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BSEACD proposing more stringent rules for drought
Wednesday, July 29, 2009 by Jacob Cottingham
Due to the severity of the drought, the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District has formally proposed a series of rules changes that would establish a new tier of responses to extreme drought. The new emergency responses, if enacted, would restrict pumping to public water supply systems.
Currently the district has three levels of response: a non-drought stage, an alarm stage and a critical stage. The critical stage includes an emergency response period, which allows for the most drastic conservation measures should a critical stage endure. The district is proposing the creation of an additional stage, called the exceptional stage, as well as revising the emergency response period. The proposed changes would affect both historical groundwater pumping permits as well as newer Class A and Class B permits.
The BSEACD measures the Edwards Aquifer levels using 30-day averages of cubic feet per second coming from Barton Springs and the depth of water at the Lovelady Monitor Well in
Under the new rules, an exceptional stage would be triggered at 14 cfs and require both Class A and Class B (conditional) permit holders to cease pumping. Historical permits would have to reduce pumping by 40 percent during the exceptional stage.
Once the exceptional stage was activated, the board could vote to move into an emergency response period, or ERP. Kirk Holland, General Manager of the BSEACD told In Fact Daily, “Under current rules when flow is below 14 cfs the board may consider declaring an Emergency Response Period. It’s not a requirement, but there’s a presumption that it would.” He said the new rules would trigger the board’s decision on an ERP at 10 cfs.
The new ERP could require limitations on historical pumping at the discretion of the board up to and including cessation of non-essential pumping, which could restrict pumping for public water suppliers by 40 percent.
Board member Craig Smith said that an ERP would have a huge effect on local entities. “The majority of people are on public water supply,” he said. “But there are major pumpers that aren’t, like CenTexas, Texas Lehigh. This is very serious because this would shut them down unless they have an alternative source,” said Smith. “So we’re trying hard to find them alternative sources,” Smith said. “We’re just hoping for rain.”
Jennifer Walker, water resources specialist with the Lone Star Chapter of the Sierra Club, told In Fact Daily, “I think it’s certainly a move in the right direction,” but noted that the Sierra Club is concerned with the thresholds being too high. “We have an issue with the triggers at 14 cfs and 10 cfs,” she said.
The district rules would also allow for the creation of temporary transfer permits. This would allow water holders to sell up to 90 percent of their unused water rights, temporarily, to other entities in need of additional pumping capacity.
The new rules would also introduce management zones to the district. John Dupnik, the district’s Regulatory Compliance Specialist, said these would “enable the district to regulate the aquifers in appropriate ways.” Currently, the district has only one set of rules and policies governing the entire jurisdiction. The new zones would allow for different management regulations and rules for saline parts of the Edwards and Trinity Aquifers. The BSEACD hopes that such changes will incentivize desalination pumping in eastern parts of the district. Dupnik said the new zones are “intended to allow those who want to develop alternate resources to pursue that.”
Meanwhile, the city of
The BSEACD is now conducting 20 days of a required public comment, and will likely take up the new rules again at the same August 27 meeting. Depending on the feedback and drought the board could pass the rules change then or at the next meeting in early September.
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