Not for profit?

Water company's maneuvering bears scrutiny, has lasting implications

Last week's Austin American-Statesman story gave a revealing look at a lawsuit stemming from one company's desire to ship water from the Carrizo-Wilcox aquifer to the rapidly developing area east of Austin, along the Texas 130 Corridor.

A look at the suit's filing is available at http://dockets. case_id-382940/.

Cross County Water Supply Corporation, a "non-profit" seeking bond money to fund its pipeline project, has sued one landowner over access for a pipeline to the Manor area. (Landowner Terry Ausley is the brother of Nathan Ausley, chairman of the Post Oak Savannah Groundwater Conversation District board.) The landowner's counter-suit claims that the non-profit Cross County WSC was formed to fraudulently take advantage of more lenient condemnation purposes. The for-profit Blue Water Corp., which has leased 71,000 acre-feet of water in Milam and Burleson counties, is run by Ross Cummings who also sits on the Cross County WSC board.

A story in last week's Burleson County Tribune stated that the lawsuit has been pulled and Cross County WSC will pipe around the Ausleys land. Still, all of this bears watching because water law is still in its formative stages.

The suit raises some questions: How much water should the district allow to be pumped out of the area, especially when Travis and other counties have put virtually no restrictions on development despite not having the water to support them? Is any company getting in on water opportunities really "non profit"? Really?

And there are other questions: How should compensation to landowners and/or anyone else who uses this resource be arranged, or should only stockholders in the company be financially compensated? What other ways can the water district use pumping and transport fees?

The Statesman article said Blue Water's pipeline capacity could reach 18 million gallons per day. Given its potential profit, should we be concerned that, even if certain aquifer depletion "trigger points" are reached, Blue Water would ease back without another lawsuit?

Water is different from other natural resources. If oil or coal reserves are depleted, there is no change in the day-to-day lives of area citizens.

Much has to be worked out, but two things are for sure. The straws from nearby metropolitan areas aren't going to get any smaller. And those piping the water for profit deserve full scrutiny.—K.E.C.

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2009-11-19 digital edition

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