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Kyle appeals Aquifer District decision to limit increase in water use

Tuesday, April 13, 2010 by John Davidson

The City of Kyle is appealing a decision by the Barton Springs Edwards Aquifer Conservation District that would only allow the city to increase its annual draw of water from the Barton Springs portion of the Edwards Aquifer by 100.7 million gallons.


Kyle had requested a permit that would allow it to increase its draw by 185 million gallons, but the district’s February decision reduced that amount significantly.


The ruling did not please city officials. In an appeal filed in early March, attorneys for the city argue that the evidence Kyle officials presented in their permit application satisfied the district’s rules and therefore the board should have granted a permit allowing for the full amount of water requested.


In its decision, the district claimed that the final amount granted by the permit, 100.7 million gallons annually, matched what Kyle was able to show it had access to in alternative supplies of water.


At the heart of the controversy is whether or not the city is able to replace all the additional water it’s allowed to draw from the Barton Springs portion of the Edwards Aquifer with alternative sources of water, such as from the Guadalupe-Blanco River Authority, where Kyle currently gets a portion of its water supply. The ability to replace the water supply is important because the permit stipulates that access to aquifer water be reduced by 50 percent during an alarm-stage (first-stage) drought and 75 percent during a critical-stage drought. In case of an exceptional-stage drought, access to aquifer water would be shut off completely.


In their appeal, Kyle officials argue that the city proved it is able to replace all 185 million gallons in case of a drought. They also contend that the district board deviated from state law by requiring the city to show not only an ability to meet its water demand without relying on aquifer water in case of a drought, but also an additional 185 million gallons of non-aquifer water in “perpetual reserve.” The city’s appeal calls the board’s interpretation of its own rules “illegal,” and an “ad hoc imposition” that is “improper.”


The decision was a compromise measure intended to give the City of Kyle increased access to the aquifer while also reducing potential risks to the Barton Springs salamander, according to District Board Member Craig Smith, who drafted the motion.


The city’s permit application was contested at every stage by the Save Our Springs Alliance, which last week filed an official reply to the city’s appeal. Bill Bunch, executive director of the Save Our Springs Alliance, claims in the reply that the city “makes confusing and unsupported assertions” and that if a rehearing is granted, the amount of aquifer water allowed by the permit should be reduced, not increased.


According to District General Manager Kirk Holland, the board is likely to deliberate and take action on Kyle’s request for a rehearing at its May 13 meeting. If no action is taken by June 1, the request is automatically denied. At that point, Holland says, the city would have to file a lawsuit against the board if it wanted to continue pressing its case.

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