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BCRAGD reports on watershed plan, I-ASR

By Carolyn B. Edwards BCC Staff Writer

Two Bandera County River Authority and Groundwater District staffers presented progress reports to the BCRAGD board last month on projects they are working on. Morgen Ayers outlined her preparation on the district's Watershed Protection Plan; Kayla Rohrbuch shared steps the district is taking to develop data for legalizing individual aquifer storage and recovery systems (I-ASR).
Ayers told the board that a Watershed Protection Plan (WPP) provides a framework "to help prioritize objectives needed to maintain water quality." Ayers, the district's Watershed Protection Coordinator, said that Bandera County's surface water quality "is relatively unimpaired." However, she said, it's important to have a plan in place to preserve that quality and to respond to any problems that arise.
As the WPC, Ayers collects water samples from both surface and ground water in Bandera County, tests the samples, compiles the data and produces reports based on that data. Her primary focus is the quality of surface water.
"We have parts of two watersheds in Bandera County," Ayers pointed out. "The Medina River watershed and the Nueces River Watershed."
Her plan began with an in-depth assessment that included land use and topography, along with concerns like erosion and possible pollution causes. She then moved on to find stakeholders, other organizations or individuals that would share BCRAGD's concerns for maintaining the county's surface water quality.
Once these first steps are underway, planners begin to look at implementing preventative management such as improvement of the riparian systems along rivers, landscaping to slow run-off and education.
According to the Texas Soil and Water Conservation Board, "Through the watershed planning process, the State of Texas encourages stakeholders to develop WPPs that address all of the sources and causes of impairments and threats to both surface and ground water resources within a watershed.
"Developed and implemented through diverse, well integrated partnerships, a WPP assures the long-term health of the watershed."
Rohrbuch, BCRAGD's aquatic biologist, reported that she continues to collect data to present to state agencies to begin the permitting process to test an individual aquifer storage and recovery system.
"ASR is a method of collecting water in times of excess to be recovered when in need," Rohrbuch told BCRAGD board members. "Up to now it's been used only by large municipal utilities." The City of Kerrville has been a leader in establishing ground rules for the operation of a municipal ASR.
Several years ago, BCRAGD's former general manager and now staff hydro-geologist, David Jeffrey, proposed the idea of developing an ASR system for the use of individual private water well owners. The system would involve the collection of rainwater, and injection of the treated water into the aquifer at the well.
"We want to look at this as a way of making ASR available to smaller communities," said Rohrbuch.
Should the I-ASR system ever be approved by state agencies with appropriate legislation, Bandera County could long be known as the inidator of a major water conservation movement.
Part of Rohrbuch's plan includes submitting the proposal and request for a permit to the Texas Commission on Environmental Quality. Then BCRAGD would conduct a rainwater analysis, leading to the construction and monitoring of a test system. Written reports would have to be submitted to the proper authorities as the project proceeded.
She is looking to work with other members of GMA-9 and is already working with LCRA, TCEQ and Texas A&M.
"Right now we're looking for the best way to disinfect the water, whether it's using UV rays, filters, or adding chlorine," said Rohrbuch. Current rules for municipal ASR systems require the injected water to meet drinking water standards. I-ASR may be able to operate under somewhat more lenient requirements.
"We're basically breaking new ground here," said BCRAGD General Manager Dave Mauk.
""We're looking out at least five years on this," concluded Rohrbuch.