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Hays County hears hydrologist on well project

Friday, April 10, 2015 by Kim Hilsenbeck

The debate about the Electro Purification well project continued Tuesday in Hays County Commissioners Court as a neutral scientist weighed in on the data.

District Senior Hydrologist and Aquifer Science Team Leader Brian Smith with the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District presented his agency’s findings on the hydrological studies and analyses associated with the Electro Purification project.

John Dupnik, the groundwater district’s general manager, said Monday that Smith would help provide objectivity in a highly contentious and emotional debate.

“There is lots of misinformation out there,” he said. “We aim to calibrate the conversation back to reality.”

Dupnik said there are too many unknowns about the Trinity Aquifer and that it would be irresponsible to discuss with certainty any conclusions on both sides.

He said, “BSEACD can be the technical voice of objectivity, because we don’t have a dog in this hunt.”

Smith is the third scientist in as many weeks to present to the commissioners.

Two weeks ago, David Braun of Braun & Gresham, PLLC provided commissioners the results of a hydrological evaluation by LBG-Guyton Associates. He presented his findings on behalf of Bill Johnson and Halifax Ranch, who paid for the study.

The study, based on an analysis of existing data, groundwater models and data from three of Electro Purification’s seven test wells, concluded that if the project continued pumping more than 1.8 billion gallons of water annually from the Middle Trinity Aquifer, local well owners would see a negative impact on their residential wells.

Last week Electro Purification went on the defensive, claiming the LBG-Guyton evaluation of Electro Purification’s data was invalid and inaccurate. Wet Rock Groundwater Services President Kaveh Khorzad, hired by Electro Purification to conduct a study, said the Theis equation used in the LBG-Guyton report was a simple and incomplete way to determine drawdown.

Khorzad also concluded that the Trinity Aquifer has more water than previously thought.

Smith, however, said Electro Purification’s claim that LBG-Guyton’s data was inaccurate was not necessarily true. He told commissioners that it is a widely used equation by hydrologists and has merit.

“We use the Theis equation for our wells,” Smith said. “We are concerned enough that there could be negative effects on people’s wells that we know we need to focus on the studies.”

According to Smith, it will be a while before they figure out just how many wells are in the area.

“We will be measuring shallow wells, intermediate wells and deep wells, to see what drawdown, if any, they are experiencing,” Smith said. “Just those numbers alone will be able to help. At least we have the tools to predict into the future what will happen if these wells are in full production over a period of time.”

Smith added that the aquifer district is looking at determining the overall sustainability of the area.

“We’re still going to do studies to determine the impacts of pumping in the area,” he said. “They intend to do further testing and said they will cooperate with us.”

“I think what we’re saying is that we’re running out of water no matter what we do,” Judge Bert Cobb said.

Despite the controversy, Dupnik said all the focus on groundwater management is probably a good thing.

“There has never been so much good attention on why we exist,” he said.

Smith told commissioners Monday, “(Electro Purification) is committed to working with us as we move forward. We will monitor wells nearby where they are pumping.”

Ashley Sava contributed to this report.



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