CONROE, TX – October 10, 2017 – 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. Lone Star commissioned its “Strategic Water Resources Planning Study” in October 2014 to evaluate the impacts to local aquifers of its 2016 groundwater pumping reductions, to evaluate whether and how additional groundwater supplies could be safely developed in the county, and to develop other related information and recommendations for use in the next five-year cycle of joint planning for establishing goals for future aquifer conditions in a multi-county region of the Gulf Coast known as Groundwater Management Area 14 (GMA 14).
Lone Star retained a hydrogeology consulting firm, LBG-Guyton Associates, to conduct the study. Lone Star board president Rick Moffatt explained that “The scope of work executed with LBG-Guyton is nearing completion, and draft results regarding potential alternative pumping levels for the Chicot, Evangeline, and Jasper aquifers have been presented to our Stakeholder Advisor Committee.”
As part of the study, Lone Star surveyed all of the large water well permit holders in the county to determine how much additional declines in the water levels of the aquifers that they could tolerate in their water wells. Moffatt stated “Based on the results of the study and the board’s review of the groundwater modeling results and survey responses, the board of directors today identified a new recommended planning goal for the aquifers in Montgomery County that would allow groundwater pumping to increase from the current goal of 64,000 acre-feet per year to 100,000 acre-feet per year.” Moffatt explained that the increased pumping would result in greater declines in water levels in the aquifers over the 50-year planning period than under the current goal, but that the survey results supported the board making such a policy decision because of the limited number of well owners who may have to lower their wells to accommodate the water-level declines.
The board of directors’ decision was unanimous to approve the increased groundwater pumping levels and resulting aquifer conditions included in what is referred to as groundwater availability model “Run D” in the Final Report for Task 3 of the study as the Board’s recommended model scenario. The board of directors also approved a recommendation that Lone Star’s general manager and technical consultants present the results of the study, including the board’s new recommendation for Run D, to the other groundwater conservation district representatives of GMA 14, with a request that Run D be considered in the new round of joint planning for the aquifers as either an amendment to the current desired future conditions for the aquifers or as a new proposal. By law, GMA 14 must adopt desired future conditions for the aquifers at least once every five years, with the current five-year cycle ending no later than January 5, 2022. However, GMA 14 can adopt new or amended desired future conditions for the aquifers earlier than those deadlines. In order to be finally approved, any new proposal or amendment must go through a lengthy technical evaluation and public hearings process prescribed by law and must receive an affirmative vote of at least four out of the five member groundwater conservation districts in GMA 14.
Lone Star board member Billy Wood, chairman of the district’s Budget and Finance Development Committee, expressed hope that the board’s action might bring an end to the ongoing litigation between Lone Star, the cities of Conroe and Magnolia, and the Quadvest water utility. “The board’s action today is precisely consistent with what we’ve been saying since we commissioned the study three years ago—that we would make our decision for the future of the aquifers based on the results of the science,” said Wood.