As consumers and customers of water, it behooves us all to not only conserve water, but to become involved in its management.
I recently attended a presentation on the role of groundwater conservation districts at the Central Texas Groundwater Conservation District 8 Conference in Waco for County Judges and Commissioners.
Groundwater conservation districts are political subdivisions that manage groundwater production in Texas and are tasked with balancing the conservation of the resource with a landowner’s right to produce it.
As a commissioner, I learned that local communities play an important role in how groundwater is managed locally, regionally and statewide.
What is groundwater?
As Texas Living Waters Projects states, “Simply put, groundwater is water that is found beneath the surface of the earth.”
According to the Texas A&M AgriLife Extension, 97 percent of groundwater in Texas is held in aquifers (underground rock layers which are saturated with groundwater). The aquifers, which provide fresh water to cities and irrigation to farmland, are close to the ground and recharged by rivers and water that seeps in.
Although Texas treats surface water and groundwater management differently, all surface water interacts with groundwater and vice versa. Surface water is considered Texas property, while according to the state’s Rule of Capture, groundwater is the landowner’s private property.
The withdrawal of water from streams can deplete groundwater, and pumping groundwater can deplete streams, lakes or wetlands. Pollution of surface water can degrade groundwater quality and pollution of groundwater can degrade surface water.
About 80 percent of groundwater is used for agricultural irrigation, but more efficient methods of farming are changing this. Metropolitan areas are gradually surpassing agricultural groundwater use.
Groundwater provides about 60 percent of our state’s water, with rivers and reservoirs providing the rest. Texans use nearly 17 million acre-feet of water annually. One acre-foot of water would cover a high school football field to a depth of one foot.