Submitted to the Wimberley View, Monday, March 19, 2018
The Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District (HTGCD/The District) is one of over 100 groundwater districts established by the State to manage Texas aquifers. The District’s authority covers the Trinity Aquifer over the entire western portion of Hays County including Henly, Dripping Springs, Driftwood, and Wimberley. The HTGCD boundary extends to the surrounding county borders of Travis, Blanco and Comal with the eastern portion of Hays County covered by a neighboring groundwater district, Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District.
Among various ongoing district responsibilities, HTGCD is tasked with registering all new groundwater wells. This includes not only inspecting applications for spacing standards and distances to help protect against potential contamination, but also to categorize the wells as either “exempt use” or “non-exempt use”. HTGCD Rules state that wells drilled for domestic or agricultural use are considered exempt and must be registered with the District prior to drilling but are not required to obtain an operating permit. Wells considered non-exempt include: commercial use, public water supply use, and irrigation use. Not only are these wells required to be registered with HTGCD prior to drilling, but the well owners must obtain an operating permit with HTGCD before starting production. It is important to note that all non-exempt groundwater wells either new or existing wells are required to obtain an operating permit; these wells are not grandfathered. This includes anyone changing a well’s use from exempt to non-exempt is required to obtain an operating permit from HTGCD.
During 2017, HTGCD received 105 new exempt well registrations equating to approximately 39 acre feet of groundwater production. For the past nine years, HTGCD has averaged 114 new wells each year, so 2017’s 105 new wells falls close to the yearly average. During the year, HTGCD approved permits for an additional 219 acre feet from non-exempt well owners. Total production reported to the District from non-exempt permit holders at the end of the year was 1,815 acre feet. This total amount is up from 2016 by 229 acre feet. As background information, one acre foot equals 325,851 gallons and residential use is estimated at 330 gallons of use per day. If you are using a groundwater well for any purpose other than strictly residential use or agricultural use, you are required to obtain an operating permit with HTGCD. Those who have an existing exempt groundwater well that is not registered, you are asked to register your well with the District; there is no cost for this registration.
During the year the District tracks ongoing groundwater use, water levels and stream flow to monitor the health of the aquifer. The District is also interested in the balance between production and recharge, groundwater that is added to the system through rainfall. Western Hays County has been out of drought since July 1, 2015 according to the established triggers along the Pedernales and Blanco Rivers. Flow devices installed and maintained by the USGS (United States Geological Survey) provide data indicating the rate of flow within the rivers. These changes in flow are the basis of HTGCD’s triggers. HTGCD has found that these rivers are excellent indicators of the local aquifer’s status and can be used in conjunction with other hydrological data such as water levels and spring flow to judge water availability.
Anyone who has lived in Central Texas for any amount of time will know that droughts and floods are a part of the weather cycle. In order to better understand groundwater availability, HTGCD records water levels from a select group of 50 wells within its boundary. This information is available to review on the HTGCD website and can be viewed as individual hydrographs (water records over time) showing the trends (peaks and valleys of drought and recharge) within the Trinity Aquifer of western Hays County.
This summer when the heat returns, HTGCD asks that we all be mindful of our watering amounts and the times that we water. Early morning has been suggested to be the best time of the day to water; please resist watering your lawns and trees during the hottest times of the day. You may need to seek out your HOA or water service provider concerning watering days as many neighborhoods have set watering schedules. As for water maintenance, check for leaks within your home and outside water sprinklers lines as even the smallest leak adds up quickly. Remember that the drop of water you save today may be the drop of water you have tomorrow.
If you have questions regarding registering your well, require an operating permit application or just curious about groundwater, please see our website www.haysgroundwater.com or contact our offices 512-858-9253.
Rick Broun – HTGCD General Manager