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Hays County Precinct 3 Commissioner Lon Shell discusses possible water scenarios with Joe Day a volunteer water consultant. Photo by Gary Zupancic

TESPA rallies for moratorium on large water permits

Thursday, July 4, 2019

A rally was held on June 27 at the Vista Brewery in Driftwood in order to encourage the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BSEACD) to adopt a temporary large water permit moratorium until further scientific studies can be made concerning Middle Trinity Aquifer and impacts to existing groundwater resources.

The Trinity Edwards Spring Protection Association (TESPA) and representatives from Hays County want to determine the impact of Electro Purification pumping of  up to 2.5 million gallons of water per day or 289 million gallons per year. Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District will decide whether to approve EP’s permit in a hearing scheduled for July 29.

“The moratorium on large-volume pumping is an effective, common-sense approach to allow sufficient time for scientific studies and modeling that we can all rely on in order to protect our aquifers and groundwater,” said Patrick Cox, Ph.D., TESPA board member.

While BSEACD does not define “large-volume,” TESPA believes 15 million gallons a year, or 41,000 gallons a day, is a reasonable threshold.

For anybody that lives in Central Texas or the Hill Country, water is a very valuable asset and its ownership is critical in the dry and drought ravaged terrain. The development of the area recently has made it critical necessity for residents and businesses. For the people who rallied at Vista Brewery last week, Electro Purification’s potential selling of water is a huge concern.

Rep. Erin Zweiner, and the Hays County Precinct 1 and 3 Commissioners Debbie Ingalsbe and Lon Shell were also in attendance.

New to the area, Charlie and Marilyn Minnar came from the East Coast where they were on well water, but were never in need of freshwater. Coming to the TESPA event was a fact-finding mission for both.

“We have concerns for the water. There’s a lot of development. What about drawdown and its implications? We need information on it. TESPA seems to be well informed,” Charlie said. “What’s going into the aquifer, that’s also a concern,” Marilyn said.

One way to get the word out was to have the event at a craft Brewery, Vista Brewery located in Driftwood, in a beautiful setting. Vista Brewing is located with in the potential impact zone of aquifer drawdown if Electro Purification’s pumping causes the drop that TESPA expects. Getting the permitting process to slow down until more facts are learned was the main point.

 “TESPA wants to keep all citizens and property owners informed on a complex legal issues. (We) want to provide accurate scientific data that helps us define our position to protect water and aquifer of this area,” Cox said.

The informational event was low key, and stressed that the process is long term, not something that will be achieved in a short period of time. Everyone in attendance was in agreement that protecting water rights was essential. TESPA and Hays County landowners are currently awaiting a contested case hearing to present evidence to an administrative law judge over the anticipated impacts from EP pumping 2.5 million gallons per day. BSEACD will make the ultimate decision whether to grant or deny the permit.

“This is one battle we can’t afford to lose,” Shell said. “…We need to preserve (water in) Hays County… and the people that want to take water away are not even from here.”

Vanessa Puig-Williams, TESPA executive director, presented information about the Needmore Permit, which is another large, pending application for groundwater production in Hays County near the EP project. Needmore will have its final hearing on July 29, 2019, at Buda City Hall when the BSEACD will consider whether to approve production of 289 million gallons a year. This would be the largest permit in the Trinity Aquifer within BSEACD’s jurisdiction.

“The threats to groundwater resources in Hays County continue to intensify,” Puig-Williams said. “Production from both the EP and Needmore permits will compound drawdown in the area, likely causing impacts five miles away and together consuming all of the groundwater the Texas Water Development Board says is available to produce from the Trinity Aquifer within BSEACD’s jurisdiction. TESPA will continue to work with the staff of BSEACD to ensure that private property rights, exempt wells, and groundwater resources are protected."

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