Environmentalists decry Bastrop County groundwater deal
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The population of Bastrop County is booming, and with that growth planners there are facing the same challenge as the rest of the state—will there be enough water for everyone?
As manager for Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District, Joe Cooper has the difficult task of protecting underground water supplies while respecting property rights. Since 2010, there's been a hold on issuing new pumping permits until the district could meet new state requirements.
"We'll have maybe 300,000 people here in the Bastrop County area in the next 15, 20 years," Cooper said. “We’ve had to overhaul our rules. We had to overhaul our management plan."
Now there's a backlog of permit applications.
"Over the next two months, we're going to be processing roughly 124,000 to 130,000 acre-feet of permits," he said. "We can't discriminate against people that want to export water. What we try to do is find a balance."
That's a considerable amount of water and activists like Linda Curtis with the group Independent Texans are steaming.
"These are water marketers who want to take it out of this area and to another area when all of Texas needs water,” Curtis said. “It makes no sense to move it."
Environmentalists say even the state's own groundwater model shows it's a bad idea.
"The model that they're using says that if they pump at these levels, they're going to dry up the (Colorado) river by 2060," Steve Box with Environmental Stewardship said.
Critics agree that state water laws miss a key part of the problem.
"It is insane to separate our groundwater from surface water, our streams and rivers,” Curtis said. “It's all connected and an ordinary person understands that. Our Legislature does not."
The Conservation District is considering pumping permits that allow up to 130,000 acre-feet each year to be drawn from the Simsboro aquifer. Most of that would go to water retailers who would sell it to buyers in other parts of the state.