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Central Texas Aquifer Levels to Plummet Due to Four Mega-Pumping Permits – New Hydrogeological Report Released as Interim Hearings on Water Begin in Texas Legislature
AUSTIN, TEXAS – February 2, 2016 – A new report by groundwater hydrologist George Rice documents the effects of future pumping on Central Texas aquifers. The report adds to the information provided by Rice in the only published study of the effects of the $3.4 billion Vista Ridge Project, which the San Antonio City Council approved in November 2014. The Vista Ridge Project will require the annual export of 50,000 acre-feet of groundwater from a well field in Burleson County to San Antonio.
The report being released today uses the State’s own Groundwater Availability Model (GAM) to predict that the Vista Ridge Project pumping combined with projected pumping in the Lost Pines groundwater district in Bastrop and Lee counties (two counties adjacent to the Vista Ridge well field) will cause Simsboro Aquifer water-well levels to exceed the drawdown targets known as the Desired Future Conditions. The approved pumping permits for Forestar and LCRA, together with the permit being sought by End Op will account for up to 81,000 acre-feet/year of Simsboro pumping. Asked to comment on criticisms of using the GAM for these purposes, Rice said: “While the GAM does have some shortcomings, it is the best tool available for determining what will happen when large amounts of groundwater are pumped from the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer.”
The predicted dramatic drawdowns due to pumping an additional 131,000 acre-feet annually will cause the Desired Future Conditions to be exceeded in 2020 in the Lost Pines groundwater district and before 2030 in the Post Oak Savannah groundwater district of Burleson and Milam counties.
State Representative John Cyrier for Texas House District 17, which includes Bastrop, Caldwell, Gonzales, Karnes and Lee counties (all counties which overlie the Simsboro) said: “Many of my rural constituents view Rice’s report as confirming that moving massive amounts of groundwater away from their land and their livelihoods on a permanent basis would be devastating to their families and to our aquifers. Through statewide strategies for water-neutral development, we can meet future needs without depleting our groundwater and surface water systems for future generations.”
It has become clear San Antonio must either offload the expensive Vista Ridge water it does not currently need or risk overburdening its ratepayers. The realization that the excess water may unleash development in the sensitive areas of the Texas Hill Country, while damaging a rural aquifer and two major rivers, caused Lee County landowner and water rights activist, Michele Gangnes of the League of Independent Voters to say: ”Mr. Rice’s report begs the question how San Antonio and other water peddlers expect these projects to be sustainable. We have to have more legislators than our own John Cyrier, whom we deeply appreciate, willing to work to give us a seat at the table and an opportunity to publicly debate whether the mass movement of water makes any sense, and whether the goal of state water policy should be to deplete our groundwater.”
The press conference to release Rice’s report immediately preceded the Texas House Natural Resources Committee held to address House Speaker Joe Straus’s Interim Charge 2:
Evaluate the status of water markets in Texas and the potential challenges of expanded markets for water. Include the evaluation of greater interconnections between water systems through both engineered and natural infrastructure. Examine opportunities for incentives from areas receiving water supplies to areas providing those supplies that could benefit each area.
Committee Chair Rep. Jim Keffer invited testimony from a variety of stakeholders and special interests except landowners who, under Texas law, own the groundwater underlying them.
Copies of the Rice Report can be accessed at http://NoVistaRidge.org/learn-more/documents/
Excerpts from latest publication by League of independent Voters of Texas