Groundwater wars brewing in Austin’s suburbs

Texas Tribune, January 23, 2015

WIMBERLEY — In a classic example of the gaps in Texas’ patchwork approach to regulating groundwater, an unprecedented amount of water may soon be pumped from underneath already-parched Hays County with virtually no oversight.

Houston-based Electro Purification hopes to eventually pump 5 million gallons of water daily from the Trinity Aquifer, and sell it to some of Austin’s fastest-growing Hill Country suburbs, including the town of Buda and a new subdivision planned near Kyle.

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An oral history: War & peace over the Edwards Aquifer

Rivard Report, January 21, 2015

Three years ago, the undeclared Edwards Aquifer water war came to an end after a half century of regional conflict that pitted San Antonio and dozens of regional entities against one another in a feud that divided generations of neighbors.

For decades, San Antonio, as the largest user of aquifer water, was the most resented in a world of self-serving rivalries among the region’s agricultural interests, small towns and area counties, river authorities and water districts, downstream users, and environmentalists.

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The Q&A: Ken Kramer

Texas Tribune, November 18, 2014

Ken Kramer, a water policy expert for the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club, spent more than 23 years as the organization’s first director before retiring in 2012. Prior to that, he served as the lobbyist for the chapter. With the next legislative session approaching, the Tribune asked Kramer what to expect from lawmakers. The conversation also touched on his thoughts on rules the Texas Water Development Board finalized earlier this month, which set parameters for how the board distributes funds from the voter-approved $2 billion revolving account to finance water projects.

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San Antonio a Step Closer to Controversial Pipeline

Texas Tribune, September 30, 2014

San Antonio is one step closer to buying some of the most expensive water ever sold in Texas, just as the deal is drawing more critics.

The San Antonio Water System board on Monday unanimously approved a $3.4 billion contract to pipe in 50,000 acre-feet, or 16 billion gallons, of water a year from underneath Central Texas’ Burleson County starting in 2019. The contract is with two companies, Austin-based BlueWater and the Spanish company Abengoa, whose joint venture is called the Vista Ridge pipeline.

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August made summer 2014 one for the books

San Antonio Express News, September 21, 2014

San Antonio endured another scorching summer, including a seven-day streak of 100-degree days in August that seared a place in the record books.

As the city officially enters fall when the autumnal equinox occurs at 9:29 tonight, residents can thank rains early in the season for helping lawns survive the August heat.

Still, the 4-year-old drought persisted, and on Aug. 12, when the Edwards Aquifer dropped below a 630-foot threshold, the San Antonio pool entered Stage IV, requiring unprecedented 40 percent pumping cutbacks. Environmentalists have especially been worried about endangered species at Comal Springs, which ran dry in 1956 and has run as low as 65 cubic feet per second Aug. 29 and 30.

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A Tale of 2 Water Districts: 1 Aquifer, 2 Strategies

Texas Tribune, September 3, 2014

A decade ago, prospective water marketers easily secured the rights to pump more than 20 billion gallons of water annually from the Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer in Central Texas’ Burleson County. The company now holding those rights, BlueWater, is negotiating a $3 billion deal to send much of that water to San Antonio.

In nearby Bastrop and Lee counties, two other prospective water marketers, Forestar and End Op, have their eye on the same aquifer and hope to sell water to growing communities near Austin. But after years of legal and administrative battles, they have yet to secure water rights they say they need.

Why the difference? In Burleson County (along with part of Milam County), the Carrizo-Wilcox is regulated by the Post Oak Savannah Groundwater Conservation District. In Bastrop and Lee counties, the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District is in charge.

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