Aquifer Depletion in Texas Hill Country

Jun 10, 2022
 by Seven Seas News Team

Bountiful groundwater resources have supported settlement in the Texas Hill Country for thousands of years, but unsustainable pumping has endangered the resource that gives the region its beauty and high quality of life

A rising population means increased water demand, factors that endanger spring water. How can water reuse help?

Beautiful springs and bountiful groundwater resources have supported settlement in the Texas Hill Country for thousands of years. Today, the region along the I-35 corridor from Austin to San Antonio is one of the fastest-growing in the nation, with growth of almost 50% in two decades.

Unfortunately, the unsustainable groundwater pumping that accompanies growth has endangered the water resources that give the region its beauty and high quality of life.

Legal and regulatory structures have not fully addressed the region’s new groundwater reality, but there is cause for optimism with incentivization and the opening of the public-private partnerships (P3) in the state, as well as robust treatment and reuse options available in the region.

Legal and Regulatory Landscape

The Hill Country Conservation Nework warns that the region now stands at a crossroads and to take the sustainable road, legal and regulatory frameworks will need to acknowledge the interconnected nature of groundwater and surface water.

Currently, the region’s groundwater is governed by the Rule of Capture, a 1904 law that grants property owners the right to use as much groundwater as they can pump. Groundwater conservation districts (GCDs) were established in 1949 as the sole regulatory bodies allowed to make exceptions to the Rule.

Complicating matters, groundwater management areas (GMAs) are another layer of water governance that follow the major aquifers’ outlines more closely and require GCDs to work together in regional planning. But most major aquifers overlap and a number of minor aquifers also must be considered in planning. Some GCDs are, therefore, in more than one GMA and are required take part in a number of distinct planning processes.

Solutions to Groundwater Depletion

To address the groundwater depletion problem, the Environmental Defense Fund has suggested development of schemes like managed aquifer recharge or groundwater banking, and the idea of wastewater reuse has been proposed by a number of experts.

During a recent panel discussion on Texas Public Radio, Troy Dorman, director of Water Resources at Halff Associates, embraced the One Water concept, redefining all water sources as valuable:

Now’s the time to start thinking about reusing that water that’s coming out of that wastewater treatment plant. The benefit of that is the less discharge into the river. So, it’s going to keep the river cleaner, which actually helps your tourism, which actually can bring more funds in. So, it’s kind of connecting all these things together. That’s really what One Water is.

Seven Seas’ complete water cycle solutions embrace the One Water concept, maximizing the use of every available drop of water. The company is active in Texas and familiar with how to navigate the state’s legal and regulatory landscape, with domestic wastewater treatment facilities located across the state that bring developments into compliance at a fraction of competitor cost.

Contact Seven Seas to explore reuse options. A call to Seven Seas is decisive step toward responsible stewardship of Hill Country water resources, one that can improve the bottom line.