Rockdale should act now on water issues

Dear editor,

The aquifers beneath CR 314 in South Milam and municipal Rockdale, Milano, Minerva, Lexington, Bastrop and a lot of farms in between are the same and we need to be concerned for their health.

I am not spreading gloom but I do advocate watching over this precious natural resource. I believe vigilance is lacking and Rockdale’s future is in danger because of it. Consider:

• During discussion last October for the yet to be approved Alcoa permit, Alcoa recommended that the Post Oak Savannah Groundwater Conservation District (POSGCD) establish a district-wide, POSGCD administered well mitigation program.

No action on their written recommendation can be found in POSGCD’s board minutes. What happened to it?

• The importance of mitigation increases if LCRA purchases Alcoa lands for the purpose of transporting 45,000 acre feet of water per year from Milam County.

Increased pumping will either affect or dry up wells located in the shallower sections of the aquifer. It happened before when Alcoa was pumping less water. Yes, mine dewatering was involved too.

• Prior to approving Alcoa’s permit, POSGCD approved Blue Water Systems to pump 70,000 acre feet from wells in Burleson County.

• POSGCD’s budgeted revenue from production and transport fees for 2013 is over $1.5 will change hands in Mi lano whether water is being pumped or not.

POSGCD tells us that only the amount of water being actually pumped matters, however pumping can be increased at any time without permission. I think that matters.

Is the money exchange to fund conservation grants also an inducement to continue approving high volume permits?

• Does haul ing water to municipal jurisdictions whose wells have gone dry from commercial pumping sound unlikely? Ask the folks of Spicewood Beach in Burnet County.

They began receiving water by truck in January, 2012 when the well there dried up from over pumping. LCRA was allowing the sale of water from that well for transport at the time it failed.

• Water is in high demand. Consider the report in the Lost Pines Groundwater District is poised to approve permits for 45,000 acre feet from 10 wells northwest of Lexington.

Two more wells will be permitted for water transport to Hutto. Concurrently, LCRA is seeking permits for five wells (10,000 acre feet) for industrial use. All of that comes from the Simsboro, the source of Rockdale’s water.

Some see water export as taxable and an offset to the loss of Alcoa tax revenue. If the county acts it may be but state law directs how fees collected are to be used and none of the earlier mentioned $1.5 million can be used to offset tax loss. Some taxation of the export process will help in the short run but will it matter when the aquifer levels begin to drop?

Even when it starts to rain again, for how long can 31 billion gallons be taken from the aquifer beneath Milam County each year by just two commercial pumpers before it impacts negatively?

Rockdale must stop relying on those whose job it is to approve permits and get its own hydrologist. How does increased pumping affect the City of Rockdale? Join with other county municipalities to pay for it if necessary.

Does POSGCD really have, as they claim, the necessary authority to shut down Alcoa or LCRA and Blue Water Systems pumping in the face of legal challenge from both companies and Metropolitan Austin?

Can they really turn off the spigot when the aquifers begin to show signs of stress or will they be prohibited from doing so by an avalanche of court injunctions to keep water flowing?

POSGCD’s influence does not seem a safe bet since an act of the legislature or state court can undo all of its best plans.

Do the three candidates running for mayor believe that water is a current issue or is it something to be worried about later when it is scarce?

What does the council think? Don’t let them avoid your questions as they did a few weeks ago when they ducked it with a procedural maneuver.

If Rockdale continues to delay discussion of water availability and listens only to those whose job it is to approve the taking of it, then Rockdale will lose the battle.

Jim McDaniel

Fairfax Station, VA

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2013-03-21 digital edition

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