Water Exporters Impacts to Bastrop Area

Environmental Stewardship gave a presentation
at the December 15, Virtual Meeting of
Rotary Club of Bastrop County

December 15, 2020 program

“Water Exporters and Their Impacts to our Area.”
by Steve Box, Board President,
Environmental Stewardship,

Click here for the presentation slides

Water Exporters and Their Impacts to our Area

Groundwater and surface water are regulated by different laws in Texas.   Surface water is owned by the State (Based on Spanish Law), regulated by Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ),  and administered through water rights that are enforced according to senior and junior right priority dates. Groundwater is owned by landowner (based on English Common Law), regulated by Groundwater Conservation Districts (GCD) with assistance & guidance from Texas Water Development Board (TWDB).  Groundwater districts permit wells, and work jointly with other groundwater districts to develop desired future conditions that govern how they manage a common set of aquifers. The State of Texas does not formally, in law, recognize that groundwater and surface water interact

Overall water planning in Texas is done by Regional Water Planning Groups that seek to quantify the amount of water needed in a region, the amount of water available, and strategies to close gaps between demand and availability. Implementation is the responsibility of the local stakeholder entities; counties, cities, water providers and private interests.  These regional plans roll up into the State Water Plan.

The State Legislature in 2007 passed Senate Bill 3 that established environmental flow standards that are managed by Texas Commission on Environmental Quality (TCEQ).  Standards were established for our region by the Colorado & Lavaca Rivers and Matagorda & Lavaca Bays Area Stakeholder Committee (CL BBASC).  This group was composed of stakeholders from the following interests groups:

•River Authorities  Recreational Water Users
•Public Interest Groups  Groundwater Conservation Districts
•Recreational Water Users  Chemical Manufacturing
•Refining  Electricity Generation
•Municipalities  Regional Water Planning Groups
•Agricultural Irrigation  Environmental
•Free-Range Livestock  Soil and Water Conservation Districts
•Commercial Fishermen


The Colorado and Lavaca Bay & Basin Expert Science Team (CL BBEST) first reviewed the scientific data available and made recommendations to the stakeholder committee.

The environmental flow standards for the Colorado and Lavaca river basis, and Lavaca and Matagorda bay were adopted by TCEQ; effective August 30, 2012.

Environmental Stewardship’s request for regulation of groundwater is based on the State adopted surface water standards for the Colorado River. In accordance with Senate Bill 3, these standards seek to maintain the biological soundness of the state’s rivers, lakes, bays, and estuaries is of great importance to the public’s economic health and general well-being.  The objective is to maintain a “sound ecological environment” by providing the freshwater flows necessary to maintain the viability of the state’s streams, rivers, bay and estuary systems. Click here to see video presentation to GMA-12 on it’s request for protection of surface waters from over-pumping of groundwater.

The graph below (Figure 2 from our request of GMA-12) depicts Environmental Stewardship’ concern.  The Colorado River and its tributaries depend, during extreme drought periods, on groundwater discharged from aquifers into the river and its tributaries.  Groundwater models predict that without these outflows from the aquifers, the river are predicted to drop below the flow quantities necessary to sustain the river and tributaries through a repeat of the drought of record thereby causing unreasonable damage to the ecosystems that are dependent upon stream flows.

Environmental Stewardship provided written comments to GMA-12 October 28, 2020. In the cover letter, Environmental Stewardship recognized the opportunity it has had to work with GMA-12 to move towards desired future conditions that fully consider environmental impacts, including interactions between surface water and groundwater, as the GMA is charged to consider under Texas Water Code § 36.108(d)(4).

Click the link below to learn more about the science that is behind our concerns.

The Data Behind our Concerns

Figure 2.  Predicted reduction of discharge of groundwater into the
 Colorado River due to permitted groundwater pumping.

What can you do to help?

Watch and listen to our presentation to the Rotary Club of Bastrop County. Environmental Stewardship also needs your donations to help us meet our goals and continue our work. We invite you to contribute to our cause by volunteering and/or making a donation to Environmental Stewardship. Please also consider inviting a friend to donate or help.

Certainly, we are interested in hearing from you regarding your suggestions, questions and concerns. If you want to provide a helping hand in this or our other programs, we would like to hear from you on that too! Your feedback is always welcomed.

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