by Crystal Gottfried
Edwards Aquifer directors plan to go to the 80th Texas Legislature to request an increased groundwater pumping cap that will help in protecting local spring flows.
The board of directors for the Edwards Aquifer Authority hopes that this action will assist them in being better stewards of the water supply for more than 1.7 million south Texans, and allow it to better manage the aquifer.
Board Chairman and former New Braunfels mayor, Doug Miller told the Herald-Zeitung that the agency’s legislative priorities for the Jan 7 legislative session would be to raise the pumping cap from 450,000 acre feet to 549,000 acre feet by converting junior rights into senior rights; incorporate drought reductions into the statute, including a reduction of withdrawals to 340,000 acre feet when all of the pools of the aquifer are at the most severe drought levels; ensure that the costs associated with future permit reductions are borne equally by downstream permit holders in the Guadalupe River Basin and Edwards Aquifer permit holders; and granting the authority legal ability to build recharge structures and issue bonds.
Miller said that these agenda items represent “a set of core concepts that stretch across the entire Edwards Aquifer region” and pose a difficult job “considering the concepts would have to be broad enough to get different interests to buy in but not so specific that it alienates any one group.”
The legislative agenda is equally important to local interests in Comal County and Guadalupe County, according to Miller, because the New Braunfels perspective about concerns for future changes to drought rules that protect the Comal Springs will be placed in legislation that makes it more difficult to change. It would “not be subject to the whim of future board members who could determine that it’s okay to let the Comal Springs go dry.”
General Manager Robert Potts said that the authority’s general counsel would write the legislation that will be presented at a Sept 22 joint public hearing of the house and senate natural resources committees. The legislation, if passed, would meet the authority’s major needs for the entire region.
New Braunfels representative on the Edwards board, Ramon Chapa Jr., said that this next legislative session would be critical for water issues for South Texas and this region because Comal County and New Braunfels are growing so fast.
Chapa believes that balancing agriculture, industrial and municipal water interests is a “precarious job,” because the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority may be doing one thing, the San Antonio Water System may be doing something else, and the Bexar Metropolitan Water District may be working on something altogether different.
“These issues are something we all have to work on together,” he said.