Aqua Texas and the Wimberley Valley:
While the message of drought and over-pumping is all too familiar, there has been a significant increase in current media coverage and a deeper understanding of the impacts on Jacob’s Well and the implications of Aqua Texas’ over-pumping of their permit.
Aqua Texas, acting as the primary water provider for the City of Woodcreek and Woodcreek North Subdivision, has significantly over-pumped the Trinity Aquifer, the lifeblood of Jacob’s Well, exceeding their allotted quota by double (89 Million Gallons) in comparison to last year’s numbers. The over-pumping has deeply affected the lack of water flow in Jacob’s Well, leading to a $448,710 fine imposed on Aqua Texas by the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District, which has yet to be paid…. We believe that this over-pumping has been a significant contributor to a complete depletion of water flow in Jacob's Well. While fines imposed by HTGCD Aqua Texas are a notice of alleged violation (NOAV) and a tool for compliance, as the stewards of Jacob's Well, we firmly believe that this monetary penalty falls short of the comprehensive justice and compensation that both the Well and our community rightfully deserve.
In order to save Jacob’s Well, Forrest Wilder with Texas Monthly writes, “overpumping would have to be stopped, and eventually reversed.” The Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District took a step in that direction recently, declaring that during emergency drought conditions, no new groundwater permits will be issued. The district also levied a $448,710 penalty on Aqua Texas for over-pumping in 2022, but the company countered with a penalty of zero dollars and offered instead to fix its leaky pipes.
Hays Trinity then rejected that offer, and negotiations are currently ongoing. Greg Ellis, an attorney who represents the district, suggested that a settlement would likely include a penalty as well as an agreement by Aqua Texas to take actions that would reduce pressure on Jacob’s Well. If a settlement can’t be reached, the company’s permit may not be renewed in 2024. Permit violations “will continue to be an ongoing issue until either [Aqua Texas] gets much bigger permits or they bring in alternative water supplies,” he said.
Our Watershed Association Executive Director, David Baker, would like to see Aqua Texas negotiate with the community in good faith, starting with an agreement to a moratorium (temporary prohibition of activity) on serving new development until a plan for compliance with HTGCD rules and participation in a comprehensive regional planning process to identify alternative water supply strategies is implemented. Baker believes if Aqua can’t commit to a moratorium ( they should sell the utility to the Wimberley community to create a publicly-owned utility that would take the necessary steps to fix leaky pipes, promote conservation, and invest in long overdue infrastructure improvements and conservation strategies to provide reliable water supply and restore the spring flow at Jacob’s Well. But if the company won’t sell, then it’s imperative that they agree to move pumps out of the recharge zone and implement conservation practices that won’t be detrimental to the base flow of Jacob’s Well.
The lack of water at Jacob’s Well has clearly created a deep environmental impact. Beyond the loss of our beloved environmental treasure and the source of Cypress Creek flow (and subsequently habitat for plants and wildlife), the County and our community have also lost hundreds of thousands of dollars in revenue as a result of swimming hole closures at Blue Hole and Jacob’s Well, not to mention property values overall.