Many of you have likely seen the notice that the Central Texas Groundwater Conservation District (CTGCD) met today to discuss potential groundwater restrictions due to the ongoing drought. I attended the meeting on behalf of the WSWSC to ensure that our interests were represented.
A little background is important to understand the action the district took. There are several categories of wells in Burnet County as follows:
Exempt wells – there are more than 5,000 wells in the County that are generally exempt from regulation. These are household or livestock wells that are not controlled by a permit. They are required to be low production and must meet basic spacing requirements.
Non-exempt wells – these are wells that are not exempt as described above. They are permitted or not based on their production and other considerations.
Permitted wells – there are about 300 permitted wells in the County. They are a subset of Non-exempt wells. They have a production limit imposed by the CTGCD.
Metered wells – there are 68 Metered wells in the County. They are a subset of Permitted wells. These are the type of wells that we have here in Whitewater Springs. These wells have a permitted volume which is monitored via a water meter. This volume is reported back on a periodic basis. If a well exceeds the permitted amount there are penalties of up to $500 per day.
Currently Whitewater Springs has a combined permit of over 114 acre-feet of water. This translates to about 37 million gallons annually. For reference we pumped about 10 million gallons in 2021. Thus, we are only using about a third of our permit.
You might ask, why did we implement water restrictions during this year if we are so far from our permitted amount? The water stages displayed at the entrance are driven by rules contained in our water tariff. The restrictions in that Tariff are summarized here on the website. We have other limitations like the capacity of our pumps and storage facilities that limit how much we can reliably provide to the community. We also will need to eventually utilize the entire permitted amount once Whitewater Springs is completely developed, so good water use habits need to be in place before then.
Some background on the drought and aquifer conditions was also shared by the general manager of the CTGCD. Monitoring wells show that both the Trinity and Ellenburger aquifers are matching or exceeding historic lows. We are several years into a drought cycle, so this is not totally unexpected, but there have been droughts recently that have not gotten us to the levels seen today. There also has been continued growth in the region that is fueling increased consumption. No specific numbers around growth were shared in the meeting however. Certainly we have anecdotal evidence of rapid growth Whitewater Springs.
In the meeting today the CTGCD board of directors voted to temporarily reduce the permitted amounts for Metered users by 15% for the 2023 calendar year. This restriction can be lifted at any time during the year by vote of the board. The impact of this reduction will not be felt by Whitewater Springs as it is unlikely we’ll utilize much more than 35% of our permitted amount. It is important to note that The CTGCD Drought Management Plan is currently at Stage IV which supports up to a 15% reduction to permitted users
While no immediate action for Whitewater Springs is planned, the WSWSC board desires to be proactive about water conservation. Development may surge again getting us closer to our permitted amount. Drought and demand seem to be impacting the aquifer, so it is safe to assume that restrictions like this are likely in the future. It also may be difficult for Whitewater Springs to obtain increases to our permitted amount without showing steps we’ve taken to reduce consumption.
This will be a topic of conversation in our next WSWSC board meeting sometime in late January/early February. Scheduling of this meeting will happen soon. We welcome any community input to this before or during the meeting. You can always reach us at firstname.lastname@example.org.