Texas Hill Country: Loved to Death

Texas Monthly; Top: Rodolfo Gonzalez/Austin American-Statesman via AP; Bottom: Courtesy of the Watershed Association

Friends of the Watershed,

We are all aware that we have been in drought since April of 2022 and we have experienced the longest period of no flow from Jacob’s Well.  We are nearly 20 inches behind in rainfall over the last year and a half and Aqua Texas’ over-pumping of their permit has contributed to Jacob’s Well and Cypress Creek drying up for the sixth time in recorded history.  

Every part of our daily life has been affected by our current water conditions. Local aquifer levels are dropping dramatically and Jacob’s Well has been closed to swimming for two years. The city of Wimberley is losing $5000 a day while Blue Hole is closed to swimming and lodging operators are reporting lower occupancy because of the lack of water in our creeks and rivers.  

We encourage everyone to continue to conserve as much water as possible and stay informed on current drought-stage curtailments and aquifer conditions. Please see the graphic below from the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District which details current conditions and drought stages.

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.

Watch this short video with KVUE and David Baker,

The Watershed Association Executive Director

The Watershed Association’s Efforts:

We at the Watershed Association are and have always been dedicated to facilitating collaborative solutions for the challenges we face. Over our thirty years of working in Central Texas, we have been tackling huge and seemingly insurmountable threats to our water. Our greatest strength as an organization lies in our ability to convene and facilitate difficult conversations across our region, engaging elected officials, organizations, municipalities, conservation districts, businesses, and corporations. We are committed to getting as many stakeholders into the conversation as possible and persisting until we reach the best outcome for our community and environment. 

When it comes to the current drought management and over-allocation of our aquifers, please know that we are consistently engaging in stakeholder conversations and building bridges toward solutions. We are currently in dialogue with the cities of Wimberley and Woodcreek and Hays County, Woodcreek North Property Owners Association, the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District, and even Aqua Texas executives. Across these stakeholders, we are exploring creative ways to mitigate drought, conserve water in the region, and develop a task force to continue to work toward long-term plans for our evolving sustainable development and water management solutions in the Central Texas region.

What You Can Do:

As the Watershed Association works together with organizations, officials, and stakeholders committed to the highest outcome for our region, we cannot overstate that we are still in an Emergency Stage 4 Drought and it is crucial for everyone to continue conserving and curbing your water consumption and usage. We need your help to conserve – please do not underestimate how big of an impact each one of us can have.

Please continue to support the Hays Trinity Groundwater Conservation District (HTGCD) by visiting their website and attending an upcoming meeting. (October 5th Board Meeting Agenda) If you are inspired to let the HTGCD staff and board know you appreciate their efforts to sustainably manage our groundwater or have comments for the HTGCD on specific agenda items you can contact them at [email protected]

This issue is complex and continually evolving,

The Watershed Association is offering a 60-minute

Wimberley Water Office Hours with our Executive Director, David Baker

on October 30th from 5:30-6:30 PM.

Join us through Zoom by following the link below.

Join us on October 30th at 5:30 PM CT 

In the News

Please visit the link below for the most up-to-date news coverage on this topic. We are committed to actively updating this webpage with the latest information to keep you informed on how you can get involved and what we are doing to find solutions to our regional water issue. 

Take Back Our Water

Forrest Wilder's Texas Monthly Essay on Jacob's Well

"It was a scorching day in July 2022 when I last peered into Jacob’s Well. In a sense, I had come to pay my respects. The artesian spring had stopped flowing again—the consequence of drought and overpumping in Hays County, one of the fastest-growing in America..."

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Utility company

Aqua Texas 'ignored' pumping limits in 2022, threatening Jacob's Well

"Aqua Texas, a water utility company with customers in Hays County, was fined nearly half a million dollars for pumping almost twice the amount of water it was allowed last year out of the Trinity Aquifer, which feeds Jacob's Well..."

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