HOW THE PECAN VALLEY GROUNDWATER DISTRICT WAS FORMED... AND WHY
With the passing of Senate Bill 2, concerned citizens of DeWitt Country seized the opportunity to take control of local water resources and approved the formation of the Pecan Valley Groundwater District. With the help of the County Commissioners Court and Representative Geanie Morrison, DeWitt County became a member of the growing number of counties in the State of Texas to form a groundwater district. This is a joint, state-wide effort to establish solutions to depleting water resources for urban and local areas. The District conducted hearings at the State and County level, passed all necessary requirements, and began to set in motion the formation of a Management Plan and Rules for the Pecan Valley Groundwater Conservation District. Public referendums were held in accordance with the laws of the State, and the voters of DeWitt granted us the opportunity to become a viable entity.
In forming the District, directors took steps to insure that landowners in DeWitt County would be protected with the very minimum of taxing required to maintain operation of the District. In determining the groundwork of the District, a decision was made that all wells drilled prior to the formation of the District would be exempt from any regulation providing the proposed usage and production rates do not change, and that no wells would be denied as long as there was compliance with regulations required by the State of Texas Water Code & the Management Plan of the District. As well, the power of eminent domain would not be used by the District, and only non-exempt wells would be metered. The Texas Water Code specifies that every landowner is guaranteed 25,000 gallons of water daily for domestic and agricultural use. This is a large amount of daily water allowance that is promised to the populace of DeWitt County, and the District has no reason or intent to impose restrictions. The engineering currently being discussed indicates we have plenty of water available to the highest bidder. While it is recognized that we have an abundance of water in our area, it is our mission that it be shared, not sold to the highest bidder. We have the obligation to maintain our local water resources for future growth in our own back yard.
Initially there were concerns as to the function of the groundwater district. Some misconceptions were that the district would meter wells, force landowners to comply with a lot of complicated rules, disallow drilling, and regulate water usage. In reality, the district was formed to prevent DeWitt County residents the threat of metering and regulation. If steps had not been taken to formulate a district, there would be no control preventing the large urban water sellers from entering DeWitt County and draining our water resources. The present laws of the State of Texas, under the Rule of Capture, give any landowner the right to sell as much available water without regard to the detriment of neighboring landowners.
After public hearings, the Pecan Valley Groundwater District, on February 16, 2004 passed its Management Plan for DeWitt County. Currently, the Pecan Valley Groundwater Conservation District is in the process of recording and permitting wells. EVERYONE is required to file a permit request with the PVCD office before drilling a well. This keeps the District aware of the growth rate of new well drilling, location of the wells, and what current water levels can be maintained. In order to sustain our resources, we must know what our resources are. Along with the permit application, there is a $30.00 fee required. While complying with the local water district rules requires extra effort on the part of drillers and landowners, it is an opportunity to exert some control over what happens in our county. The permit process is an effort to insure that we have a record of the drilling logs from which we gather information on the availability of water for the area, and maintain our well levels. If the District can determine that water is being depleted in an area of DeWitt County, we can then try to locate the problem and find a solution beneficial to all concerned.
The board of directors is locally elected by county precinct, and is in direct control by the voters. In the next few months, the Pecan Valley GCD will hold public hearings to address any questions and/or concerns.
We have had numerous meetings, hearings, and various public forums available to the voters of DeWitt County. Some were well attended, and some were not. Public input is essential, as this is an on-going effort. Water issues will be the primary focus of the next session of the Texas Legislature. The water rights that we now take for granted will be challenged. Rural areas with historically adequate supplies of water will be asked to provide for the growth of other parts of Texas that have limited, or radically declining resources. Involvement in the process can only increases awareness of what we face regarding water issues in this part of Texas. We have a water problem, please be part of the solution.
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