By David Patterson
Susan Cook, and Walt Smith were the only candidates that answered this week’s question:
Is there a Hays County plan to bring water infrastructure to all of the existing homesteads and subdivisions that are completely dependent on the aquifers during a multi-year drought? Only those living in cities in Hays County will be sure to have water during a multi-year drought. What is the plan for all of the rural well owners, and subdivisions that are not hooked up to a city water pipeline?
Susan Cook Precinct 4 County Commissioner Candidate
There is no county-wide plan to do this, but some communities are already contracting with water suppliers like the West Travis County PUA, the GBRA or with other entities branching off from San Antonio’s Vista Ridge pipeline.
State and federal funding, and development fees, would allow residents to install rainwater harvesting systems into their homes, and businesses. This may be in addition to, or instead of current wells, or water piped in from surface water or other non-local sources. These costs must be simply part of doing business in Hays County.
Embedding rainwater harvesting into our County Subdivision Regulations, so that all new construction is already equipped to fully utilize rainwater as either a sole source, or a supplemental water supply, is essential.
Walt Smith, County Commissioner Precinct 4
Your question is a great one that is more dictated by state law than to the county’s ability to force change. Currently under the “rule of capture’” in Texas, property owners have the ability to drill and pump the water they need for residential use. While the county can incentivize rainwater capture and limit certain lot sizes over the aquifer that are solely in the county, cities can promote more density and choose to do so regularly.
As a member of the Commissioners Court and a board member of the West Travis County Public Utility Agency I’ve worked hard with our residents to address these issues. They have to be addressed in several ways. The first is limiting the density of growth where we can and preserve the green spaces which serve as natural filtration for the aquifer. We can do this by promoting rainwater capture, less impervious cover and monitoring the aquifer to see changes long before they become problems.
The second need is to ensure more water, from outside our aquifer, is available. We can do this by using an “all options” approach that includes both groundwater and surface water to be brought here to supplement our resources and prevent wholesale, continuous drilling into our supply and ensure new developments use these outside sources. Cities within the county must participate in order to make this successful.
The last point is having a clear understanding of what happens to that water once it is used and how to best recapture/reuse it again and again. By eventually going to complete reuse and aquifer recharge for reuse water we can drop usage dramatically and reach sustainable goals for our area.
All that said, I’ve been proud to partner with other commissioners to create programs to measure and monitor the Onion Creek watershed and the Hays/Trinity Aquifer to get a clear view of where we are and continue to help lead efforts to plan for the droughts we know will come in the future. Without this continued effort the issues of water availability will just progress.