Local water conservation groups make fundraising appeal

Written by Michele G. Gangnes

Published by Giddings Times & News.

A major fundraising campaign benefiting the outreach, education and advocacy work of two local water conservation groups begins December 3. 

 The campaign is built around #GivingTuesday, a world-wide initiative  that provides an opportunity to obtain matching funds for donations to organizations working to improve local communities.  

Created in 2012, the #GivingTuesday movement kicks off each year on the Tuesday after Thanksgiving, and after Black Friday and Cyber Monday commercial events. This idea has inspired hundreds of millions of people to give, collaborate, and celebrate generosity on that day. 

Donors encouraged to give on December 3

Both the Simsboro Aquifer Water Defense Fund and Environmental Stewardship are requesting their supporters to participate in the #GivingTuesday campaign from December 3 through the end of the year. 

The local campaign starts with Facebook’s official #Giving Tuesday event on December 3 that offers the possibility of a maximum match on that day of $7 million for all participating organizations, on a first-come, first-served basis.

To participate in the #GivingTuesday campaign, including the Facebook event, both organizations will have giving information for donors on their websites: www.simsborowaterdefensefund.org and www.environmental-stewardship.org.

“Donations are absolutely welcome by mail or on our two websites any time, but the Facebook campaign offers the opportunity for matching funds,” said Steve Box, Executive Director of Bastrop-based Environmental Stewardship.

Additional matching donations available

Donations to the #GivingTuesday campaigns of the Simsboro Aquifer Water Defense Fund and Environmental Stewardship also may qualify for an additional matching grant up to $25,000 each from the Environmental Fund of Texas (EFT), an Austin-based charitable fund. Starting December 3, qualifying donations to either group through so-called “crowdfunding” related to #GivingTuesday are eligible for a dollar for dollar match from EFT up to the maximum. 

“Our aquifer defense fund depends on grassroots funding, and Environmental Stewardship also has enjoyed long-standing financial support from central Texans, said Michele Gangnes, a director of the aquifer defense fund. “In recent years, crowdfunding for smaller individual donors has become an important component of charitable funds’ requirements for grants, especially for environmental advocacy related to litigation.” 

Grants from the Environmental Fund of Texas earlier this year helped defray the costs of an administrative law proceeding, and the Fund’s willingness to match additional grass-roots fundraising by the two groups is very important to our communities, Gangnes said. 

EFT supported both organizations’ participation in the recent contested case hearing to prevent the Lower Colorado River Authority from receiving a mega-permit to pump the Simsboro aquifer in Bastrop County. 

SAWDF’s community outreach and education efforts in early 2018 resulted in an organized protest of LCRA’s application to annually pump eight billion gallons of groundwater from the historic Griffith League Ranch, which is situated in a fairly densely populated portion of eastern Bastrop County.

The groundwater district’s hydrology report predicted the pumping would cause widespread drawdowns in the Simsboro formation of the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer in Lee and Bastrop counties.  

Both SAWDF’s landowners and Environmental Stewardship engaged attorneys and experts for the contested case hearing. The SAWDF team made the case that not only Simsboro wells would be unreasonably damaged by the pumping. They also established that domestic and livestock wells in the Calvert Bluff, Hooper and Carrizo formations in both Lee and Bastrop counties would experience drawdowns induced by heavy pumping in the Simsboro.

Environmental Stewardship’s legal and scientific team developed groundbreaking evidence that LCRA’s pumping in the Simsboro would decrease the inflows from the aquifer that the Colorado River and its tributaries depend on in central Texas. 

The Texas Water Code requires a groundwater district to take into account a proposed permit’s effects on existing users and on surface water resources before issuing a permit.

LCRA challenged by landowners to do the right thing

Bastrop landowner Andy Wier testified for the landowners by saying that LCRA could team up with landowners for a “win-win” by drastically reducing its demand on the aquifer and establishing a state of the art system of monitoring wells to protect the aquifer and the river. Wier offered that landowners would help fundraise that effort with the same bake sales and garage sales SAWDF used to fund the landowners’ permit protest.

The massive Vista Ridge project in Burleson County’s portion of the Simsboro and Carrizo aquifers will start pumping in early 2020. At least 125 billion gallons of groundwater per year could be exported from Burleson, Milam, Lee and Bastrop counties if that project, the proposed LCRA pumping and other permitted export projects in the Simsboro under the four counties all come to fruition. 

Landowners and Colorado River are now stakeholders in groundwater

Gangnes went on to say that the generous support of local residents has enabled SAWDF, the landowners they assist, and Environmental Stewardship to finally become directly involved as stakeholders in groundwater district permitting. 

“It is ironic that those of us who worked so hard to put a groundwater district in place to regulate the water marketers, have had to work for twenty years for a seat at the permitting table,” Gangnes said. “Our generous local supporters have made that happen.” 

Contact & Donation Info

The mailing address for SAWDF is P.O. Box 931, Elgin, TX 78621. Environmental Stewardship may be reached at P.O. Box 1423, Bastrop, TX 78602.

SAWDF can be reached at 512-461-3179, on the website or at info@simsborowaterdefensefund.org, while Environmental Stewardship can be reached on the website or at 512-300-6609. 

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