Why the county needs a groundwater conservation district

Column by Commissioner Terry Cook

This is one of many springs feeding into Brushy Creek discovered by contractors while building the .933-mile stretch of the Brushy Creek Trail that traverses the pedestrian bridge in Round Rock north of Round Rock Avenue.

Williamson Commissioner Cook: Why county needs a groundwater conservation district (statesman.com)

On March 9, the Aquifer Conservation Alliance of Williamson County announced it had withdrawn its petition for annexation by the Clearwater Underground Water Conservation District of Bell County.

The combination of wells going dry from the pressures of development and industries, the absence of any type of drawdown monitoring or conservation practices for the Trinity Aquifer and the drought have all combined to negatively impact wells in Williamson County. Many residents are facing tremendous costs for drilling deeper and deeper wells.

By 2021, 1,775 wells were registered in western Williamson County. Most of those wells serve homeowners, but also municipalities and ranchers. For rural local industries, aggregate mines and batch concrete plants are the primary users of wells. It’s the "Rule of Capture” in Texas, and “he who gets to the water,” that allow unlimited well water draw outside of the protective monitoring by a groundwater conservation district.

Across Texas, approximately 99% of the rural population gets their fresh water from groundwater via wells. Groundwater accounts for 30.8% of the freshwater on this planet, whereby surface water such as rivers, lakes and reservoirs account for only 0.3%. Our creeks and rivers are largely the result of groundwater surfacing along their water basins. It was surprising to find the number of springs and weeps our construction contractors, Chasco, encountered when building the .933-mile stretch of the Brushy Creek Trail that traverses the pedestrian bridge in Round Rock just north of Round Rock Avenue. Without groundwater, those streams would cease to exist. Then where would our municipal wastewater treatment plants send their output? How would life in nature be sustained?

Rural landowners do not benefit from the ordinance and land use planning of municipalities. The Legislature has not granted county government those tools to manage growth – it’s really the wild, wild West. If you’ve got money, that land is yours. 

So, neighborhoods in the unincorporated areas of Texas have seen concrete batch plants move next door with 400 heavy trucks per day driving by their homes and destroying their narrow, low-load county roads. The same is true for the number of active aggregate mines, of which Williamson County leads Texas. Besides that, there’s no limit as to how much free water is pulled from the aquifer for these businesses. Don’t even think about the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality as help; it is a permitting agency, not an environmental protection organization.

Thursday, March 16, 2023/Author: Doris Sanchez/Number of views (300)/Comments (0)/
Categories: Hot Topics

Registration open for Williamson County Brown Santa Golf Tournament

Information from Wilco's Public Information Office and the Williamson County Sheriff's Office.

Brown Santa Sheriff's logo in color with brown Santa hat over it and information about the golf tournament.

The Williamson County Brown Santa Association would like to invite everyone to their golf tournament on April 3, at the Star Ranch Golf Club. 

Please visit www.wcbrownsanta.com to sign up! 

Click Here for Information on the Tournament!

Click Here to Register a Team or to be a Sponsor!

For any questions, please contact [email protected].

Tuesday, March 14, 2023/Author: Doris Sanchez/Number of views (80)/Comments (0)/
Categories: Events

Homestead Exemption Filing Now Open for Williamson County Homeowners

Information from the Wilco Public Information Office and the Williamson Central Appraisal District

Pixabay graphic of a house/cottage with A-line roof and 4 windows with planters and a front door. A tree, bench and bicycle are on front lawn.The Williamson Central Appraisal District offers online applications for homestead exemptions and other filings. Annual exemption/special valuation forms are filed between Jan. 1 and April 30.

Business personal property renditions are filed between Jan. 1 and April 15.

There is no charge to file for any exemption. It is easy to file with no need to pay a company to file for you.

Visit the website for more information on applying for available exemptions.

Wednesday, March 1, 2023/Author: Doris Sanchez/Number of views (514)/Comments (0)/
Categories: Comm 1

One heck of an ice storm

Column by Commissioner Cook

Ice from storm Mara split a large tree in front of Jan Pelosi's house in Williamson County Precinct 1.

Jack Frost doubled down on Central Texas this month — not with extreme cold, nor extreme rainfall, but with temperatures primarily 30 to 32 degrees and every drop of moisture freezing. This layered on our already stressed woody plants from Mother Nature’s onslaught over these past two years and brought them to their breaking point. Long-timers in this area were in total agreement of never having experienced such widespread destruction.

Texas, long used to hurricanes and tornados, experienced broad assault from this cold front, Winter Storm Mara, with up to 1.5” of ice on roads. Trees tumbling and being stripped of large branches downed power poles and lines, and blocked roads. Darkness ensued. Life was jolted back for many to 1880, although those hardy settlers were better prepared for those conditions. 

Although several customers were still struggling Feb. 10 in those no-power areas where extensive repairs were needed, Austin Energy finally restored power to all remaining customers Saturday, minus those who needed electrical home repairs.

On Jan. 31, Williamson County Judge Bill Gravell issued a local disaster declaration for our county. Later, the governor issued a disaster declaration for Texas. What does that mean for us citizens? Almost nothing. 

First, damage estimates and costs to address the disaster must pass thresholds for the county, then the state. While the county has passed its threshold, the state is near $48 million for its threshold of $51.5 million, which could mean funds for disaster response work and costs incurred, and possibly some assistance for qualifying residents with property damage, not debris pickup.

All involved need to generate and maintain careful records and receipts: costs for fuel, overtime, salaries, damages to buildings and equipment or any other related costs. Our Williamson County auditor is ensuring county employees are reporting all possible eligible reimbursements. Other entities such as independent school districts, emergency service districts and cities must do the same.

Note: We did all this for the tornados in 2022 and didn’t reach the necessary damage thresholds for county or state and received no FEMA reimbursements for expenses incurred by the county. Much of the damage was within Round Rock. Individual property owners who applied received financial assistance for damage to their homes, outbuildings such as barns and sheds, and businesses. The FEMA-determined threshold for Wilco is $2.7 million based on $4.14/person from the 2020 census of 609,017 residents. Reimbursement of expenses does not exceed 90% of costs incurred. If we’re lucky, reimbursements for the ice storm could start within six months.

Friday, February 17, 2023/Author: Doris Sanchez/Number of views (571)/Comments (0)/
Categories: Hot Topics

Students Encouraged to Join Essay and Art Contests for County’s 175th

Information from Williamson County's Public Information Office

Background Leaves/River - mage by Azmi Talib from Pixabay

The Greater Round Rock Community Foundation, as the presenting sponsor of the Williamson County 175th Birthday Celebration, along with Williamson County and the Williamson Museum are hosting contests for students to help celebrate Williamson County’s 175th birthday.

The contests are open to all students attending a public, private or home school in Williamson County.  

Students in 11th and 12th grades can enter an essay contest regarding what they hope Williamson County will be like and look like in the next 175 years. Essays should be between 700 to 900 words. The deadline for students is Feb. 15. One winner will be selected from each county precinct and receive a $1,500 scholarship. One grand prize winner will receive a $2,500. Details are available here.  

Students from 3rd grade to 10th grade can enter an art contest to design an 8.5” X 11” poster for Williamson County to represent the county as it celebrates its 175th birthday.

Thursday, February 9, 2023/Author: Doris Sanchez/Number of views (231)/Comments (0)/
Categories: Events

Theme picker