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LCRA deal with ALCOA – Don’t Let them take our water.

Friends:  After you read this article by Dr. Chubb, let us suggest that you call your state representative and urge that they protect your groundwater.  Click here to find your state representatives.


Curtis Chubb, Ph.D.

Landowner – Milam County, Texas

I just can’t call it a groundwater “conservation” district – it isn’t.  Instead, it should be named the Post Oak Savannah Groundwater “Permitting” District since they approve all permit applications.

Let me give you a couple of examples of what they are doing to us.

Let’s start with the recent announcement that the Lower Colorado River Authority (LCRA) has voted to purchase Alcoa’s 34,000 acres near Rockdale.  According to their press releases, LCRA appears to think it is a done deal that they will get permits to annually pump and export 45,000 acre-feet (15 billion gallons) of Carrizo-Wilcox groundwater from Milam County to who knows where.

Did Post Oak already assure them that they will get their groundwater to export?  Does the purchase depend on Alcoa’s pumping permits being approved at a public hearing scheduled for September 11?   Or do you think that LCRA is buying 34,000 acres of land without being sure that they will get their groundwater which appears to be a primary reason for the purchase?

I believe the locations of the 24 new wells that Alcoa wants to drill, even though they are selling the land, are highly informative.

First, 5 of the wells are on the Milam/Lee county line – but they are all on the Milam County side.  They could have been located on the Lee County side, but then they would be in the jurisdiction of Lost Pines Groundwater Conservation District which has not approved all permit applications.  Water marketers have told Post Oak that they “are the only ones that got it right.”

Second, the 24 new wells are all located on the southern boundary of the Alcoa land in Milam County – like a picket fence stretching along the Lee County line and US 77.  The well locations may signal what LCRA has planned for the groundwater.  The LCRA press releases only say that the Alcoa groundwater “would be used to help meet the needs of customers served by LCRA throughout the lower Colorado River basin.”  In a 2007 LCRA study, one option was for LCRA to purchase groundwater from Alcoa, build a pipeline to the Colorado River near Bastrop, and discharge the groundwater into the river.  I don’t know if this is their current plan, but it could explain the peculiar placement of the wells.

So, let’s see.  Post Oak has already given permits to water marketer Blue Water Systems to annually pump and export 71,000 acre-feet (23 billion gallons) of our Carrizo-Wilcox groundwater to the I-35 corridor.  And now, Alcoa is requesting pumping permits for 40,000 acre-feet (13 billion gallons) per year – which we anticipate will be the groundwater that LCRA plans to export.

If things go according to plan and Post Oak continues their misguided policy of approving all permit applications, the two water marketers will have permits to annually pump and export 111,000 acre-feet (34 billion gallons) of our Carrizo-Wilcox groundwater.  Another water marketer, Brazos River Authority (BRA), has already made public their future plans to pump 46,000 acre-feet/year of Carrizo-Wilcox groundwater from Burleson County.

There is, however, one pretty big problem:  there isn’t that much Carrizo-Wilcox groundwater.   Well, that is if you want to have Carrizo-Wilcox groundwater around for the future.

The Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer underlying Milam and Burleson Counties receives about 25,000 acre-feet of recharge water from rainfall each year – a fact reported numerous times and even highlighted in Post Oak’s management plan.   Only a small percentage of the total recharge, however, is stored in the aquifer; most is either lost to evaporation or discharged as surface water.

So, if Post Oak continues down their slippery path and approves the Alcoa/LCRA permits – the pumping amount will be kicked up to at least 440% more than recharge for the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer.   If pumping exceeds recharge, the aquifers become depleted just as a savings account would if withdrawals exceed deposits.  Future generations, not us, will be affected by Post Oak’s mismanagement.

With these facts in mind, it should be no surprise that it is documented in Alcoa’s permit applications, groundwater levels will drop up to 250 feet just three miles Southwest of Rockdale if they are approved.  And the excessive pumping will undoubtedly have a detrimental effect on Lee County’s groundwater since the Carrizo-Wilcox Aquifer extends into their county.

Only bad things happen when you over pump an aquifer – one being you can’t get to the groundwater without purchasing bigger pumps and digging deeper wells.  Do you think our land values will be affected when the water levels start dropping?  And what effect will it have on our local water utilities that already pump Carrizo-Wilcox groundwater?

Now, Post Oak will wave their hands and tell us ‘not to worry’ that it doesn’t matter if the aquifers are over permitted by billions and billions of gallons – it’s only how much is pumped that is important.  They cite such misleading facts as Blue Water Systems is only pumping 1,000 acre-feet/year although they have permits for 71,000 acre-feet/year.  Is this supposed to make us feel good?  Do they think we don’t know that the full 71,000 acre-feet/year will be pumped eventually?  They actually want us to believe that when Post Oak’s monitoring wells indicate “excessive” water level drawdowns due to their over permitting, that water marketers like Blue Water Systems will reduce their pumping?  Sound like fantasy to you?   It does to me.

Pretty good evidence of the fantasy is:  Blue Water Systems has invested over $40 million in a pipeline, has paid many millions for groundwater leases and right of way agreements, pays $1.1 million per year in fees to Post Oak – and Post Oak expects them to cut their production back by let’s say 50% (very possible based on the amount of over-permitting) because of Post Oak’s failure to manage the aquifers?

I think there will be another outcome: everybody else will be cut back – not Blue Water Systems, LCRA, or BRA, because the water marketers and the towns they supply won’t let it happen to them.   The Post Oak people will bloat up when they read this and accuse me of heresy – but I just don’t think these water marketers are going to roll over and play dead – way too much investment.

As I say, the water marketers are doing a great job – it’s our groundwater district that has failed but continues to play amateur politics with our groundwater.

If you want to see Post Oak in action and voice your opinion (you get three minutes), come to the Alcoa permits public hearing scheduled for September 11, 5:30 PM, at the Milano Civic Center next to the fire station in downtown Milano.  Maybe, just maybe, Post Oak will act to protect and conserve our aquifers for future generations.



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