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On March 9, the Aquifer Conservation Alliance of Williamson County announced it had withdrawn its petition for annexation by the Clearwater Underground Water Conservation District of Bell County.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