South-Central Section - 51st Annual Meeting - 2017

Paper No. 11-6
Presentation Time: 3:15 PM


DUPNIK, John T., Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District, Austin, TX 78749,

Groundwater management in the State of Texas has evolved from a non-management system under the Rule of Capture towards a system of local governance through Groundwater Conservation Districts (GCDs) as the preferred method of groundwater governance. GCDs are charged with the complex job of protecting groundwater as private property and balancing the conservation and development of groundwater to meet the needs of the state using the best available science. The waters in the state have also evolved to be legally bifurcated where surface water is considered state-owned water managed by a central state agency and groundwater is private property managed at the local level by GCDs. Further, the Texas State Water Plan predicts increasing demand and supply shortages over the next 50 years.

The competition for water to satisfy the predicted unmet demands and the complicated framework of Texas water law influencing preferred water management strategies has created tensions between rural areas where water is currently available and the thirsty urban areas where it is needed. This tension creates complex resource management challenges sparking debate over the regulation of groundwater exports, permitting methods, the role of water markets, the application of oil and gas law, and how best to apply the “best available science.”

In 2015, HB 3405 was passed by the Legislature to annex an area including a large-scale groundwater export project in central Hays County into the Barton Springs/Edwards Aquifer Conservation District (BSEACD). This controversial project provides a microcosm of these complicated resource management challenges. It also created the impetus for the BSEACD to address many of these challenges through the establishment of rules, polices, and a best science-based permitting approach that reasonably strikes that complicated balance of conservation for long-term sustainability, groundwater development, and protecting existing well owners.