Water conservation

Blackburn: State Will Eventually Lead Water Conservation Efforts | Region

BELTON – Bell County Judge David Blackburn has said he believes water conservation efforts in Texas will ultimately be state-driven.

“The state has largely left water conservation in general to the local level,” he said. “Representatives of local communities, cities and river basin districts (…) come together to work out a plan which is adopted and sent to the state,” Blackburn said Wednesday. “But I think the state is going to dictate our water bodies to a degree we’ve never seen. If you’ve been a big fan of state mandates during the pandemic (COVID-19), brace yourselves… because I think it’s coming for water. “

While Blackburn – who spoke at the 20th Annual Bell County Water Symposium of the Clearwater Underground Water Conservation District on Wednesday – hopes he is wrong, he pointed to the current challenges that could trigger this transition.

“There has been a lot of planning going on for decades as to what we should be doing to meet our water needs in the future, but there is a lot of hope in these plans,” said Blackburn. . “The hope that more people will use less water is a key part of our plans right now… and it’s a challenge for us, shot after shot after shot. “

Yet the Bell County judge is still adamant that water conservation decisions are best made locally.

“I believe that locally we can make the best decisions… but it takes political will to do things,” said Blackburn. “In my opinion, especially when it comes to water infrastructure needs, we are not doing what my parents and my parents’ parents did; who did not invest for their benefit but for that of their grandchildren.

With demand for water increasing along with Texas’s burgeoning population, he hopes water conservation plans can be executed soon.

Texas had 12 counties with growth rates of 30-50% over the past decade, and counties south of Bell – where growth continues – use more than 42,000 acre-feet of groundwater per year. from Edwards (Balcones fault zone) and Trinity. aquifers.

By comparison, Bell County was using less than 5,000 acre-feet in 2020, according to the Clearwater District.

“Our concerns about the actual number of groundwater pumping operations in Bell, Williamson and North Travis counties remain alive, and the issue arose because Clearwater ourselves funded the science needed to see what regional groundwater pumping is, ”Dirk Aaron, CEO of Clearwater since 2011, said.

He added that an analysis of the drawdown of the Middle and Lower Trinity aquifers in Bell, Travis and Williamson counties confirms that extreme declines continue at nearly 10 feet per year.

If the trend continues, Aaron expects well pumps to be lowered with water levels reaching the top of the aquifer – an issue he says could impact some developments in the west. from Interstate 35 within 30 years.

However, Williamson County landowners are already reporting difficulties accessing groundwater from the Middle Trinity Aquifer.

“It is likely that many well owners will soon, if they do not already do so, have pumps installed near the bottom of their wells and will have to adapt to the limited availability of groundwater or find other sources of water. ‘water supply,’ said Aaron.