2021 Year-end review: accomplishments and goals for 2022

Dear Friends and Readers:
As we come to the end of 2021, please give me a few moments to review what we have accomplished this year, and what we hope to accomplish next year.
With COVID-19 still raging, virtual meetings became the standard in 2021. None-the-less we were able to participate in a number of key activities, mount a successful campaign to rein in the extreme desired future conditions (DFCs) proposed by GMA-12, and were on the wining end of the LCRA contested case decision. Below are the highlights.

What we accomplished

  • Groundwater Management Area 12 (GMA-12):
    • In January, ES started laying the groundwork to advocate for desired future conditions to protect the Colorado River and its tributaries in a presentation to GMA-12.
    • In May, ES joined forces with Simsboro Aquifer Water Defense fund, under the umbrella of WaterDefenders.org Coalition, to build public support to reject the excessive DFCs proposed by the GMA representatives during the 90-day Public Comment period.
    • ES fronted the funds needed to do the community outreach work and the science to support WaterDefender’s positions.
    • May-August WaterDefenders provided comments to the five GCDs in GMA-12 to urge rejection of the DFCs by their Boards.
    • September – November we worked with the Lost Pines Board to adopt conservation DFCs to protect landowner domestic wells, the aquifers, and surface waters in Bastrop and Lee Counties.
    • BIG WIN: November 30th, GMA-12 adopted DFCs for the region and the Districts that allowed 54% less pumping, and 31% less drawdown in the Simsboro aquifer than was originally proposed.
  • Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District (LPGCD):
    • WaterDefenders worked with Lost Pines Board to pass guidance on the Desired Future Conditions (DFCs) for the aquifers, including a strong conservation DFC for the Simsboro aquifer.
    • Limiting pumping to 30,000 acre-feet per year (AFY)
    • Limiting drawdown to about 183 feet per year
    • Protecting domestic wells in associated aquifers
    • Protecting flows in the Colorado River.
  • LCRA contested case hearings:
    • ES participated in several hearings held by Lost Pines Board regarding a decision.
    • BIG WIN: Lost Pines Board issue a Final Decision on LCRA contested case:
      • Reducing permitted pumping to 8,000 AFY vs. LCRA’s request for 25,000 AFY.
      • Finding that groundwater pumping has the potential to cause unreasonable affects on the Colorado River.
      • Requiring surface water monitoring on the Colorado River in Bastrop County.
  • ES Participated in reviewing TWDB Pre-publication reports of interest to our work.
    • Informing Environmental Flow Standards for the Sustainability of Wetlands in East Matagorda Bay: Phase I Big Boggy, Draft report.  This work is related to re-establishing environmental flows to East Matagorda Bay.
    • Surface Water-Groundwater Interaction Pilot Study, Final report. This report was funded by the Colorado-Lavaca Basin and Bays Stakeholder Committee.  Steve Box is a member of the committee and the Work Plan subcommittee.
  • ES participated in an Environmental Defense Fund (EDF) webinar workshop that resulted a two reports:  
    • Toward Resilient Groundwater Management in Texas (Final Report)
    • Advancing Groundwater Sustainability in Texas (Final Report)

What we hope to accomplish in 2022

Though we have ambitious goals for the coming year, the two major wins mentioned above have set the stage to move three of our major goals over the finish line in the next few years.
  • Finalize the adopted Desired Future Conditions:  We anticipate that the above mentioned DFCs will be finalized with the Texas Water Development Board, and adopted by the Lost Pines Board, with an additional 10% variance in drawdown for several of the aquifers, that will result in:
    • Limiting allowed pumping,
    • Protecting the aquifers from over-pumping
    • Protecting domestic and livestock wells, and
    • Protecting outflows to the Colorado River and its tributaries.
  • Desired Future Conditions for the Colorado Alluvium Aquifer:  We anticipate working with the Lost Pines GCD Board and DFC Committee to establish desired future conditions for the Colorado Alluvium Aquifer — the aquifer in direct connection with the Colorado River — in order to maintain the condition of the alluvium at a level that maintains the gaining relationship between the river and the aquifer during drought conditions.
  • Include a surface water monitoring plan in Lost Pines’ Management Plan: We will advocate for a surface water monitoring plan to protect the Colorado River be incorporated as required by the LCRA Final Decision mentioned above.