed to fight that threat through litigation and other legal means, and will discuss their promising progress at Saturday’s meeting. Vicki Hujsak, local resident and president of TESPA, will open the meeting with a quick overview. Blackburn will take the podium to recognize citizen members placed at the forefront of legal actions as well as the TESPA legal team to update their latest findings. The team includes Austin trial lawyer Jeff Mundy, Houston environmental lawyer Charles Irvine and Austin lawyer Vanessa Puig-Williams, who also specializes in water and environmental law.

Other water information will come from Wimberley Valley Watershed Association Executive Director David Baker and from Steve Klepfer, Wimberley businessman, former mayor and a member of TESPA.

It’s sure to be an exciting and energy-packed event. The Wimberley Community Center is located at 14068 Ranch Rd 12, next-door to Brookshire Brothers grocery, which will provide overflow parking. For information, watch the TESPA website,

Friday, March 13, 2015

Neighbor to Neighbor News Pass it on...                    
March 13, 2015
Hill Country News
Texas suburbs are growing faster than cities
Counties are growing at extremely high rates, in part because of the lack of land use planning ability outside of our cities. This trend has tremendous costs to tax-payers for basic infrastructure needs such as roads, water and schools. “Hays County, just south of Austin, is projected to be the fastest-growing county, by percentage, in all of Texas by 2050” Read more from the  Austin Business Journal. Learn more about County Planning authority here.

The Southwest Water Wars
An old-fashioned, Western-style water war has erupted. Across Texas and the Southwest, the scene is repeated in the face of a triple threat: booming population, looming drought and the worsening effects of climate change. Read more from New York Times.

Isaac Jumping Into Hays County Water Fight
With a high-profile groundwater fight raging in his district, state Rep. Jason Isaac is launching a volley of legislation to stop plans to pump huge amounts of water from underneath Hays County. Read more from the Texas Tribune. Representative Isaac issued his own media release yesterday. Read “Rep. Isaac and Sen. Campbell File Water Legislation Aiming to Protect Trinity Aquifer.” here.

Creating Vibrant Green Cities: Lessons from Seoul South Korea and San Marcos
Join us for a panel discussion with Thomas Hardy, Ph.D., and Matthew Lewis, the City of Austin’s Assistant Director of Planning and Development Review, on the lessons learned from two great green infrastructure projects located an ocean apart. This next event in the Imagine Austin Speaker Series will take place April 1 at the Dougherty Arts Center here.

Victory in Comal County
The Greater Edwards Aquifer Alliance (GEAA) praised the Comal County Commissioners court this week and announced the denial of the Meyers Ranch “Water Quality Improvement District” would have translated to 1,500 homes on 700 acres over the Edwards Recharge Zone. Read more from GEAA.

Hunt School builds Rainwater Harvesting model with funds from Rainwater Revival Grant

6th and 7th grade students from Hunt School are learning all about water conservation and rainwater harvesting thanks to a grant from HCA's Rainwater Revival and the generous help of the Hunt Garden Club. Read more from the West Kerr Current.

 Spring Break has Sprung!
Spring Break is finally upon us. What a perfect time to get outdoors and enjoy the beauty of the Hill Country. Don't forget to grab your camera and snap some shots for the HCA photo contest!
Entering is easy through the HCA website.

Upcoming Events


March 13-15 in Llano: Llano Earth Art Fest - Details
March 21 in Kyle - "Hays County: Water, Rocks, ‘Rule of Capture’ and the Future of our Native Plants" - Details
March 25 in San Antonio - Saving Family Lands Seminar - Hosted by Texas Agricultural Land Trust - Details

March 26-29 in Brackettville - Advanced Women of the Land Workshop by TWA - Details
March 27-28 in Hunt - "Introduction to Holistic Management and Ecosystem Function" - Part one in HMI's Mitigating Drought with Holistic Management Workshop Series - Details
March 28 in Austin - Native Plant Society Spring Symposium at the Wildflower Center - Details

March 28 in Stonewall – 8th Annual LBJ 100 Bike Tour - Details
March 29 in Johnson City - "Food, Health and the Environment: Why Eating Right Can Save You and the Earth," presented by Ecologist, Dr. G. David Tilman - 4:30 pm at the Hill Country Science Mill in Johnson City. Details

April 1 in Austin - "Creating Vibrant Green Cities: Lessons from Seoul South Korea and San Marcos," part of the Imagine Austin Speaker Series - Details

April 4 in Boerne - 25th Annual Cibolo Nature Center Mostly Native Plant Sale (members only pre-sale April 3 from 5-7pm) - Details

April 4 in San Antonio - Rain Barrel Workshop - Details
April 7-9 in Dallas - Rainwater University 2015 by Texas A&M AgriLife - Who should attend: Texas Flood Plain Managers, Landscape Professionals, Engineers, Architects, Homeowners, Business Owners, Builders, School Districts, City, State and Federal Personnel - Details
April 9 - Six-county wildlife program and tour by Texas Agri-Life Extention - Participating counties: Mason, Menard, McCulloch, Llano, Gillespie & Kimble - Details

April 22 in Jourdanton - Agri-life Workshop - Presentations by HCA's Sky Jones Lewey, Rainwater Harvesting Expert John Kight and more - Details

April 23-24 in Kerrville - The Second Annual Bennett Land Stewardship: “Keys to Hill Country Living" - Details
April 24-26 in Fredericksburg - 5th Annual Wings Over the Hills Nature Festival - Details

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Groundwater Conservation Districts

The truth about Groundwater Conservation Districts (GCDs), affordable, necessary, essential

Surface and Groundwater Policy Integration
In Texas, water law and regulatory policy treat groundwater differently, and for the most part, separately from surface water.

Conservation Easements

Always your choice, a great tool for heritage ranch protection.  Learn about Conservation Easements.

Night Skies

Communities in the Hill Country want to see the stars at night, find out how you can help protect our night sky.


Water in the Hill Country is at a crossroads. Learn about our Hill Country groundwater supply.

Healthy Riparian Areas

An easy way to keep Hill Country streams clean and flowing is to use simple riparian management techniques.

Thursday, March 5, 2015

Friends of Blue Hole and WVWA Join TESPA to Raise Funds for Aquifer Protection

Joining forces the Friends of Blue Hole and the Wimberley Valley Watershed Association are taking action to address the current water crisis in Central Texas brought on by a proposal from Electro Purification, a corporation from Houston, that proposes to use the rule of capture to pump over five million gallons a day from the Trinity and Edwards Aquifer. This unregulated water grab would potentially dry up water wells in adjacent neighborhoods and impact the Edwards and Trinity aquifer springs in an already fragile drought stricken area. The two organizations have become members of the newly formed Trinity Edwards Springs Protection Association (TESPA) to assist in fundraising for the newly established non-profit. 

"These springs are the lifeblood of this country," said Peter Way, founder of Friends of Blue and founding director of TESPA. Way is a property owner adjacent to the EP well field in the Blanco River watershed. "Without water, this land loses the wonderful character that all of us love. Our long term goal is to develop and implement strategies to protect our groundwater and springs."

The EP threat requires all of us to work together to stop this project," said David Baker Executive Director of WVWA. "We need to protect the people whose homes and wells are endangered, and also to preserve the springs, rivers and aquifers we all depend on. We encourage all concerned citizens and organizations to become members of TESPA and help advance the protection and wise management of our groundwater and its connection to our surface water springs.

TESPA was officially formed Feb. 25 in response to the commercial attempt by Houston-based Electro Purification, LLC, to take 1.9 billion gallons of water annually from the already stressed Trinity Aquifer, creating an immediate and critical threat to Western Hays County private wells and property values. TESPA's goal is to protect, through legal action, those wells and properties as well as the Trinity and the Edwards aquifers and their springs. TESPA has already lined up a legal team and begun preparations for action.

"This is a critical time for Hays County groundwater," said Jim Blackburn, a TESPA board member and property owner in the Lone Man Creek watershed. "When livelihoods and property are threatened, it is reasonable to ask the courts for help.  If we don't fight now with all we can muster, this groundwater will be lost."

Read the full TESPA announcement of formation at  

Press Inquiries please contact:  
Jim Blackburn - 713-524-0122   

Supporters can make a tax deductible donation to TESPA, by making a gift to Friends of Blue Hole directed specifically to TESPA endeavors.   

Please make checks payable to
Friends of Blue Hole and mail to PO Box 1601, Wimberley, Texas 78676.

Or go online at 

Donation can also be made on March 5th & 6th 
as part of the Amplify Austin Live Here Give Here Campaign 
Checks can be made payable to WVWA PO. Box 2534 Wimberley Texas 78676

News Stories on EP Issue
Stay informed on EP issue

Sign Petition here
WVWA Facebook
TESPA Facebook
 TESPA Mailing List

Please Join TESPA for  a community meeting to discuss plans for fighting the Electro Purification project.  Lawyers designing TESPA litigation strategy and local leaders will discuss aspects of the litigation. 

When - Saturday March 21 at 6:30 p.m.
Where - Wimberley Community Center

Tuesday, March 3, 2015

Water as Life: Celebrate!
Strengthening Community Through Story
Saturday, March 21st, 3-6 pm
The Sanctuary in the Village, Wimberley 
Note the new time for March 21st only!

On the March 21st Spring Equinox, we gather to celebrate our appreciation and love for water through our stories, a water ceremony at Blue Hole and heartfelt music performed by local musicians.  

Stories That Connect Us will adapt the format of the March 21st storytelling circle and expand to include the larger community as we share our individual stories about water. We will break into smaller groups, where everyone will have an opportunity to speak and share from their hearts.

Share your own story about water - your vulnerability about water now, what water means to you, and/or your current relationship with water.  


What to bring:
whatever mat, cushion or chair you need to be comfortable
501 Old Kyle Road. The Oaks at Blue Hole / The Sanctuary in the Village in Wimberley (the old Baptist church where Helen Stutchbury teaches yoga). At the corner of 3237 and Old Kyle Rd. on the way to Blue Hole. Click here for a map.

love donations

We would love to share this sacred day with you!
Shiila and Dan
A Return Project Event
For more information, contact