Been busy the last few days with the Meet the Candidates rally; have a whole bunch of water news to post.
First up, from Bill Gordon: There will be a meeting of the Middle Trinity Groundwater Conservation District in Dublin (Erath County) at 1:00 pm.
As most of you can tell by now, I am not a friend of our Middle Trinity Groundwater Conservation District (MTGCD). I have been trying to work with the MTGCD since January concerning issues with contamination from oil and gas waste disposal wells and "water marketers" who are selling groundwater to the oil and gas industry when we are in our second year of a serious drought.
I obtained a copy of the "commercial" water well application and operating permit that was approved at the September MTGCD meeting. This permit will allow the operator to sell Trinity groundwater to the oil and gas companies for profit. This well permit that was protested by Boyd Waggoner (then Chairman of the Board) and four other concerned citizens because there was serious concern as to whether there was enough water available for this permit. The application states that the applicant was installing a 75 gpm pump which would require only 121 acre feet per year if the pump runs 24/7. The operating permit does not mention the 75 gpm or 121 acre feet but it does give the applicant a maximum of 420 acre feet that can be pumped from the property in a year.
The above application also states that there are 140 acres of contiguous land owned at the well site. My search at the tax appraisal office turned up "zero" land owned by the well owner name listed on the application. There is another individual at the same address as the well owner (this could be the same person as the well owner but the MTGCD staff could not verify this) that owns 126 acres according to the tax records - not 140 acres as stated on the application. Another potential problem with the acreage is that 86 of the 126 acres are included in land that has been sub divided for resale.
It gets worse, there are two applications for 150 gpm wells on the MTGCD agenda for approval on October 5th. One applicant states he has 3,000 acres. If the MTGCD follows their normal permitting process, they will issue this individual a permit for 9,000 acre feet of water per year when he can only pump 242 acre feet (79 million gallons) with the 150 gpm pump and that's assuming the pump will run 24/7. Issuing a permit for 9,000 acre feet will give this individual the potential to pump 3 billion gallons per year. I would consider this permitting practice irresponsible even if we were not in a serious drought!
This well is being converted from an "exempt" oil and gas water well to a "private" water well. I question why the applicant would need a 150 gpm pump for a private well. The application states the water is for a "public" water supply? This needs to be verified to be sure it is not another individual planning on selling water to the oil and gas companies for profit.
The MTGCD Groundwater Management Plan states that we only have 20,165 acre feet of groundwater available per year for Erath County through the year 2050. The application above, if approved by the MTGCD under current permitting practice on October 5th, will give a single individual 45% of the groundwater available for the whole county! Note: the 20,165 acre feet of groundwater available is based on normal rainfall required to recharge the Trinity Aquifer. In case the folks at the MTGCD haven't noticed, we are about to complete our second year of a serious drought, and there has not been any normal rainfall during this period!
I spent two hours with Joe Cooper, MTGCD Manager, on September 28th, discussing these issues and I am convinced our MTGCD agenda does not include protection and conserving our groundwater - at least not in Erath County. I asked if a permit could be withdrawn if incorrect information was submitted on an application as was the case in the permit approved last month for the "commercial" water well. He said the district had the authority to withdraw a permit if this happens.
We currently have 14 water wells (13 registered and 1 permitted) providing groundwater to the oil and gas companies according to Joe Cooper on September 28th.
I also recommended to Joe that he consider changing the MTGCD permitting practice to issue the permit for the "exact acre feet" based on the gallons per minute for the pump size the applicant states on the application rather than the current practice of issuing the permit for the maximum allowed of 3 acre feet per contiguous acre owned. This would be a simple solution to the current issue with the MTGCD board members and would not even require a rule change.
I am not convinced that our MTGCD is not in touch with reality. Joe Cooper has stated on several occasions that we have enough water to last fifty years (re: Empire Tribune article on October 1, 2006) but the same folks that provided Joe with this information also issued a press release just a few days ago that places doubt on this statement. Note, this press release was published in the Dublin Citizen on September 28, 2006. See TWDB press release at the end of this email.
I spoke with the folks at the TWDB yesterday and they told me the study was originally scheduled to take a year to complete but due to the urgency of the Trinity Aquifer water levels dropping in surrounding counties, the amount of water the oil and gas companies are using, and the existing drought, it has been expedited for completion four months early by January, 2007.
Even Troy Fraser, our State Senator for District 24, is concerned about this issue! Note, Senator Fraser has yet to respond to a single email or letter concerning this issue but one of my contacts (no, my contact was not from Fraser's office) sent me a link last week to a press release from Fraser's office. The press release was made on July 3, 2006, and stated:
"I have serious concern about how much water is being pumped from the aquifer and how it is going to affect our groundwater availability in the long run," Fraser said. "The state has designated local groundwater districts as the preferred method of monitoring and regulating groundwater, yet these districts have no knowledge or way to track how much water is being used in these operations."
Please pass this on to others that might be concerned about conserving and protecting our drinking water and please plan on attending the MTGCD meeting on October 5th, 2006, 1:00 PM at the Dublin City Hall.
Public comments will be allowed for the Board Meeting agenda but Meeting Notice does not mention that comments will be allowed for the Permit Hearing agenda. I assume public comments will be allowed for the permits because they were allowed at last month's meeting.
Personally, I prefer erring on the side of caution - at least until the TWDB completes their study in January, 2007.