By Linda Curtis, Director
On September 11th, I attended a forum in Hays County put on by the Citizens Alliance for Responsible Development (CARD). I have good friends in CARD and I think they mean well. But, they gave this event over to people who are poisoning our well of public discussion and real public debate on the water debate. I also believe, they had no intention of letting this happen.
Hays County Commissioners, Will Conley and Ray Whisenant, together with San Antonio Water Systems (SAWS) Senior VP CEO, Steven Clouse, stole the show peddling their respective plans to drain the deep Simsboro formation of the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer in rural counties just east of Austin where I happen to live.
The confusing blather of the Hays County Commissioners had many scratching their heads. But it was the scientists on the panel who really got to me. They began with a conclusion. The conclusion is that our growth rate in central Texas will continue for decades, ignoring the basic truism we all learn in Biology 101: The number of organisms will increase exponentially until an essential nutrient is exhausted. In this case, that nutrient is water. In Austin, they are already choking on out-of-control growth and its intimate partner – unaffordability.
It is important that citizens understand that the projects being sold on Thursday night represent a virtual siege by water marketers and some municipalities on an aquifer that serves Burleson, Milam, Lee, Bastrop and other nearby counties. It also surprised me that no one from Hays County took on their Commissioners for using their tax dollars for a “reservation agreement” with Forestar Real Estate Group for 45,000- acre-feet per year. This contract came after the Lost Pines District (Bastrop and Lee counties) granted Forestar a more reasonable 12,000 afy based on a desire not to mine (and harm) the Simsboro Aquifer.
Hays County doesn’t even have the capacity to deliver, much less need, for this much water until maybe 2060! What’s more, ask the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District that represents you if they would ever agree to the amount of drawdown on their aquifer (currently about 30 feet) as is being asked of (forced on) Lee and Bastrop counties’ district – an average of 200 feet – with a much slower recharge rate. I already know the answer is no, or more likely, hell no.
In my view, any organization with “responsible development” in their name must understand that responsible development is impossible without taking on the real estate lobby and land speculators who are forcing us to pay with our tax dollars and our water for in-migration (1,000 people per day) to Texas. Let’s make them take their foot off the growth pedal and stop building in areas without their own local water supply.