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Central Texas Water Fight Could Have Statewide Implications

Bastrop area landowners attended a meeting of the local groundwater conservation district on Wednesday (StateImpact Texas/ Andrew Weber)

A groundwater conservation hearing in Bastrop could open the door for outside business permits.&nbsp;Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District’s May 15 hearing could be seen as a test case for the entire state, according to Steve Box with Environmental Stewardship. <a href="http://stateimpact.npr.org/texas/2013/05/16/central-texas-water-fight-could-have-statewide-implications/" target="_blank" link-data="{&quot;link&quot;:{&quot;attributes&quot;:[],&quot;linkText&quot;:&quot;StateImpact Texas&quot;,&quot;target&quot;:&quot;NEW&quot;,&quot;url&quot;:&quot;http://stateimpact.npr.org/texas/2013/05/16/central-texas-water-fight-could-have-statewide-implications/&quot;,&quot;_id&quot;:&quot;00000184-80f0-d6f8-a1cf-b6f4a21c0000&quot;,&quot;_type&quot;:&quot;ff658216-e70f-39d0-b660-bdfe57a5599a&quot;},&quot;_id&quot;:&quot;00000184-80f0-d6f8-a1cf-b6f4a21c0001&quot;,&quot;_type&quot;:&quot;809caec9-30e2-3666-8b71-b32ddbffc288&quot;}">StateImpact Texas</a> reports the Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District discussed whether to grant new permits to outside businesses.

According to StateImpact, the board considered the requests for a contested case of Forestar (USA) Real Estate Group, Inc.'s Operating Permits and Transfer Permits applications for 10 wells in Lee County and of the Lower Colorado River Authority for Operating Permits for five wells in Bastrop County. There was also a scheduled preliminary hearing on End Op, LP's application for 14 wells in Lee and Bastrop Counties. They seek authorization to withdraw an aggregate 56,000 acre-feet of water per year from the Simsboro Aquifer to use in Travis and Williamson Counties.

Box, whose group opposes the permits, thinks the whole state is watching to see what happens.&nbsp;He said Groundwater districts are mandated to issue water permits as long as they don’t interfere with district goals for aquifer levels called “desired future conditions.” He also thinks the possibility of these permits to pump water and the drought which could deplete the aquifer should give districts authority to withhold the permits.

“Statewide, we have groundwater conservation districts wrestling with this issue of how do they manage with respect to pumping when what they have to do is give or not give permits,” said Box.
Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District decided to reduce the amount of water for one permit applicant and attached strings to another permit, which Box said would send a message to other districts that it could conserve water.

One challenge was unresolved with respect to water rights versus property rights. Aqua Water Supply, a private water utility that already pulls water from the district, opposes new permits because it thinks it may endanger its investment. The case will go before the State Office of Administrative Hearings, where water marketer End Op will argue it has every right to take water from what looks like ample supply around Bastrop to feed a growing demand in Austin.