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2009-01-29

Public outcry over water leads to action

By Stephanie Parker

Flying L Public Utility District’s (PUD) 256 customers have been under Stage 3 water restrictions since July 2008, when both wells supplying homeowners with water had dropped to 345 feet.

Stage 3 restrictions means that outdoor watering is restricted and households are limited to 15,000 gallons of water per billing period. In July, Flying L PUD President Bob Dawson said that 97 percent of PUD customers complied and used less than the allotted 15,000 gallons.

They remain compliant, but bitter. While their landscaped yards die from continued drought and watering restrictions, the Flying L Resort well - aka the “runway well,” - continues unrestrained and un-metered pumping.

The runway well was drilled 230 feet from the PUD well and PUD board members believe that the resort well competes with the homeowners’ main well, drawing down the water level.
The PUD’s main well was drilled in March 1998. The resort well was drilled in August 2001, at which time water district rules stated that wells must be separated by 200 feet to prevent interference. Since that time, however, new regulations have been enacted.

While private wells are still allowed within 200 feet of each other, the distance of separation required by large commercial wells ,like the resort well, must be calculated by the cone of depression and the gallons per minute pumped.

Bandera County River Authority and Groundwater District (BCRAGD) General Manager David Jeffrey said that the closeness of the Flying L PUD well and the resort well initiated the rule change. “At the time the resort well was drilled,” he said, “we could not require it to be farther apart because there was nothing in our regulations to require that. Some of our board members at the time were upset by the closeness of the two wells and that led to the rule change we passed in 2002. We passed the distance requirements to keep this from ever happening again.”

Dawson has attended the past two regularly scheduled BCRAGD meetings in an attempt to force the Flying L Resort to install an operating water meter on their well, report the amount of water pumped and ration and limit water production from the runway well.

At both meetings, Dawson was told that BCRAGD could not help Flying L PUD because the resort well had been drilled on Aug. 24, 2001, a year before BCRAGD enacted its rules, which allows the well protection under a grandfather clause.

At the most recent BCRAGD meeting on Jan. 8, approximately 30 Flying L PUD customers joined Dawson, urging action from BCRAGD. Their goal was not to stop the runway well from pumping, but rather to ensure that the resort well was not wasting water.

Their voices were heard.

Jeffrey said that Flying L (management) has agreed to install a working meter on the well.

“When it was drilled,” he said, “they located it where they did because there were good sands and plenty of water. They didn’t expect it to become a problem. Now they have agreed to install a meter and start keeping records. The first step is to verify usage.”

Jeffrey added, “One agenda item for the next meeting will be to adopt a drought management plan. Under Chapter 36 of the Texas Water Code, we can take that action.”

At the direction of the BCRAGD board, Jeffrey recently traveled to Austin to meet with BCRAGD Attorney Mary Sahs. Sahs told Jeffrey that after holding a public meeting, the water board could revise existing rules and enforce them even on “grandfathered” wells.