Texas groundwater supplies found unsustainable

Groundwater pumping 2x faster than replenishment, reports Robert Mace

Groundwater wells are in danger of going dry and more surface water springs and may begin to dry, according to researchers at The Meadows Center for Water, the Environment at Texas State University and the Environmental Defense Fund (EDF).

Across Texas, aquifer pumping occurs at nearly twice the maximum sustained rate — and according to plans already pending with local management agencies, that rate is likely to increase in coming years. In particular, depletion of the Ogallala Aquifer is happing 6.5 times faster than its sustainable rate.

Montgomery County, Texas subsidence map | source Houston Chronicle“This unsustainable groundwater pumping will ... directly impact Texans, Texas’ economy, and the environment,” said Robert Mace, Executive Director & Chief Water Policy Officer at The Meadows Center for Water and the Environment at Texas State University.

As the lead author of the report “Five Gallons in a Ten Gallon Hat: Groundwater Sustainability in Texas,”Mace added that residents in Hill Country are already feeling the impact.

Vanessa Puig-Williams, Director of EDF’s Texas Water Program, is the lead author of the report “Advancing Groundwater Sustainability in Texas: A Guide to Existing Authorities and Management Tools for Groundwater Conservation Districts and Communities.”

She emphasizes that local groundwater conservation districts are in a position to change the current trajectory. Underground water conservation districts have authority to seek more sustainable plans and goals that enable aquifer recharge and prevent critically overdrafted basins and subsidence. Local leaders are the first line of defense to protect limited freshwater supplies.

Puig-Williams said, “They need better data to inform decisions, as well as the commitment to manage these essential resources in a more sustainable way.”