Need to Protect the Lifeblood of Waller County: Our Groundwater
Many Waller County residents have asked me recently whether joining the Bluebonnet Groundwater Conservation District (Bluebonnet) is the best way to protect our local groundwater resources. Left unspoken, I suspect, are two other questions: Why does Waller County need to protect its groundwater; Why should the county join a groundwater conservation district?
Anyone looking to fairly evaluate these questions must first recognize that the demand on our water resources will greatly increase as the State's population grows from 24 million to upwards of 40 million by the year 2040. Texas' increased water needs will come not only from residential use, but also from local businesses, electrical generation facilities, the agricultural sector, and the continued needs of our wildlife. Texans have three sources of water: groundwater, rivers, and reservoirs. Waller County, however, has just one source: groundwater. Further complicating the situation is the reality that rural areas of Texas, Waller County included, will be preyed upon by suburban and urban areas in search of new water resources to satisfy the needs of their exploding populations.
Another problem that Waller County could face is that if our groundwater is over pumped, parts of our county may actually subside, or sink, into the ground. When large amounts of water are removed from underground the sands below the surface are compacted and the surface sinks downward. In adjoining Harris and Fort Bend Counties, efforts are underway to convert from groundwater to surface water use due to subsidence. In these counties too much groundwater was extracted from underground sources and parts of each county have literally subsided or sunk several inches, in some cases even up to a foot, into the ground. This subsidence has caused severe structural damage to buildings and led to increased flooding. With the pressures of population growth and the need for more water, we must be proactive or face the serious consequences inaction has already brought upon our neighbors in Harris and Fort Bend Counties.
As a legislator, my approach is always to work for less government interference and less bureaucracy in our daily lives. Too often we have too much government senselessly sticking it's nose in our daily lives--precisely the reason for my own philosophy that we must at all times strive to limit the reach of government. That said, however, we must also realize that the greater good is sometimes best accomplished when local citizens join together to work toward solutions that we as individuals cannot achieve. Under State law the only way to protect our groundwater is to create a groundwater conservation district.
It cannot be overemphasized that state law is structured so that rural areas have a voice in the regional planning process through, and only through, their local groundwater conservation district. By joining Bluebonnet, local people will gain local control over their future water needs and a voice in the state's water planning process. Most of the 19 counties that I represent in the legislature already have a groundwater conservation district in place. Currently Waller County has no groundwater conservation district which means the county has no voice in the planning process and therefore no ability to protect our local water needs.
On November 6, 2007, Waller County residents will have the opportunity to vote yes and join Bluebonnet. By voting yes, you will NOT see a change in your taxes because Bluebonnet does not have the authority to levy property taxes. Likewise, Bluebonnet does not regulate residential or agricultural water wells, which means that you can vote to protect your groundwater and also maintain your current way of life. However, if we fail to vote to join Bluebonnet, then it is important to realize that as the State's population increases so does the likelihood that your personal water well may go dry in the future. Today if someone chooses to buy one acre of land next door to you, that person can pump and export as much water as he or she can pump. Even though I am of the belief that the water below my property is all my water, I also realize that someone with a larger water well can cause my well to go dry and I have no recourse under Texas law.
However, Groundwater District regulations on well spacing and pumping can prevent a neighboring well from being pumped dry.
As a lifelong Waller County resident and as our voice in the Texas Senate, I strongly believe that Waller County residents deserve the added protections that membership in a groundwater conservation district will bring.
Thank you for the honor of representing you and your family in the Texas Legislature. If my staff or I can be of any assistance to you, please do not hesitate to contact us at my District or Capitol office.
State Senator District 18
Senator Hegar is currently serving his first term in the Texas Senate after serving two terms in the House of Representatives. He is a 6th generation Texan, and earns a living on land that has been in his family since the mid 1800s. The Hegars reside in Waller County, Katy, Texas.