Controversy surrounding Electro Purification’s plans to pump water from the Trinity Aquifer have not yet died down. The company is currently pumping water through the use of a temporary permit.
Last year the Houston based company announced its plans to pump and sell 5.1 million gallons of groundwater per day from an unregulated area of the Trinity Aquifer, according to a March 12 University Star article.
When EP filed for the temporary permit to pump, the requested groundwater had been “dropped exponentially,” said Robin Gary, information coordinator of the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer conservation district (BSEACD).
All Hays County permits, including the final water pumping permits, were finalized Monday, Gary said. She said the BSEACD is hosting a public board meeting Oct. 22 to discuss the logistics of EP’s final pumping permit.
“EP is not under scrutiny because of the temporary permitting process that was passed by the legislature earlier in the year,” Gary said. “We can’t do much about it—the legislature just made a passage way for these people to come in and pump.”
Upon the company’s announcement last year that it planned to pump upwards of five million gallons of water per day, residents in Wimberley became concerned that their residential wells would dry up due to the rapid extraction of groundwater.
EP’s plans were met with opposition from local activist organizations including Save Our Wells and Trinity Edwards Springs Protection Association (TESPA).
TESPA filed a lawsuit in the Hays County District Courts on March 20 against the water pumping company. The lawsuit was initiated on behalf of residents who live within half a mile of EP’s proposed project site, according to court documents.
However, the organization dropped its lawsuit against EP after the 84th Texas Legislature passed HB 3405, which rezoned the BSEACD to include EP’s pumping site.
Since the law made the previously unregulated area of the aquifer part of BSEACD’s jurisdiction, EP was required to obtain permits before following through with its pumping plans.
John Thomaides, Place 3 city councilman, said EP was contacted by the City of Buda due to the city’s scarce and rapidly dwindling water supply.
“The Texas Legislature, who is our boss, passed this legislation extending our boundaries into Hays County, which would have previously ruled these companies out of the county,” Gary said. “The legislature established temporary permits allowing the company to pump water under the law in the meantime.”
Gary said the new pumping cycle created for the temporary permits is based on the maximum capacity of the wells. She said this is not the standard pumping procedure.
The temporary permits require an aquifer test to be conducted in order to determine how much groundwater can be pumped within six months without harming the overall supply of the surrounding area, Gary said.
Dianne Wassenich, program director of the San Marcos River Foundation, said conservative use of the Trinity Aquifer is important because it does not recharge at the same rate as the Edwards Aquifer.
“There are pockets of water in the Trinity, but not in vast amounts,” Wassenich said. “Once you pump them dry, they’ll take lifetimes to recharge.”
Wassenich said the springs fed by the Trinity Aquifer travel to the Blanco River and then to the San Marcos River.
According to the BSEACD website, four major permits have been filed by EP, Needmore LLC, Aqua Texas and Texas Old Town to be granted permission to pump groundwater from the Trinity Aquifer in amounts allowed through an aquifer test.
Thomaides said the Trinity Aquifer would have been “detrimentally” affected if EP had pumped 5.1 million gallons of water per day.
“If you drain a well and it drains everyone else’s well, where is the justice in that?” Thomaides said. “But that is the law.”
As the vice chair of the Hays Caldwell Public Utility Agency, Thomaides credits the organization for trying to preserve water for the cities in Hays County.
“The real story here is how CHPUA and other organizations are making an effort to share the most valuable resource that is our water,” Thomaides said. “This cooperation is the future—not this notion of punching a hole in the ground and screwing everyone else.”
Gary said the only thing the county can do at this point is wait for the permits to be released to the public. Next Thursday, Oct. 22, the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer conservation district will hold a board meeting to discuss the future of water pumping in the county. Attendees will progress with the permits at that point.
“There is no way to feed the massive building that people want to do in Hays County with the water we have here,” Wassenich said. “We’re already way overtapped and more water is being pulled out of the ground than we can afford to spare.”