Groundwater policies are developed on a state-wide basis by the Texas Legislature and on a local basis by regional and local governments and agencies. Bastrop County is where the Colorado River intersects with the Carrizo-Wilcox major aquifer and a host of minor aquifers. This intersection in Bastrop County is under the jurisdiction of several water planning groups and agencies including Groundwater Management Area 12, the Lower Colorado Regional Water Planning Group (Region K) and Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District (Lost Pines District). Pursuant to a legislative mandate the Groundwater Conservation Districts in the region have been working to set the desired future conditions for the aquifers under their jurisdiction. Likewise, Region K is revising its regional water plan which will be incorporated into the Texas State Water Plan. The Lost Pines District is a member of both planning groups and has the duty and responsibility to manage the groundwater in Bastrop and Lee counties. Lost Pines District’s primary means of managing the groundwater is through the issuance of groundwater pumping permits and groundwater export permits.
Environmental Stewardship’s Executive Director participates in the public meetings of the groups mentioned above involved in these planning processes. Where appropriate, Environmental Stewardship makes public comment and provides written letters for the public record regarding our concerns. Working through Opportunity Bastrop County’s Citizens’ Advisory Committee, Environmental Stewardship helped develop a vision for the region to serve as a foundation for public policy advocacy. The citizens’ vision “to welcome development, improve mobility, and increase health standards as we preserve and protect our historic culture and natural resources,” is detailed in a 45 page document adopted by the Bastrop County Commissioners’ Court December 10, 2007.
Bastrop’s environmental vision was also confirmed in The Central Texas Greenprint for Growth, Conservation & Economic Opportunity for Bastrop County in 2009. An independent stakeholder group of county citizens established goals to protect water quality and quantity, conserve farm and ranch lands, protect sensitive ecological areas, enhance park and recreation opportunities, protect scenic corridors, and protect cultural/historic resources.
Groundwater – Surface Water Initiative
The focus of Environmental Stewardship’s concerns has been the interaction between the Colorado River and the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer Group. Several years ago the Lower Colorado Regional Planning Group predicted that the anticipated pumping of groundwater in Bastrop and Lee counties would have a negative impact on the river. They predict that the river will go from being a “gaining river” to being a “losing river” when it no longer receives water from the aquifers. As the work of the groundwater conservation districts in our region have progressed this concern has been raised by Environmental Stewardship along with the Sierra Club, National Wildlife Federation, Environmental Defense Fund, and Texas Parks and Wildlife. Unfortunately these concerns have been, for the most part, dismissed for various reasons.
Decisions were made in 2012 and were reviewed between 2013-16 that will have long-range consequences that are not easily reversed. Data recently released covering 1980 –1999 indicate that pumping increased 31% during the period while the flow of water from the aquifers to rivers and streams decreased 50%. This is a significant change in the relationship between groundwater and surface water. The anticipated impact on the Colorado River is likely a predictor of a significant change in the ecological relationships as over-pumping accelerates in the region over the next 20-50 years. Environmental Stewardship has been a participant in these planning activities and has taken actions over the years to protect both the rivers and the aquifers in the region.