Residential wells in the Trinity Aquifer of Central Hays County continue to be threatened by a private company from Houston known as Electro Purification.
Electro Purification originally planned to pump 5 million gallons a day (1.9 billion gallons a year) from the Trinity Aquifer. The company had contracts to supply water to Goforth Special Utility District (3 mgd), the City of Buda (1.5 mgd), and the Anthem Subdivision (.5 mgd; a MUD or Municipal Utility District in the Mountain City ETJ). Electro Purification, commonly referred to as EP, began leasing water rights in 2013 and 2014 on 2 tracts of land owned by the Bridges Brothers Family LP (Robert A Bridges and James A Bridges) and members of the Odell family (Eddie Ray Odell, Roy Gene Odell, and Juanita Leinneweber).
EP quietly began drilling the first test wells in late 2013 and early 2014 in an area unregulated by any groundwater conservation district.
But the company needed a pipeline to transport the water to its future customers located in the far eastern part of Hays County. Private companies, such as Electro Purification, have no right to take private property through eminent domain. But public entities, such as Goforth Special Utility District, planned to use their right of eminent domain to obtain all the easements on private property from the well field to the Goforth delivery point just west of I-35.
Sharon Michaelis and Bill Johnson organized the initial group that became Save Our Wells. It began with the property owners along FM 150 and beyond who sounded the alarm after being contacted by an engineering company requesting right of entry to survey their property for the water pipeline in late 2014. They quickly put up signs to alert their neighbors of the threat to their wells and established a website to disseminate information on the project. They adamantly refused Goforth SUD access to their land.
The original purpose of Save Our Wells was to inform everyone of the water grab that was about to take place. But it quickly transformed into a grassroots effort to pass legislation to place all of the Trinity Aquifer in Hays County under the protection of a groundwater conservation district. There were meetings attended by hundreds, petitions signed by thousands, resolutions passed from every political entity, public relations campaigns, and hydrogeological studies funded by Bill Johnson.
A groundswell of public support resulted in the introduction of House Bill 3405 by State Representative Jason Isaac in February of 2015. This bill placed the unprotected areas of the Trinity Aquifer in Hays County under the Barton Springs-Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BSEACD). But the bill was met with strong opposition from an army of lobbyists hired by Goforth SUD, the City of Buda, and special interests from all over the State of Texas. Save Our Wells had but one lobbyist, joined by those hired by BSEACD and Hays County. Although passed by the Senate, the bill died in the House on a parliamentary point of order near the end of the legislative session.
Then the flood came.
The devastation of the flooding of the Blanco River brought national attention to the Wimberley Valley. The resulting political pressure revived HB 3405. The Save Our Wells Bill passed on the last possible day and became known as the Lazarus Bill.
Since the passage of HB 3405, the City of Buda and Anthem MUD cancelled their contracts with Electro Purification after finding alternative sources of water. Only Goforth SUD continues to have a contract for groundwater with EP. In January of 2018, Goforth SUD signed a contract with GBRA for 4,000 acre feet of water annually (or 3.5 million gallons per day).
Electro Purification has applied for a permit from the Barton Springs-Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BSEACD). Extensive aquifer testing was conducted under the rules of the BSEACD. In February of 2018, the general manager of BSEACD issued a notice of "unreasonable impacts to existing wells" to be expected from the proposed pumping by Electro Purification. Subsequently, the general manager issued a recommendation to the BSEACD Board for a proposed permit with phased pumping, special conditions, and a mitigation plan.
A permit has not yet been approved for Electro Purification. This will be a long process.
The struggle against Electro Purification continues. And doubtless, there will be others to follow them in the future.
Please continue to stay informed. The Barton Springs-Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BSEACD) website contains information on permits, as well as research on groundwater and our wells. (www.bseacd.org).
All of Hays County depends on groundwater as its major source of water. In western Hays County, it is the only source.
This affects all of us.
Wherever you may live in Hays County.