March 2, 2010

Texas County Restricts Well Water

By Regina Dennis, Tribune-Herald
March 1, 2010

A few county water suppliers are concerned that water-pumping restrictions being set by the county’s groundwater management district will prevent them from being able to serve future water consumers.

Well owners will have to apply for permanent historic-use-production permits through the Southern Trinity Groundwater Conservation District.

The permits will grant each well owner a maximum amount of water that may be pumped each year based on the well’s historic water use and the total number of wells in McLennan County.

The county’s combined water usage must not exceed 20,194 acre-feet — about 6.6 billion gallons — of water each year, an allowance set by the Texas Water Development Board.

Purdis Medlin, president of the Levi Water Supply Corp. in the Lorena area, told the district’s board at its biweekly meeting last week that limiting well owners’ water usage to historic levels could leave them unable to meet water demands if any new development occurs.
“We have people that were planning on developing some land in our area. But I’m concerned that if all we get is [based upon] our historic use, then we won’t be able to issue any more meters,” Medlin said.
James Smith of the Texas Rural Water Association attended the meeting with Medlin.

Smith monitors the rules mandated by different groundwater-conservation districts across the state and said Medlin’s concerns are shared by numerous other small water suppliers.
“If there’s new development, there will be an increased need for water. But if the suppliers can’t exceed their historic use, what we’re looking at is how restrictive that may be in providing water to consumers,” Smith said. “I think it’s something that the districts will have to consider as this progresses.”
Possible solution

Al Blair, an Austin-based civil engineer who has served as a consultant for the district on its groundwater-management plan, said one solution is to have water suppliers apply for additional, nonhistoric use production permits. That would guarantee them more water for their customer base.

However, those permits will be awarded only after the historic-use permits have been issued.
“I think it’s too early in the process to make that claim, that there won’t be enough water,” Blair said. “What our goal is right now is we want to protect the water being used now.

“We want to protect it and make sure you maintain that water and that it is not diminished. Then I believe we may have some room after that to guarantee water providers additional water for their future use.”
Blair said the Texas Water Development Board also is likely to review those water allowances in the next five years. The board potentially could increase the amount of water allotted to each region and grant more water to well owners.

The water district will have a meeting at 6 p.m. March 18 at the Hewitt Community Center, 208 Chama Drive, to answer well owners’ questions about the permit application.

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