The Woodlands Township Meeting – May 24, 2017 Litigation Expenses Drive Up Water Rates
Those that produce and rely on groundwater resources in Montgomery County and The Woodlands have been concerned about falling aquifer levels for several decades. In fact, managing our groundwater to stabilize falling water levels was the primary reason the Lone Star Groundwater Conservation District was created.
About ten years ago, after Lone Star was created, all large volume groundwater users in Montgomery County, including the City of Conroe, came to the table and agreed on a plan to reduce groundwater production and stabilize water levels for Montgomery County. The plan was set to begin in January 2016 – which it did. Now Conroe and others are spending ridiculous amounts of taxpayer dollars to unravel our long-term plan so they can have more groundwater for themselves – at the expense of everyone else in the county.
The Woodlands Joint Powers Agency and our MUDs support Lone Star’s efforts to manage and regulate groundwater production. If we fail to stabilize dropping aquifer levels, the yields from our wells will continue to diminish and some will likely become unusable as water levels continue to drop.
We should also consider that smaller water systems and individual well owners cannot afford the costs associated with the continued decline in aquifer levels caused by unregulated groundwater production. Most will not have the financial means to constantly chase falling water levels. Lone Star’s rules provide a plan that allows for maximizing groundwater production on a long-term basis while still protecting the rights and interests of EVERYONE in the county. But if we fail to stick to this plan and allow aquifer levels to continue to drop, we will all just end up racing each other to the aquifer bottom, which is in no one’s best interest.
The private property rights of ALL residents in the county, and not just Conroe’s property rights, depend on sensible management of the groundwater resources. Without such management efforts, entities in Montgomery County, like Conroe, who have the financial means to drill bigger wells, will continue to produce more and more groundwater, which will directly affect our ability to access the groundwater and cause harm to property rights, especially the property rights of the average citizen landowner. There is also the very real issue of land subsidence caused by over pumping in south county, which can have huge economic costs and which Conroe and Quadvest refuse to acknowledge. Ultimately, our private property rights and our investment-backed expectations in the groundwater can only be protected if Lone Star is able to do the job it was created to do, and that is to manage the groundwater resources for the benefit of EVERYONE in the county, and not to pick winners and losers.
Using the best available science, Lone Star determined that 64,000 acre-feet per year, which equals about 20 billion gallons, is the amount of groundwater that can be pumped to address falling water levels and promote the long-term viability of the aquifer. On numerous occasions Conroe and Quadvest have complained that this 64,000 acre-feet number is absurdly low and that no other county in Texas has been subject to such a ridiculous limitation. However, these statements are 100 percent wrong. Not only does every county in the state have a limited groundwater availability number, but Lone Star’s 64,000 acre-feet number is the fourth highest and one of the least conservative groundwater availability numbers out of the 20 counties in Groundwater Management Area 14 – our designated State groundwater planning area. Nonetheless, Conroe and Quadvest continue to attack Lone Star no matter how absurd or knowingly false their claims may be.
In fact, for the last two years Lone Star has had to spend approximately $400,000 of its fee payers’ dollars fighting blatantly frivolous claims filed by Conroe and Quadvest and other investor-owned utilities. In their lawsuit, Conroe and others filed a total of 18 separate claims against Lone Star and its Directors individually. Of the 18 original claims, 16 were dropped after Lone Star pointed out that they were improper and frivolous. The 17th claim against the Lone Star Directors was determined by the court to be so frivolous that it was dismissed – with prejudice – meaning Conroe and Quadvest are forbidden from refiling this type of suit again. This whole process has been a complete waste of public funds as Conroe and Quadvest continue to try to “spend the District into oblivion” – which is a direct quote from one of Conroe’s attorneys.