San Antonio Express-News
Small aquifers seen playing big future role
November 30, 2013
BOERNE — Even after the current drought breaks — whenever that might be — every bit of available groundwater could be needed to meet future demands in fast-growing Kendall County, Cow Creek Groundwater Conservation District directors say.
That's why they want the area's smaller aquifers included in a regional planning group's efforts to quantify current and future groundwater supplies.
The computations for a statewide water plan are being prepared by 16 regional groups, including the Groundwater Management Area 9 Joint Planning Committee, which include all or parts of Bandera, Bexar, Blanco, Comal, Hays, Kendall, Kerr, Medina and Travis counties.
“In 20 years, every drop is going to be relevant. So we'd rather establish a framework to track all of the small aquifers in our region,” said Micah Voulgaris, manager of the Cow Creek district, which covers Kendall County.
Several who attended a Nov. 18 meeting of the GMA 9 panel also spoke against a proposal to declare the Ellenburger, Hickory, Marble Falls and Upper Glen Rose aquifers “nonrelevant” for regional planning purposes.
That classification is favored by some board members who said it wouldn't be worth the work to include the smaller formations under a legislative mandate to develop detailed data on relevant aquifers' current conditions and future demands.
“We don't have to waste our time dealing with it,” Ron Fieseler, committee chairman and manager of the Blanco-Pedernales Groundwater Conservation District, said at the meeting.
He wants to focus efforts on the Trinity Aquifer, the main water supply in the district, and said the smaller aquifers aren't widely used because they're deeper and, therefore, more costly to access.
Fieseler said categorizing the smaller ones as relevant would require holding public hearings, filing reports and drafting a projection for each, called its “Desired Future Condition,” or DFC, which reflects water availability and anticipated drawdown through 2060 — when Kendall County's population, now about 34,000, is forecast to be nearly 100,000.
“Just because it's nonrelevant doesn't mean the (local) groundwater conservation district gives up its authority to manage it,” said Brian Hunt of the Barton Springs-Edwards Aquifer Conservation District.
Voulgaris offered to have the Cow Creek district handle all the necessary paperwork for the smaller aquifers, saying: “We've got a lot of water in these that we don't know of.”
A decision on how to designate the small aquifers was tabled after Fieseler offered to hold further talks with Cow Creek directors.
Tommy Mathews, chairman of the Cow Creek board, later said it would be foolish for regional water planners to forego examining the smaller aquifers just because the process is difficult and expensive.
“If we abdicate that responsibility ... then the state water planners will be free to use any (water availability) numbers they want, and we give up our say,” he said.
Besides updating its DFCs, a new state initiative calls for the regional groups to calculate the “total estimated recoverable storage” volume for each aquifer in their jurisdictions.
The new requirement comes as the agency overseeing the planning effort, the Texas Water Development Board, is in transition.
The Legislature just restructured the agency's board from six part-time directors to three full-time directors in conjunction with Proposition 6, a statewide referendum approved by voters Nov. 5, which will provide a $2 billion infusion of cash from the state's rainy day fund to finance water projects.
“There's a lot of change going on,” Rima Petrossian, an agency staffer, told the GMA 9 board at its meeting here.