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Release: The Tale of Two Endangered Aquifers

This picture was taken in Giddings last February at a crowded meeting of the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District. Hundreds of people were there to support the District’s conservative approach to protecting the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer, and its coveted, very slow to recharge Simsboro formation. This aquifer has become the most endangered groundwater in Texas. In the Lost Pines GCD (Bastrop and Lee counties), one private water marketer, Forestar Real Estate Group, is suing for 45,000 acre-feet and another, End Op L.P., is pushing for 46,000 acre-feet from the Simsboro.

The picture has been used by Forestar Real Estate Group’s attorney, Ed McCarthy, and San Antonio Water System CEO, Robert Puente, to chastise both the rural supporters of Lost Pines GCD and the District itself.  The citizens were dismissed as “water hoarders” who live over a “drought proof” aquifer and don’t want to share. Nothing could be further from the truth about those who have led the fight for protection of groundwater, and its critical contributions to surface waters (rivers, streams, bays and estuaries) for generations to come.

The problem for central Texans is political. That is, some of the political leadership that should serve them is more willing to serve the real estate lobby that cannot seem to get enough people to move to Central Texas fast enough. State Representative Lyle Larson’s opinion-editorial last Friday disingenuously called for “ending the water wars”, while calling those who are fighting to stop his “models of regional cooperation”, like the $3.4 billion SAWS Vista Ridge Project, “un-Texan”.  At the other end of the pipeine, Lee and Bastrop counties’ State Representative Tim Kleinschmidt of Lexington sold the water from his family land to Forestar Real Estate Group.

What they have not told their constituents is that the Post Oak Savannah Groundwater Conservation that serves Burleson and Milam Counties has over-permitted its portion of the same aquifer that serves the Lost Pines. Nor have they told them about the University of Texas Report in 2012 that determined the deep recharge of the Simsboro in Burleson County is only about 2,000 acre-feet per year. The Vista Ridge project being rushed by SAWS will take 50,000 acre-feet per year from the Carrizo-Wilcox, with most of the water coming from the Simsboro.

Central Texans are also not being told of the risks the Vista Ridge project poses to the fast recharge Edwards Aquifer, another equally critical aquifer – particularly its sensitive recharge and contributing zones in Hays and Comal counties. Instead, the state representatives that serve San Antonio and some of the rural counties have become part of the problem.

Respected San Antonio hydrogeologist and former Edwards Aquifer Authority Board member, George Rice, has been studying proposed Central Texas groundwater projects. He weighs in stating, “We know that all the Carrizo-Wilcox groundwater removal projects on the drawing board in Burleson, Lee and Bastrop counties will reduce the amount of groundwater that discharges to the Brazos and Colorado rivers. As a result, the amount of water flowing in these rivers will be reduced with as yet unknown effects. In my opinion, the Vista Ridge project should not go forward until SAWS has thoroughly investigated all of the effects that this project will have on water, and the people and ecosystems that depend on it, including the bays and estuaries along the coast.”

Bill Bunch of Save Our Springs Alliance in Austin has long been involved in the region’s water sustainability, especially in efforts to protect the Edwards Aquifer recharge zone. Bunch wrote to SOS members throughout the region last Friday, “If approved, San Antonio will be delivering yet more water to feed growth over the Edwards Aquifer in northern Bexar, western Comal, and eastern Medina counties. SAWS has already sought to mitigate the financial blow of the proposed deal by selling portions of the water to feed growth in the US 281 corridor, over the Edwards Aquifer recharge and contributing zones, in Comal and Hays counties…Rather than reduce groundwater pumping in the Hill Country, importing water to the Edwards contributing zone often leads to increased groundwater pumping (to supplement the very expensive imported water)… Increased groundwater pumping from the upstream Trinity aquifer reduces inflows to the Edwards and the Blanco and Guadalupe rivers. The new development served by the imported water adds urban runoff pollution and increases flooding and erosion downstream.” For Bunch’s full statement go here.

About that picture – it is a very simple statement by the people of the Lost Pines that they are unwilling to endanger their water supply to pay for unbridled growth. They are hoping that others across the Edwards Aquifer and its recharge zone join them in ending the Texas Water Wars by protecting our precious groundwater and surface water. All of our lives depend on it.

‫Citizens from across the affected areas are just beginning to be alerted about how this project affects them and are being urged to come to San Antonio City Hall this Wednesday, October 8, at 6 pm for the first public hearing on Vista Ridge‬.

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