U.S. Water News Online
AUSTIN -- Increased pumping from the groundwater reservoir
that feeds Texas' largest springs is under review by regulators, but
the idea is raising concerns from some downstream cities and
The Edwards Aquifer Authority, created by the Texas Legislature to
regulate pumping from the aquifer, is accepting public comment
through Dec. 8. Directors could adopt the plan on Dec. 16, with the
rules taking effect just before year's end.
The Legislature capped pumping at 450,000 acre feet a year as a
result of a lawsuit to protect endangered species supported by the
aquifer and to encourage San Antonio officials not to continue using
the reservoir as the city's main water source. But permits issued by
the Edwards Aquifer Authority would soon allow for about 560,000 acre
feet of pumping per year.
Although state law limits the amount of water that can be pumped
from the aquifer in a year, it also instructs the authority to
approve water permits by municipalities and farmers that, when
totaled, require enough pumping to exceed that limit.
The largest aquifer outlets are the Comal and San Marcos springs
in New Braunfels and San Marcos. Officials in both cities say
increased pumping could make their springs go dry and endanger the
flow of water into rivers that are essential for tourism and
``Any more drawdown could get really critical for us,'' said New
Braunfels City Manager Chuck Pinto.
Pumping from the aquifer, which covers an 11-county area, has not
exceeded the 450,000 acre feet annual cap since the aquifer authority
was formed in 1996. Aquifer officials stress that groundwater users
usually do not pump the maximum.
If the aquifer authority reduced permit amounts across the board
to stay below 450,000 acre feet, it would have to compensate pumpers
for what their permits allow, said Greg Ellis, the authority's
``We don't have any money to pay that compensation,'' he said.
A group representing downstream interests, the Guadalupe Basin
Coalition, asked the aquifer board to propose across-the-board
reductions in permitting rights. San Marcos City Attorney Mark Taylor
said the coalition does not believe the authority should have to pay
users for reductions in their permit amounts because the decreased
supply would make the water that is pumped more valuable.
``We think the aquifer region has to come to terms with some
self-discipline and the need to decrease our reliance on the Edwards
in order to protect spring flow,'' he said.
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