By Andy Sevilla.
As water becomes scarcer in Central Texas and the thirst for it is on the rise, property owners in Rollingwood are requesting permission to drill a well and pump 913,400 gallons of water per year for their home.
Farmland Operating Company, owned by J. David and Marcia Trotter, is asking the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BSEACD), which regulates groundwater in northern Kyle, Buda and south Austin, to grant them the pumping permit for personal home use and landscape irrigation.
If the permit is granted, Trotter would be drilling a well below the Edwards Aquifer and into the
Middle Trinity Aquifer.
BSEACD will conduct a public hearing on the matter and potentially decide to approve or deny the request at its Nov. 14 meeting.
The Trotter residence sits on three-quarters of an acre, of which 21,876.8 square feet are currently irrigated, according to the permit application. The abutting lot, which is owned by Farmland Operating Company (a real estate business the Trotters own) and will host the proposed well, is a tract of land consisting of a .68-acre of which 20,900 square-feet will be irrigated, the application states.
Trotter, whose current water source is the city of Rollingwood, is requesting to pump 489,600 gallons per year for the residence tract and 423,800 gallons for their lot on Kristy Drive in Austin, according to the application.
“The water will be used primarily for irrigation purposes to water seedlings to be transplanted on the irrigated acreage,” Trotter said in his application. “Secondarily the water will be used for filling the lap pool and personal consumption.”
Trotter said in a telephone interview that his water use has been curtailed due to drought restrictions in Rollingwood and he plans on using the groundwater to irrigate a vegetable garden, fill his pool, water his lawn and for personal use.
By contrast, Tim Miller who owns and operates the Millberg Farm just outside of the Kyle city limits, grows produce for 40 families on his 5-acre farm without pumping water from any aquifer.
“This is my 24th year of not pumping water from the aquifer,” Miller said.
The Millberg Farm only uses rain water to irrigate the crops, according to Miller, who said, “I’ve been building up my system over the course of several years.”
He said he has a 20,000 gallon tank, a 3,000 gallon tank, a 500 gallon barrel and a 100 gallon jug that collect rain water. Also, he practices speculative vegetable growing, which he says identifies what crops to plant based on weather patterns and future forecasts.
But concerns behind pumping close to a million gallons of water and potentially lessening water availability for other wells on the aquifer do not phase Trotter because there are “no wells anywhere near me,” he said. The BSEACD is “aware that I’m testing the Trinity Aquifer’s water, and if I can’t use it to irrigate because of its high salinity, I’ll just get water from the Edwards Aquifer.”
Middle Trinity Aquifer water may contain high saline levels and not be suitable for irrigation, according to Trotter, though he said he is willing to bear the expense and test the water so as to not pump from the Edwards Aquifer.
“This application is for a Trinity Aquifer permit with a back up to a class C Conditional Edwards Permit if the salinity of the Trinity is too great for irrigation purposes,” Trotter said in his application. “During periods of complete curtailment the City of Rollingwood water will be the alternative source of water.”
BSEACD staff is recommending approval of 750,000 gallons of water based on the calculations of necessary water to meet the property’s demand.
“The District’s irrigation calculations are based on local weather data (precipitation, evapotransportation, etc.) and/or crop coefficients,” according to staff’s recommendation. “In accordance with District rule 3-1.6.A(3), the District applies regional standards for permit usage when assessing requested permit volumes to ensure the prospective use is commensurate with reasonable, non-speculative demand.”
BSEACD General Manager John Dupnik said BSEACD will only take up a decision on Trotter’s permit request to pump water from the Middle Trinity Aquifer. He said that if the applicant is seeking a Class C permit to pump water from the Edwards Aquifer, Trotter would have to submit a separate application.
Dupnik said there is “low risk to other wells” from running low because of Trotter’s request, however the Middle Trinity Aquifer is a shared resource, he said.
“The more cumulative pumping you get overtime,” Dupnik said, “the higher the probability of felt effects throughout the region.”
The Middle Trinity Aquifer is western Hays County’s primary source of water.
“I’m going to submit my application and answer the (BSEACD) questions,” Trotter said of the Nov. 14 meeting. “I don’t know why this has all of a sudden become newsworthy. And I think I’m entitled to the water underneath my land, at least the Texas Supreme Court says so.”
Because Trotter’s request is less than two million gallons per year, a pump test and hydrogeological report were not required per BSEACD rules.
That report would have looked at the pumping rate and associated draw down. The pump test would have examined what effect the pumping permit would have on the aquifer.