The Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District board of directors today approved new recommendations for future increases in groundwater pumping in Montgomery County based upon the results of a three-year scientific study.
HOUSTON, TX - July 19, 2017 - A new interactive web application illustrates how groundwater, sediment compaction and land-elevation change are related in the Houston-Galveston region in Texas. The new app was developed by the U.S. Geological Survey and is available online.
CONROE, TX - July 11, 2017 - The Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District is pleased to announce that Permitting Director Samantha Reiter has accepted an expanded managerial role with the District as its new Assistant General Manager.
"Ms. Reiter has been an LSGCD employee for more than six years. In that time, she has enthusiastically stepped up to the plate to participate in every facet of day-to-day operations," said General Manager Kathy Turner Jones. "She has excelled in all of these areas and we're really looking forward to even more success as she enters the ranks of senior management."
As Assistant General Manager, Ms. Reiter will combine her previous responsibilities as Permitting Director with those of the new role, including various executive management duties essential to day-to-day operations.
"I'm excited to advance my career with the District," Ms. Reiter said. "A lot of meaningful work is accomplished here and I'm glad to be a part of it."
The Assistant General Manager position recently opened following the retirement of the previous Assistant General Manager, Paul R. Nelson.
"With ongoing financial challenges, the District has taken the opportunity to merge these two roles at this time," Ms. Jones said. "Especially given the depth of Ms. Reiter's knowledge base and proven capabilities."
CONROE, TX - June 9, 2017 - On Tuesday, The Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District, at a Budget Workshop open to the public, considered factors affecting the establishment of the District's proposed Fiscal Year 2018 water use fee. The District's Budget Committee recommended the 2018 water use fee for groundwater produced from the Chico/Evangeline/ Jasper be set at 11 cents per thousand gallons withdrawn, an increase of 3.5 cents over the current rate of 7.5 cents. No fee increase is proposed for groundwater produced from the Catahoula ($0.06/1000 gallons).
The Committee discussed two major factors that were considered in making its recommendation. One, the committee restated that 2016's 30 percent reduction in withdrawals that occurred as a result of a mandated conversion to alternate water supplies going forward is still being absorbed into the District's budget as the transition continues into its second year. Originally, in previous planning before the conversion, the board identified cash reserves as a supplement to this transition period. However, these cash reserves were more quickly depleted than originally anticipated by the second factor, ongoing litigation.
The Committee emphasized that the ongoing litigation initiated by the City of Conroe, Quadvest, et al., has placed a substantial burden on the District's finances. Those legal fees now exceed $500,000 and are anticipated to continue to mount during the 2018 fiscal year (January 1 thru December 31).
The committee also acknowledged that, should the plaintiffs decide to withdraw their lawsuit or if all parties involved are able to reach an appropriate agreement before this November, when rate notices go out to permittees, the full rate increase would not be necessary in 2018.
On January 1, 2016, the District's Regulatory Plan (DRP) was implemented, requiring each Large Volume Groundwater User (permits holders that are authorized to produce 10 million gallons or more annually) to reduce its permitted use by 30 percent. District water use fees are based on permitted allocation, resulting in a proportional reduction in income in 2016. That decrease in revenue, coupled with the legal fees incurred to date, has resulted in a net loss of $778,621 in 2016. Approximately 64 percent of that net loss is a direct result of ongoing litigation costs with Conroe.
While the District has made significant cuts to its operating budget over the past 18 months and continues to seek ways to reduce expenditures, the combination of the two factors detailed above render it impossible to carry out its legislative mandate to protect the groundwater resources of Montgomery County without an increase in water use fees.
There was no decision made on the fee at the Budget Hearing nor will there be any action taken at the next Regular Board meeting scheduled for June 13. It was the consensus of the members present that additional meetings will be held to continue to discuss proposed rates and the overall budget, and to seek additional input from the public. Should any changes in water use fees be made by the full Board of Directors, they would not go in to affect until January 1, 2018.
The next Budget Workshop is tentatively scheduled for June 28th at the District offices.
CONROE, TX – March 21, 2017 – Friends, family and professional colleagues gathered Monday afternoon to recognize Richard J. Tramm, Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District’s former president and longest-serving board member, for his many years of dedicated service on behalf of Montgomery County.
On behalf of State Sen. Brandon Creighton, R-Conroe, County Judge Craig Doyal presented a senate resolution commending Tramm “on his outstanding service and commitment” to LSGCD.
“Under his leadership, the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District has consistently worked to balance the needs of large and small volume water users and to promote the long-term viability of Montgomery County’s groundwater supply; he has been a consistent proponent of protecting the rights of all well owners and of using the best available science in managing the county’s water supply,” the resolution read.
Doyal echoed the resolution’s sentiment.
“On behalf of Montgomery County, Richard, thank you for your service to this community. Thank you for your willingness to be here … Thank you for an outstanding job,” Doyal said.
Tramm said it had been his pleasure to serve on the LSGCD board since its inception 16 years ago.
“I can honestly say I felt like I’ve been able to do the best I can, under sometimes difficult circumstances,” Tramm said. “And while I’ve been willing to work with everyone and deal with everyone on a fair and open basis, I also don’t feel like I’ve ever had to compromise my integrity to be able to work with everyone.”
He said he is proud of the work LSGCD has accomplished and knows that it will make a lasting difference.
“Richard’s leadership of the District—from its inception in 2001 through its achievement of long-term viable aquifer management and a diversified water portfolio for Montgomery County in 2016—will leave a lasting legacy amongst his fellow board members, the District staff, and residents throughout Montgomery County,” said LSGCD General Manager Kathy Turner Jones.
Newly elected Board President, Rick Moffatt, acknowledged he has some big shoes to fill.
“Fortunately, Richard has set an excellent example for those of us who follow in his footsteps,” Moffatt said.
Tramm has an extensive background in the drinking water and public utility fields, having held several professional certifications from the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality and its predecessor agencies, and the Texas Rural Water Association. Following six years of service with the United States Marine Corps, he earned a Bachelor of Science Degree from the University of Houston in 1994. He has previously worked as the Operations Manager of A-1 Utility and Construction Services, Inc., a locally owned and operated utility contract operations company. Currently, he serves as the general manager of the Porter Special Utility District, the third largest water system in Montgomery County.
Tramm was originally appointed to the position of Director of the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District by the Montgomery County Commissioners Court in 2001, as one of the two countywide representatives. He initially served as President until 2005, when he chose not to seek reelection to that position. During the next several years he also served as Secretary and Vice-President of the Board of Directors, until again being elected as President in 2009. He continued to serve in that capacity until the conclusion of his recently completed fourth term in office.
CONROE, TX – March 6, 2017 – The Apollo 17 crew, from 28,000 miles away, took one of the most iconic photos in history on December 7, 1972. The image is known as “The Blue Marble,” a fitting name considering 71 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water. Yet, about 99 percent of all water on this planet isn’t suitable for human consumption. The remaining one percent comes almost entirely from one source—groundwater.
The Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District is one of many organizations around the country recognizing National Groundwater Awareness Week from March 5-11.
“This awareness week, led by the National Groundwater Association, is the perfect time to take a moment and contemplate just how significant our groundwater resources really are,” said James Ridgway, Jr., LSGCD education / public awareness coordinator. “It’s also a great time for parents and educators to engage our younger generations on the subject.”
Ridgway said, according to a report from the American Geosciences Institute, there is a projected shortage of 135,000 geoscientists expected by 2025.
“The water scientists of tomorrow are being cultivated right now.”
Groundwater is the water that soaks into the soil from rain or other precipitation and moves downward to fill cracks and other openings in beds of rocks and sand. It is, therefore, a renewable resource, although renewal rates vary greatly according to environmental conditions.
Fortunately, groundwater is under most of the Earth’s surface. For instance, there is an estimated 660,000 cubic kilometers of water under the Sahara Desert, twenty times more water than in all of Africa’s Lakes. Groundwater is also the world’s most extracted raw material with withdrawal rates currently in the estimated range of 259 trillion gallons per year, according to NGWA.
About 60 percent of groundwater withdrawn worldwide is used for agriculture; the rest is almost equally divided between the domestic and industrial sectors.
The United States uses 79.3 billion gallons of groundwater a day, according to NGWA. That’s equivalent to about 1.5 million baths, enough bathtubs full of water to circle the Earth more than 60 times
A 2014 report from the U.S. Geological Survey states that, of the total U.S. groundwater supply, public supply accounts for 20.7 percent, individual households account for 4.66 percent, irrigation accounts for 65.1 percent, livestock/aquaculture accounts for 3.97 percent, industrial accounts for 3.82 percent, and mining accounts for 1.47 percent.
NGWA also estimates that groundwater feeds nearly 500 billion gallons of water into U.S. lakes and streams. It’s estimated by the USGS that about 30 percent of U.S. streamflow is from groundwater, although it is higher in some locations and less in others.
Approximately 500,000 new residential wells are constructed annually, according to NGWA estimates. The construction of these vitally needed water supply systems involves the use of more than 18,460 drilling machines by an estimated 8,085 groundwater contracting firms.
A Farm and Ranch Irrigation Survey from the U.S. Department of Agriculture reports that irrigation accounts for the largest use of groundwater in the United States. Some 53.5 billion gallons of groundwater are used daily for agricultural irrigation from 407,923 wells. In 1900, the United States used only 2.2 billion gallons of groundwater daily for irrigation from 17,000 wells
Texas leads the nation in the number of irrigation wells with 77,389.
In Montgomery County, LSGCD’s most recent permitted pumpage records show that 23.2 billion gallons of groundwater were pumped in 2015.
To learn more about National Groundwater Awareness Week, visit NGWA.org. To learn more about LSGCD, visit LoneStarGCD.org.
CONROE, TX – February 7, 2017 – A series of local rainwater harvesting systems installed in 2014 have been catching more than raindrops over the past few years.
During the Water for Texas 2017 Conference, hosted January 23-25 by the Texas Water Development Board, the Leadership Montgomery County Class of 2014 received the All-Star Rain Catcher Award. A few years prior, upon nomination by the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District, the same LMC class had raked in TWDB’s 2014 Texas Rain Catcher Award.
The All-Star Rain Catcher Award celebrates a decade of the TWDB’s Rain Catcher rainharvesting competition and recognition program. State Rep. Will Metcalf, R-Conroe, a member of the 2014 LMC class, accepted the award on behalf of his LMC peers.
“I was honored to accept the All-Star Rain Catcher Award from the Texas Water Development Board tonight on behalf of the Leadership Montgomery County Class of 2014,” Metcalf wrote via Facebook. “Our class established three rainwater harvesting systems throughout Montgomery County. Congratulations to my fellow classmates and board of the LMC Class of 2014 for this award! I’m proud to be an LMC alumni!”
Kathy Turner Jones, LSGCD general manager, said bringing home the All-Star accolade is a big win for LMC alumni and Montgomery County as a whole.
“We’d really crossed our fingers upon nominating the 2014 LMC class for the Texas Rain Catcher Award. They’d invested a great deal of time and energy into these rain harvesting systems,” Jones said. “We were thrilled they ended up winning it.”
Still, for the same group to now receive the All-Star Rain Catcher Award, on top of the original award, is a real testament to just how far-reaching of an impact such projects, when executed well, can potentially be, Jones said.
LSGCD Education / Public Awareness Coordinator James Ridgway Jr. echoed Jones’ sentiment.
“As educational displays, these rain harvesters continue to engage the public, young and old, on a water conservation technique older than recorded history,” Ridgway said. “It makes me think of the saying— from little acorns, mighty oaks do grow.”
For more information, visit Harvesting the Rain Project at LoneStarGCD.org. The rain harvesting systems can be seen at the Bear Branch Sports Complex in The Woodlands, Oak Ridge Elementary and the North Montgomery County Community Center in Willis. The locations can use the collected water for landscape irrigation. Each location includes other educational components to shed light on the project’s conservation mission.
Ruling Also Rejects City of Conroe’s Claim for Attorneys’ Fees
CONROE, TX – Feb, 2, 2017 – A Texas state appeals court ruled today that litigation claims against Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District directors should be dismissed with prejudice and that the City of Conroe and others cannot seek attorneys’ fees from the Lone Star district in the ongoing case.
According to the opinion from the Court of Appeals for the Ninth District of Texas in Beaumont, “We hold the Directors established that they were immune from being sued for their official votes and actions in passing the rules the Large Water Producers challenged” in the underlying lawsuit brought by the City of Conroe, Quadvest, L.P., and others. The Court of Appeals’ opinion went on to hold that the City of Conroe, Quadvest, and the other plaintiff’s “claims for attorney’s fees must be dismissed, with prejudice.”
Lone Star Board President Richard J. Tramm said, “This is a major victory for Lone Star. This appeals court ruling moves us another step closer to defeating the City of Conroe’s costly, taxpayer-funded litigation, which is simply intended to weaken our state’s established system of groundwater management. Before today’s ruling, the City of Conroe had previously abandoned 16 of its 18 original lawsuit claims against Lone Star and its directors. This court opinion removes one of the two remaining original claims, and ensures that the plaintiffs, and unfortunately their citizens and water customers, are responsible for funding the remainder of its costly litigation. We look forward to defeating the remaining claims in the trial court.”
The underlying case is “City of Conroe, et al., v. Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District, et al.,” Case No. 15-08-08942-CV in the 284th District Court of Montgomery County.
CONROE, TX – September 13, 2016 –On Tuesday, during September’s regular meeting, the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District Board of Directors approved a reduced fee rate for pumping groundwater from the Catahoula Aquifer in Montgomery County. “With the adoption of this lower pumping fee for the Catahoula, we hope to send a message that the Lone Star Board encourages use of this alternative water supply and hope it will help provide an incentive for water users to pursue additional development of this deeper aquifer to relieve pressure from the overlying Gulf Coast Aquifer,” said Billy Wood, Chairman of Lone Star’s Budget and Finance committee.
Also approved by the Lone Star Board of Directors was a motion to begin defensive preparations against another legal jab thrown by the City of Conroe.
At a Special City Council meeting held on August 16, 2016, Conroe council members approved a resolution to appeal the Desired Future Conditions (DFCs) adopted by the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District on August 9. In Texas, DFCs are set on a regional basis within a Groundwater Management Area (GMA), and represent the goals for groundwater conditions in the aquifers in 50 years (defined in terms of water levels, quality, spring flows, etc.). Lone Star is part of GMA 14, which in April completed the five-year planning process necessary to adopt the most current DFCs, which are then required by law to be adopted without changes by the individual groundwater districts like Lone Star.
Board members questioned the timing and wisdom of Conroe’s decision to pursue additional litigation to challenge the DFCs. Rick Moffatt, Chairman of Lone Star’s Findings and Review Committee pointed out that Lone Star is in the middle of a 3-year technical study requested by the City of Conroe to develop the science to support changes to the DFCs to allow additional groundwater pumping. “In 2014, Lone Star was asked by Conroe to pursue a technical study to determine if more groundwater could be developed,” said Moffatt, whose committee oversees technical studies. “And now, in the middle of that study that Conroe requested and Lone Star agreed to fund, and even after the Lone Star board has committed publicly to seek amendments to the DFCs if the science from the study supports it, Conroe votes to start another round of litigation which will do nothing but lengthen the process and cost the taxpayers and fee-payers even more money.”
Lone Star’s President, Richard J. Tramm, reminded the other directors that Lone Star had even hired the consultants that the City of Conroe requested them to hire to spearhead the study.
Brian Sledge, Lone Star’s General Counsel, noted that the study was designed from its beginning to provide the science to support amendments to the DFCs in the next cycle of planning, because the results from it would not be available until then. He estimated that the City of Conroe’s maneuver will cost Montgomery County citizens at least another half million dollars in legal fees and consultant fees for both sides. “This is not something we asked for, and it makes no sense for anyone involved,” Sledge said. “Lone Star will now unfortunately have to divert resources and spend additional public funds to defend itself in this new litigation, and it will not do anything but delay our ability to amend the DFCs as Conroe has requested.”
CONROE, TX – August 31, 2016 – It was standing room only Sunday at the Winner Announcement portion of the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District’s 2016 Minecraft Water Challenge. The event, hosted by the Microsoft Store in The Woodlands Mall, served as a platform to publically celebrate the many hours of hard work invested by the contestants.
Elementary | First Place
Zander Staines, Home School
The educationally-focused contest, an inaugural undertaking by LSGCD, was unveiled over the summer and invited Montgomery County area students, from 1st through 12th grade, to research their respective local water resources and, through a series of objectives, depict these within the video game, Minecraft, via an uploaded YouTube video.
“Entries came in from every school district in the county, several private schools and home schools, too.” said James Ridgway, Jr., LSGCD education / public awareness coordinator. “We are just blown away by what these students accomplished.”
Ridgway said the time and effort students put into their respective submissions was very evident in the end product.
Jr. High | First Place
Daniel Stonecipher, McCullough Jr. High
“I think it’s also important to acknowledge the many parents who got involved in this contest as well. Not everyone can answer the question—where does my water come from?” Ridgway said. “But these families definitely can,
High School | First Place
Jordan Schmid, Montgomery High School
“We also really appreciate our four volunteer judges. They spent a lot of time watching and evaluating the entries, and there were a lot of good ones, so narrowing it down to the top three in each category was no easy task.”
The judges included: Dr. Jaime A. Bone, Conroe ISD admin coordinator/human resources; Stephen Green, world geography/speech teacher; Jennifer L. Mitchell, Conroe ISD professional systems support analyst; and Cale Reneau, marketing/communication manager at The Club at Carlton Woods.
The winners in the Elementary School group include: First-place winner Zander Staines, home school, second-place winner Seb Woodhead, David Elementary; and third-place winner Christopher Holmes, Kaufman Elementary.
The winners in the Jr. High School group include: First-place winner Daniel Stonecipher, McCullough Jr. High, second-place winner Isabella Woodhead, Collins Intermediate; and third-place winner Cole Rigsby, McCullough Jr. High.
The winners in the High School group include: First-place winner Jordan Schmid, Montgomery High School, second-place winner Alex Bradshaw, Splendora High School; and third-place winner Houston Bailey, Magnolia High School.
“Water is a precious resource,” Ridgway said. “And I think it’s often the case that when we learn and understand more about a subject, we tend to appreciate and respect it more—and waste it less.”
For more information on the 2016 Minecraft Water Challenge, or to learn about future iterations of the contest, visit http://lonestargcd.org/minecraft-water-challenge or email jridgway@LoneStarGCD.org.